Help needed to deal with silt problem

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Fishermen experiencing problems entering Parsons Pond harbour

By Aaron Beswick

FOR THE SOU’WESTER

Parsons Pond harbour is silting up…again.

A recent dredging operation failed to clear the harbour mouth and boats are being damaged. “I’m assuming Wally Young is dead,” said retired fisherman Earl Keough of his frustration with not hearing from his political representatives. “We’re pretty sure Gerry Byrne is still alive because someone heard him on open line the other week, but he’s still not helping us.”

A river runs through Parsons Pond, N.L. and as it leaves the harbour its current drops silt from the Long Range Mountains before wrapping around the shore – eating away at a dike that protects an area of the town. Two winters ago a storm surge overran the protective mound and flooded homes.

On May 5, Trevor Keough took his speedboat out of the entrance in the morning to check his lobster pots. He returned at 4 p.m. and had to wait another four hours before the tide rose so he could return to the harbour. “It’s one thing when the weather’s fine – but if the wind picked up it could be a very dangerous situation not to be able to return to the harbour,” said Trevor’s brother, Earl Keough.

Other fishermen have damaged the blades of outboard motors while trying to enter the harbour.

A five-year, $5.86-million development plan by the Parsons Pond Harbour Authority, aimed at saving the harbour and upgrading crumbling wharf facilities, was turned down in 2004 by Small Craft Harbours, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.

According to St. Barbe MHA Wallace Young, Small Craft Harbours only owns a minor piece of infrastructure in Parsons Pond and doesn’t want to accept responsibility for more. Most of Parsons Pond’s wharf infrastructure is owned by the town or fishermen. Wharves aren’t a provincial government responsibility.

With regards to the Harbour Authority proposal, Young warned that it was rather expensive. “It was a big, big project and there’s been difficulty bringing it down to scale.”

Harbour Authority chair Richard Caines is willing to settle for less if it means he can keep fishing from Parsons Pond. “We desperately need some dredging done – when they dug the brook this spring they didn’t dig deep enough,” said Caines, who’s keeping his boat in Cow Head because he can’t get it to the wharf in Parsons Pond.

According to the development plan the community’s 15 boats offload some $1-million worth of seafood annually in Parsons Pond. Phase one of the project, costing $1.2-million, would be a 130-metre rubble mound breakwater at the harbour mouth, which would narrow the river’s current, making it deeper, and protect boats entering the harbour from breaking seas.

Mayor Brenda Biggin explained that silt in the harbour is part of a larger issue – the town’ soil is much like that of its neighbour, Daniel’s Harbour, a community which had a large piece of it claimed by the ocean last spring. “We’d like someone to show a little interest before we all drop into the ocean,” said Mayor Biggin. “Government is after us for emergency plans, but here we already have a problem we can’t handle ourselves and there’s no one to help us.” (Aaron Beswick is a journalist with Transcontinental Media’s Northern Pen, which is a contributor to the Sou’Wester.)

Organizations: Parsons Pond Harbour Authority, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Department of Innovation Transcontinental Media

Geographic location: Parsons Pond, Long Range Mountains, Cow Head

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