I don’t live on the Northwest Arm but walk along it most mornings, whether a loop before I start home office work in the morning (see above) or along the other side if walking in to Dal. This narrow ‘arm’ of ocean is an amenity shared by so many people in Halifax and makes me feel lucky and connected to other citizens. I don’t think anyone would think it belongs to those who own waterfront on it, nor should it. Yet a loophole exists in the form of pre-Confederation deeded water lots, designed to allow shore owners–many of which at the time were industrial–allocations for docks and wharves. These days wealthy landowners not satisfied with their privileged positions fight to be permitted to fill in those water lots and convert them to private use. Each one directs hundreds of dumptrucks of fill down residential streets, into an ocean ecosystem fished for lobster, narrowing the channel and disrupting public use. The problem is that Halifax and the province currently have no jurisdiction to stop it. Once it becomes land, they can regulate what is done on them (if you read the link above, not much is permitted), but until then the only jurisdiction is Transport Canada on the basis of navigability. If all water lots were filled in, the arm would be 30% smaller and the opening halved, but there is no consideration of cumulative effects. Thanks to the Ecology Action Centre and a small interest group, this issue has been in the news and raised now in Senate by Independent Senator Colin Deakin, calling for a freeze on approving such applications. This week, an application was lodged by Andrew Metledge to infill his water lot, using 7650 cubic metres of fill (see the image below) and as of today we have 26 days to stop it if the Minister for Transport does not grant this freeze. Please consider taking a few minutes to make a public comment and/or sign the petition.
Last week I visited my family’s lake cottage in New Brunswick, and did the usual dash in to the nearest town, Nackawic, for food and drinks. I grew up in Nackawic, and left in 1991 for university and beyond. After 26 years it is often an uncomfortable outing, undertaken with stealth: I’m always worried I’ll see someone I should know but whose name eludes me. This trip was happily anonymous. I was able to linger in my annual nostalgia trip: peering in the window of the bowling alley (which seems to have shut down without removing its Open sign); popping in to the post office where I was a frequent customer in the days well before digital (sending letters to many penpals, collecting stamps , and returning Columbia House monthly choices to avoid billing).
At the checkout of the grocery store, I spied a headline on the regional paper, the Bugle-Observer, “Good News for future of Forest City Dam – maybe” (sadly paywalled). Anything dam-related catches my eye, so I grabbed it to read at the cottage, which has no TV or internet access. The future of the small dam that holds back the enormous East Grand Lake on the border between Maine and New Brunswick at Forest City is at question, motivating owners of the 2,000 cottages around its perimeter to organize to keep the water levels up. Under the fold was another story related to dams, also written by Doug Dickinson. A fellow named “Hoot” was being inducted into the Atlantic Salmon Hall of Fame, and he “still names his favourite fishing spot as the long-gone Hartland pool” on the Becaguimec Stream that drained into the St. John:
That all changed after dams were constructed on the St. John River. Smith said the salmon fishing was still good after the Tobique Dam was built, but declined after the Beechwood Dam was finished. The Mactaquac Dam put an end to the Hartland Salmon Pool.
One of my new research interests is the use of digital archives to understand cultural change in regions that have faced infrastructure change like hydroelectric dams and related inundation. Newspaper archives is one of those I’d like to explore in this way, so we can look back and understand how host communities are affected over time, and how they adjust. This newspaper would make for an interesting case: 50 years later dams are still front page news. What else hasn’t changed? The third front-page article: Meet Miss New Brunswick 2017″.