Photo by Bill Gibson
Initial analysis suggests that the overall water quality in the Meduxnekeag River is relatively good. In the absence of historical water quality data, it is not possible to reach definitive conclusions on the state of the system in the past, but discussions with residents and stakeholders indicate a widespread perception that Meduxnekeag water quality was much lower in the middle to late 20th century than is the case today.
There are opportunities for further improvement in water quality, mainly through addressing point source and non-point source pollution identified in this report. We are working on these through our long term action plans.
The Meduxnekeag River Valley was formed over 12,000 years ago as the last glaciers retreated from the area. The resulting valley has extensive gravel deposits. The majority of the watershed is a fault-bound wedge of Ordovician sedimentary strata. Rocks within the wedge are dominated by greywacke, slate and siltstone of the Tetagouche groups, and are calcareous. The calcareous base is the key contributing factor to the occurrence of Appalachian Hardwood Forest.
The geology and subsequently the soils of the Meduxnekeag valley have created a natural environment that over the past centuries has been melded into a mix of forests, agricultural lands and development, predominantly residential.
The Crown gravel pit was formerly utilized by the Department of Transportation for road construction and winter sand. Over the years the gravel pit was utilized less and less and began to show signs of naturalizing – the regeneration of trees and some grasses from the edge of the gravel pit towards the middle. This naturalization process was hindered by continual erosion and flooding as a result of Spring run-off from a culvert that crosses Route 540 and the sporadic removal of sand and gravel.
The Meduxnekeag River Association needed to develop a restoration plan for the property. This consisted of outlining the work that would be undertaken at the site to mitigate erosion and sedimentation concerns along with the steps to assist in the naturalization process – what trees would be planted, how water from the culvert would be directed thru the site and so on. The first step in this process required the property to be surveyed and boundary lines blazed.
With a survey plan that delineates the contours (elevations) of the gravel pit as a basis, the next step was to develop a new contour plan that would eliminate surface runoff and erosion on the site. The new contour map is the basis for the restoration work at the site.
With the guidance of the new contour map site contouring began with the use of heavy equipment. As with most projects of this scale success is directly related to the individuals operating the machinery. For this project, we had Bernie (on the D7 bulldozer) and Doug (on the excavator) from E. Cummings Contracting of Woodstock doing all of the site recontouring.
Restoration of the site involves the elimination of areas that contribute to erosion and sedimentation. One such site is where a drainage culvert crosses under Route 540 and enters onto the property. Over the years, runoff has eroded the bank beneath the culvert. Several steps were taken to rectify the erosion caused by the culvert and runoff, which predominantly occurred during heavy Spring rains. The first step was to remove the trees and brush so that the heavy equipment could access the site
The next step involved re-situating existing material to create a channel with as gentle a gradient as possible from the culvert to the holding pond below.
Once this was completed a layer of filter fabric was laid across the channel and rock was placed on top. The rock not only secures the fabric and soil in place, but also slows the water as it cascades down to the holding pond.
The finished channel is much more stable than before and now leads to a holding pond at the bottom, which further slows the water and allows the sediments to settle out and is a place for the water to seep into the ground. This is the point at which surface water begins the long journey to becoming ground water.
Another area of concern is the surface runoff created as a result of some of the larger flat areas in the gravel pit. These areas were re-contoured to eliminate the large flat surfaces that pooled water and slowly eroded the nearby banks. Every effort was made during the re-contouring of the site to keep the side slopes to less than 20% slope. This was accomplished in most areas, with a considerable portion of the slopes being less than 15% slope.
Since the site contained very little organic matter, it was necessary to introduce some prior to planting any trees. The solution involved the spreading of organic compost that we sourced from Fox Brand in Woodstock. We employed the use of tractor and 10 tonne manure spreader to place the compost on the various slopes of the gravel pit. The organic compost will provide some much needed nutrients to the transplants and help begin the restoration process for the gravel pit.
The recontoured site is being planted with native trees – white birch, sugar maple, red maple, white ash, eastern hemlock, eastern white pine, red and white spruce, and eastern white cedar. This process will continue over the coming years and hopefully include some of the more tolerant hardwood species, the ones that are characteristic of Appalachian Hardwood Forests – basswood, butternut, ironwood and ash.
The gravel pit restoration project is ongoing. In the Spring, a mix of natural wild flowers and grass seeds will be scattered in suitable areas. Over the coming years we will continue to add native trees to the site, some shrubs and organic material. Eventually, the hope is that the site will resemble an Appalachian Hardwood Forest, similar to the Meduxnekeag Valley Nature Preserves.
The Meduxnekeag Valley Nature Preserve Red Bridge Gravel Pit Restoration project has been financed by the New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund, New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund, The Meduxnekeag River Association and the by monies the organization received as a result of the Betco development at the Connell Road Walmart site.