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A helping hand
to recreate a wetland
Dike enhancement at Ha! Ha! River

Dike enhancement at Ha! Ha! River

DFO M. Nicol

Have you heard of the term “compensation project?” The purpose of the project is to compensate for the deterioration, destruction or disturbance of fish habitat caused by development projects, such as harbour infrastructure construction, modifications or dismantling.

To compensate for the loss of fish habitat caused by repairs to the dock in Grandes-Bergeronnes and the construction of a boat launch in Anse-aux-Basques at Les Escoumins, Fisheries and Oceans Canada sought a compensation project that could be carried out near the work site or elsewhere. The primary goal of the compensation is to maintain or increase the productivity of the species that contribute to fishing.

As a result, in July 2011, a project to recreate a major wetland located at the mouth of the Ha! Ha! River at the city of Saguenay was chosen. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in cooperation with the Saguenay Priority Intervention Zone (ZIP) Committee and many partners, developed the fish habitat. Before the Saguenay floods in 1996, this wetland supported a significant population of fish typical to this type of habitat; its restoration should make it possible to recreate the wetland.

Enhancement of a lagoon for fish habitat

The western side of the Ha! Ha! River delta was home to a small 660 m2 lagoon. It consisted of a stone dike in its upper portion, a structure erected during the 1996 floods to enable heavy machinery to perform various rehabilitation work, such as cleaning or stabilizing the shoreline. A small brackish marsh developed and today this habitat is used by, among other things, a species of zooplankton and the Banded Killifish (Fundulus diaphanus). The presence of the Banded Killifish has only been confirmed in four lakes in this area and two locations in the brackish waters of the Saguenay Fjord.

Enhancing the dike made it possible to increase the Banded Killifish’s reproduction, rearing and feeding areas and sufficiently increase the water level to ensure the development of this species. Before this, this environment was virtually becoming dry during low tides and the aquatic wildlife was at risk. Corrective measures expanded the lagoon’s usable area from 662.2 m2 to 2 560 m2, for a habitat increase of 1 898 m2.

The new wetland made it possible to increase the Banded Killifish’s reproduction area.
DFO M. Nicol

“The extraordinary thing about the project,” said Mario Nicol of the Regional Small Craft Harbours Branch, “is that we were able to witness the results almost immediately once the dike was complete by observing the tides coming in and going out. The fauna re-discovered its habitat!”

This environment will also become an interpretation site for young people visiting the Fjord Museum. These educational outings will make it possible for youth to discover the richness and importance of preserving lagoons and wetlands with considerable ecological significance.

Did you know?

The Banded Killifish is mainly found in shallow areas and lays its eggs on the stems of aquatic plants. The presence of American bulrush, Seaside-Plantain, Sea-Milkwort and a small colony of sedges in the marsh plays a crucial role in this species’ reproduction. The Banded Killifish is an example of a population that should represent a key element of the Fjord’s ecological diversity.

Lyne Beaumont
Small Craft Harbours
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