September 15, 2001

Moncton Times and Transcript

Petitcodiac silt woes getting worse
by Craig Babstock

No one would argue the Petitcodiac River isn’t already choked with silt and mud, but some say it’s getting worse in a hurry. Michel DesNeiges, who’s been involved with the Down to Earth environmental group at l’Université de Moncton, says he rides his bike on paths along the river and it looks like it’s filling in with silt.

“During low tide the bottom of the river is at the same level of the shoreline where the pedway is,” he says. “I’ve talked to other people who walk in that area and they say there’s nothing left of the river.”

DesNeiges wonders if there could be flood problems should the water levels rise in a hurry.

He’s not the only one who’s noticed the increased mud and silt.

Petitcodiac Riverkeeper Daniel LeBlanc says it’s been getting worse for some time now.

“Every year it fills in more in Moncton and also down river,” he says. “It’s out of control.”

LeBlanc says the river is almost completely clogged in some sections.

“If that’s not enough for people to understand how urgent this is, I don’t know what it will take,” he says.

There are gates on the causeway that can be opened to let water flow from the headpond. That fresh water helps clean out the mud on the banks of the Petitcodiac, but LeBlanc says they’re seldom open.

He says they were opened in the evenings during the spring migration period, but haven’t been open all summer.

“The only objective to the province’s gate management seems to be to maintain a certain level for the headpond,” he says.

Helene Dupuis, of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says they don’t have data on how much mud is in the river now, compared to a decade ago, but she says this is a bad time of year for silt build-up.

At the end of a dry summer – like the one we just had – the lack of heavy rain means the mud isn’t flushed out.

“It’s certainly a common phenomenon at the end of the summer to have the river more filled in.”