Within months of the causeway gates opening, hundreds of thousands of fish migrated successfully to the headwaters of the Petitcodiac, the river channel doubled in width and the nearly extinct Petitcodiac tidal bore began its miraculous recovery. The Fish Recovery Coalition, initially presided by Riverkeeper, began to document the amazing recovery and return of every single fish species that had once inhabited the river’s headwaters, including the rare prehistoric Atlantic Sturgeon and the endangered and unique sub-species of Inner Bay of Fundy Atlantic salmon (the subject of an intense restocking effort since 2010). Recreational fishers returned to the headwaters and noticed an immediate and remarkable change. After a 40-year absence from our riverbanks, a new generation of fishing enthusiast was able to reclaim their historic right to cast a line in their nearby waterways and reconnect with this timeless tradition. Tourists began as well to slowly return, this time to witness the miraculous recovery of the Petitcodiac tidal bore.
In June 2013, to celebrate the victory in putting a stop to a proposed $430,000 rock fill project in front of Moncton’s historic Tidal Bore Park (see link), Riverkeeper forwarded through the media an invitation to the community to join them on the riverbank for the arrival of a rare “supermoon” tidal bore, predicted to be the year’s highest bore. To our surprise, over 2000 people showed up and the news of the resurrection of the Petitcodiac River “superbore” began to go viral. Surfers in Halifax, France and California caught the news and within four weeks, travelled to Moncton to become the first in the world to surf the restored Petitcodiac bore. Riverkeeper co-directed, with the City of Moncton’s Tourism Director, an inaugural five-day edition of “superbore surf week”, witnessed by some 30,000 thrilled spectators lined along the riverbank. This historic event received extensive national and international coverage, and videos of the tidal bore surfers were viewed by millions of people worldwide. A tidal bore surfing culture has since taken root in the Petitcodiac.
Final action (Partial bridge construction)
David Alward’s Conservative Government, in office in New Brunswick since September 2010 (five months after the opening of the causeway gates), has yet to implement the final Stage 3 of the Petitcodiac River Restoration Project, which requires that the province dismantle and replace a 280-metre section of the causeway with a partial bridge – estimated at $40 million.
As a reminder, the Riverkeeper legal action that led the federal Minister of Fisheries (DFO) appointing a Special Advisor was initiated 14 years ago (August, 2000). The DFO Minister accepted the Niles Review and declared the Status Quo illegal in March 2001, which triggered the $5 million Environmental Impact Assessment into the future of the river that was completed in October 2005 and recommended as the preferred option the Construction of a Partial Bridge. This recommendation was thereafter accepted by the Government of New Brunswick in July 2007 (after Riverkeeper filed a Mandamus Application challenge in the federal court), and a $20 million initial investment was announced in July 2008 to begin the project (since revised to approximately $40 million).
Since taking office in September 2010, the Alward Government has failed to negotiate and conclude an agreement with the federal Harper Conservative Government to complete the final Stage 3 of the restoration project, due in large part to the influences of the anti-river restoration lobby within its own ranks. The effects of this decision include:
- Failure to abide by the Environmental Assessment directive to allow for the full restoration of free flow at the Petitcodiac causeway;
- Failure to secure the owed funds from the federal government (estimated at $40 million or more) to complete the project, thereby potentially forcing the Province of New Brunswick to finance the completion of the project on its own;
- Failure to eliminate the flooding risk still posed to the Greater Moncton region by the partially opened Petitcodiac causeway;
- Failure to eliminate the dangerous navigation conditions that are currently affecting this middle section of the river;
- Failure to eliminate the full obstacles to fish passage caused by the extreme turbulence occurring around the gates structure (40 m opening vs 280 m proposed under Stage 3 Partial bridge);
- Continued deposits of sediment in the former headpond, impacting landowners (most will be naturally removed once the partial bridge is constructed);
- Cost overruns caused by delays in the commencement of Stage 3;
- Missed economic and social opportunities for the residents and businesses of the Greater Moncton region and the Petitcodiac River valley.
Modeling the Partial Bridge
These 1967 aerial photos show the construction of the Petitcodiac River causeway, approximately 500 m in length, and the causeway gate structure, on solid land in Riverview. Sediment deposits flank the Moncton downriver side, where the City later located its landfill. A combination of rock and sediment deposits occurs upstream in Riverview.
The approximately 700-foot (215 m) opening in this 1967 causeway photo creates one-foot (0.3 m) tidal difference, suggesting that a slightly larger opening is required to create «full tidal flow or exchange» conditions (i.e. zero tidal difference). An opening of between 250 m and 280 m has therefore been considered. The 1967 photo provides a useful model to predict the effects of restoring « full tidal flow » to the Petitcodiac River. Currently, the five open gates of the Petitcodiac causeway (Stage 2) only offer an opening of 40 m, creating significant turbulence issues and dangerous navigation conditions in this section of the river.