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LaHave River Watershed Project

Project Summary

Coastal Action initiated the LaHave River Watershed Project (LRWP) in 2007, in response to increasing public concern over the health of the river. The purpose of the project is to identify and reduce harmful environmental impacts within the LaHave River Watershed. Forestry, farming, recreation, and rural development are widespread throughout the system, while industrial and urban development are mostly restricted to the lower reaches of the watershed. These various forms of land-use can have a significant impact on the health of the entire watershed, including the LaHave River Estuary. Project goals include the development of a comprehensive watershed management plan and a long-term water quality monitoring program to assess the river’s health. Project activities include monthly water quality monitoring, habitat assessments, restoration projects, and community outreach and education. The LRWP is guided by an advisory committee representing various government departments, academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and community members.

The LaHave River Watershed is one of the largest watersheds in Southwestern Nova Scotia (1,700 km²), with its headwaters reaching into Annapolis and Kings Counties and the majority of the watershed stretching across Lunenburg County. This highly branched river system has several large sub-watersheds and some of the richest floodplain habitat in Western Nova Scotia. The main stem of the river runs approximately 80 km from the headwaters to the mouth of the LaHave River Estuary in Riverport. Water quality in the estuary suffers not only from the cumulative impacts of the entire watershed, but also from urban storm-water run-off and the continued (illegal) use of straight pipes, which discharge raw human sewage into the river every day.

The LaHave River historically supported a healthy run of Southern Upland Atlantic Salmon; however, following drastic declines in the 1980s and 1990s, the population now faces a high probability of extirpation from the LaHave and many other rivers in the Southern Upland region of Nova Scotia. Threats against the Southern Upland population include altered hydrology, acidification, invasive fish species, illegal fishing, and habitat fragmentation. The LRWP intends to address these threats at the watershed-scale in conjunction with small-scale restoration projects which address localized habitat conditions.

 

2016 Project Activities

The LRWP Field Crew is busy working in several different parts of the watershed this summer. Aquatic connectivity assessments are being conducted within the Main River and North Branch Sub-watersheds, which will identify culvert crossings that pose barriers to fish passage. Many of these barriers will be re-mediated in order to reduce habitat fragmentation throughout the watershed and allow fish to access the various freshwater habitats they need throughout their life cycles. The field crew will also be working on a fish habitat restoration project in Juniper Brook, near Pleasantville. This project will take place on an agricultural property, where cattle have unrestricted access to the stream, which has led to erosion and sedimentation problems. Restoration activities will include riparian fencing and planting, installing alternative watering sources for cattle, and installing in-stream structures such as digger logs and deflectors. This project will improve the health of both the riparian habitat and in-stream fish habitat. 

If you're interested in learning more about the LaHave River Watershed Project or have any questions about our current projects, please contact the Watershed Project Coordinator, Emma Kinley, at emma@coastalaction.org.