River Philip Watershed Renewal Program
By Jack Imhof, TUC National Biologist
The River Philip is the largest watershed of the fifteen mainland rivers flowing from Nova Scotia into the Northumberland Strait. It drains an area of 726 km2, second in size along the gulf coast only to the Margaree(1100 km2). The River Philip flows northeast off the Cobequid highlands through a diverse landscape from relatively untouched forested headwater areas to more agricultural and urban landscapes, approaching the head of tide in Oxford. The river boasts pockets of healthy native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), as well as a diverse array of other aquatic fish and insect species. It also boasts the Northumberland Strait's healthiest mainland Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) population, although the overall population is only a fraction of its historic levels.
The river has been altered over its entire length by a variety of primary resource exploitation practices from logging and log driving to dams for power generation and milling operations. These practices, both past and present have left the River Philip with only a portion of its historical health and functionality. This degradation has in turn left brook trout (both resident river fish and sea run strain) only in scattered pockets in the watershed and native Atlantic salmon a small fraction of their historic levels .
As a result of these practices, the river's sediment supply and load has been greatly increased. This has lead to various forms of river adjustment(widening, aggradation, high rates bank erosion, channel migration and degradation), but the most prevalent adjustments seem to be aggradation-the raising of the stream bed grade through increased sediment deposits-and channel avulsions-the sudden removal of soil and sediment by flood or freshet. This has resulted in a tremendous loss of habitat quality and quantity for salmon and trout as well as an increased risk to private property, decreased water quality and a loss of overall watershed health.
Goals and Approach
The overall goal of the River Philip Watershed Restoration Project is:
The watershed program is composed of 6 components beginning with developing an understanding of the watershed through a watershed biophysical characterization,conducted by both professionals and volunteers:
Who is Involved
Trout Unlimited Canada and the local chapter of TUC the Cumberland County Chapter of TUC are involved. In addition, support,both with in-kind and funding is being provided by the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Foundation, Atlantic Salmon Federation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Nova Scotia Salmon Association.