2003 Activities

Fixing a Broken Brook

The story of a brook that took a wrong turn, and the Salmon group that decided to try and fix it. Taken from from the Atlantic Salmon Journal – Winter 2003.

Broken Blue Hill brook
Broken Blue Hill brook

Starting high among the Lewis Hills and the Blow-Me-Down Mountains, Western Newfoundland’s Serpentine River has long been a Salmon favorite. Brought into prominence by famed angler Lee Wulff, the river flows along between 2,600 foot trenches of the Long Range Mountains from Serpentine Lake. But then there’s the brook: Blue Hill flows out of the Lewis Hills, and used to flow into Serpentine Lake, at the headwaters of the river. But the course of the brook changed several years ago, flowing directly into the Serpentine River instead.

“We contructed a berm to replace the bank where the brook broke through,” says Vance Belbin with the Salmon Preservation Association of Western Newfoundland (SPAWN). The idea had two purposes: first, to have the brook flow back into the lake to help regulate water flow; second, to try and have trout and Salmon move back into the pond out of range of poachers, instead of holding up where the brook meets the river.

“There’s netting, jigging and chemicals such as lime being used in the area”, Belbin says. “We wanted to make poaching in the brook difficult. Keeping fish in a deep lake is a cost effective method of protecting them, certainly cheaper than having a DFO warden there for the summer.”

But the idea didn’t move smoothly at the start. “We worked on it for about a year, and got permission from various government levels”, Belbin says. The problem was, each level would require a change to the plan, and that would take the group back to the drawing board.

“We just wanted to break through one of the oxbows, and let it flow into the lake”, Belbin explains, “but the final project turned out to be more difficult, requiring an armour stone berm to repair the breech. Also, a front-end loader was needed to clear a forest road so that a flatbed trailer and excavator could get near the river.”
And that was only one problem. Then the rains began: pouring rain. And every time the excavator crossed the river to get rocks, the mud on its tracks was washed off. That meant a silting problem, and a halt to the project. A two-day project costing $2500 was suddenly five days.

“Right no, we have four days expenses with the equipment and personnel”, Bebin says. The group is still looking at one more day’s work, sandbagging along the top of the berm that now redirects the brook into Serpentine Lake. Belbin believes the cost may ebe upto $8000 and the group is looking for funding to pay for the work already done.

“It’s a prestine river to be sure, and difficult to get to”, Belbin observes. About 50km of forest roads bring you to a relatively short river – just over 15km long – flowing out of Serpentine Lake. There’s only one major falls on a meandering, sandy-bottomed river with cold, clear mountain fed water, much different from the typical tea-brown peaty Newfoundland river.

“This river is a beautiful sea trout river, and unfortunately perfect for poaching”, he concludes.

by Russell Wangersky