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CBS volunteers KEEPing up vigilance on town’s rivers

The group that works to protect some of the prettiest rivers in Conception Bay South reflected on their accomplishments of the past year, set goals for the coming year and filled several vacant spots on its board of directors last week.

The occasion was the annual general meeting of the Kelligrews Ecological Enhancement Program, better known as KEEP.

“We had a very busy year this year, due to number of things, but primarily due to our (main) project,” said KEEP chairperson Karen Morris.

That project was the removal of a block of concrete from the Lower Gully River in Kelligrews, which improved water flow and may set the stage for the reintroduction of salmon.

Morris said the concrete was an impediment to fish trying to pass through the river. Money for the project had been approved by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans the previous fiscal year, she noted, but by the time the funding agreement was signed, there wasn’t enough time left in the season to work in the river.

“Some of the work was carried out in the latter part of 2017, but it was finished up, finally, by the end of the fiscal year, March 2018,” Morris said. “It was Garrison Construction that actually did the physical work in the river and conditions weren’t ideal, but they did an excellent job. It was quite cold, they had some freezing of their lines and stuff.”

Morris said Garrison came through in another way for KEEP. “When we did up a proposal for them and they gave us an estimate of what it would cost, we had just wanted the concrete removed,” Morris said. “But when they removed the piece of concrete, they found an old culvert and it was full of rocks and it was rusty. They talked to us about it and we asked them how much it would cost to remove it and they said that would be a big job and an expensive job, but lo and behold they did it for us and didn’t charge any more. So, we were thrilled.”

Morris said based on observation since the impediments were removed, the dynamic of the river has changed. “Now there’s a steady flow and it has reduced  the spread of the river slightly,” she said. “But it’s probably back to its original shape, because you don’t see the water backing up and filling the old sides of the pool.”

Sikumiut Environmental Management, meanwhile, flew a drone survey over the river. Morris said the subsequent report contained some “very valuable information about the Lower Gully River as a possible site for reintroduction of salmon.”

KEEP also had the benefit this past summer of services provided by a Green Team of students employed by the Town of Conception Bay South, Morris added. “They did some very good work and we were really pleased with them,” she said. “They did a lot of survey work in the river. We got physical and biological data and we now have a fair bit of that because they did 11 sites, which take a long time. They worked very hard and they didn’t hold back in terms of weather.”

The work was coordinated by KEEP’s volunteer secretary, Phoebe Metcalfe, and involved water monitoring on not only the Lower Gully River, but also the Foxtrap and Kelligrews Rivers.

Another project occurred in late September when Sparks, Brownies, Girl Guides and Rangers planted over 400 seedlings along the Gateway Trail, which follows the Lower Gully River from the Kiwanis Club on Route 60 to the Kent building supplies store at the top of Legion Road. The seedlings were provided by the provincial Department of Forestry. “It was a great day and everybody turned out,” said Morris. “It was really productive.”

On November 4, KEEP members and volunteers matched that number with a planting of seedlings that were again supplied by the province. If they take, the trees will help reduce runoff and silt build up in the Lower Gully River. “So hopefully some of them (seedlings) will be successful,” Morris said.

Morris also tabled a written report that listed some 18 activities and programs that KEEP’s members were involved with during the past year, a considerable accomplishment given the number of members who make up the organization.

Because the group is so busy and its resources are limited, Morris said, KEEP decided to step back from its involvement in the Kiwanis Tommy Ricketts Memorial Peace Park. She noted the project was already well in hand in terms of the work being done by the other groups involved and some of the remaining work, such as securing funds for a statue and an amphitheatre is outside of KEEP’s mandate.

Another project KEEP has stepped back from is the Kelligrews Railway Festival, which it had been staging each year at the end of Station Road where the old railway station used to sit. Morris explained the amount of money raised by the festival to help with KEEP’s activities was negligible considering the work involved in planning and holding the event.

One project that did get a thrashing out at the AGM involved repairs to the roof of the outdoor classroom on Pond Road that KEEP constructed some years ago. Treasurer Phyllis Smith asked whether the site is getting much use and argued that if it isn’t, she doesn’t see the sense in spending money to keep it up. However, she was assured by other members that the classroom still gets used by classes from nearby St. Edward’s Elementary, as well as the Girl Guides and other groups.

Another concern highlighted during the meeting was the extent of runoff into Kelligrews River near the Sgt. Ned Nugent sports facilities and quarries that are in the area. Smith said she is worried because part of the river turns chocolate brown whenever it rains. “Something is causing it and nobody knows what it is and it seems like we’re just going around in circles talking about it,” she said.

Smith said she has stood on Emma Hennessey’s Bridge in the park when the water upstream was clear and the water downstream was brown. She attributed part of the source to a culvert that runs from Red Bridge Road to the river in the area of the dog park.

Morris said she has taken pictures of the condition of the stream in that area and attributed the run-off to the lack of vegetation between the quarries and Red Bridge Road.

Chris Ryan, one of KEEP’s directors, suggested the group consider laying bales of hay along the bank to filter out the mud and debris flowing with the run-off.

Morris said it’s up to the Town of Conception Bay South and the company that owns the quarry to take on that work.

Director Brad Strang suggested KEEP obtain the names of all companies that own quarries in the area and write them to outline the group’s concerns about run-off and the effects on the health of the river. He added it might also help to call the appropriate authorities for an inspection during weather events when the run-off is clearly visible.

Morris said it’s unfortunate the provincial government got rid of its environmental inspection staff, which makes it more difficult to locate anyone to check on the river when needed.

Newly elected director Christian Dawe said there should be a buffer zone between the river and any construction zones. He suggested that planting trees in the area could serve as a buffer. “It should be up to the company to ensure there’s no real damage further down the river,” he said.

After some further discussion, the board agreed to take up Strang’s suggestion and task Smith with contacting the Town of CBS, the Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for the operation of quarries, and the companies in the area so that everyone involved can take appropriate action this spring before the quarries resume operation.

Strang also suggested that KEEP provide some input to the province now that it is about to undertake a revision of the legislation governing quarries.

The meeting concluded with the election of several positions that were open on KEEP’s board. Former director Pink was acclaimed in the position of vice-chairperson for the coming year, while Metcalfe was reconfirmed in the position of secretary for a two-year term. Ryan was acclaimed to another oneyear term as director, while Strang and Dawe were acclaimed to serve two-year terms.

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