GALLANTS — Keith Piercey has some strong concerns about potential silting problems on Harry’s River in Gallants.
He said several new cabins had ditching or landscaping work done right down to the river’s edge at the location.
The member of the Salmon Preservation Association for the Waters of Newfoundland (SPAWN) and chairman of the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador Enforcement Committee for 2013, said the silting problem was brought to his attention last week by several people who saw it actually taking place, which he said must have been when soil was pushed to the river.
“It's disgraceful what is going on in Gallants, and I wonder if the cabin owners had a permit to do the work?” he said. “Given a permit would have had specific limitations as to what the cabin owners were allowed to do and the precautions that should have been taken.”
Piercey said one of the cabin owners made a good start with a retaining wall that was put in place, but the tractor operator went beyond the location of the retaining wall and pushed soil to the river edge, resulting in potential for more silting.
He said the fact habitat positions at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) were axed from regional offices isn't helping matters. He said people now have to rely on officials on the Avalon Peninsula, and said response time is pitiful and will likely continue to be that way.
Piercey said if there is a heavy rain, then it’s likely that more silting will occur at this location.
“This is an environmental problem about to get worse, and correcting it will be expensive,” he said.
Piercey said it’s too bad people don't think before they act and he’s surprised people are allowed to build so close to a river.
He sent pictures of the ditching that has been carried out to DFO’s Fishery Protection Program, the environmental scientist with the Department of Environment and Conservation in Corner Brook and to the director of that department.
He also posted the photos on SPAWN’s website and said he has been getting lots of reaction to them with people very concerned this is taking place. He said people are clearly not about to put up with this kind of blatant disregard for a sensitive environment.
Piercey said an official with the Fishery Protection Program acknowledged the message he had sent was read, but the director was out of town at the time. He said he didn’t hear anything from the scientist.
David Parsons, field supervisor for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said on Monday that the department did respond to a call on Friday, and an investigation into the matter is ongoing.
Gallants Mayor Jim Collier said his town council also has concerns about the development in the area of those cabins and that, although they are within the town boundaries, they are on Crown land. He said both are built on the right-of-way of the T’Railway and Harry’s River itself.
“We complained to government about those cabins being built there and while we wouldn’t give permission for them, the owners got permission elsewhere,” he said, but added council has no control over what the cabin owners do.
“We (council) tried to get a ban on building there, but it didn’t work. To me, if you’re not supposed to be on the river doing this stuff, how are they able to do it and get away with it?”