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Restoring a natural habitat in an artificial watercourse

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jan21,2024

Restore a natural habitat in an artificial watercourse

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The Saint-Georges Canal connects Lake Saint-Georges to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

  • Michaële Perron-Langlais (View profile)Michaële Perron-Langlais

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How can we restore a natural habitat in a watercourse entirely created by humans? This is the question asked by UQAR researchers who studied the case of the Saint-Georges canal, artificially dug more than 100 years ago by the first inhabitants of Port-Menier, on the island. d'Anticosti.

It is with the aim of drying up Lake Saint-Georges and thus creating arable land that the canal was created. #x27;was first dug in 1898 by Henri Menier's team.

The watercourse was later widened, when logging increased, to allow the transport of wood by floating. It was also used during the 20th century for the production of electricity.

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In 1913, the dam located downstream of the Saint-Georges canal supplied a sawmill.

Over the years, the Saint-Georges Canal and Lake Saint-Georges, located upstream, have become wildlife habitats for many species, such as brook trout, Atlantic salmon and American eel.

From 2019 to 2022, a project aimed at improving the habitat of these fish and encouraging their circulation between the Gulf of Saint-Laurent and Lake Saint-Georges, in particular by dismantling a damaged dam, was carried out by the ZIP Côte Committee. -Northern Gulf.

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It is within the framework of its involvement in this project that a team from the UQAR Geomorphology and Fluvial Dynamics Laboratory became interested in the history of the Saint-Georges canal and its hydrogeomorphological transformations, over the course of the developments. which were carried out there.

From the start, it raises the question of what restoration of a watercourse is if the watercourse was never natural. How do we bring a watercourse back to its natural state, if it never was? asks Étienne Gariépy-Girouard, master's candidate in geography at UQAR.

The latter recently won the Gisèle-Lamoureux Prize, from the Nature and Technology Research Fund of Quebec, for an article on the Saint-Georges canal, which he signed with professors Thomas Buffin-Bélanger and Manon Savard, from UQAR, and Pascale M. Biron, from Concordia University.

The text, published in the scientific journal The Canadian Naturalist, concludes that it could be beneficial, during future river development projects, to combine interventions on the natural habitat of the Saint-Georges canal to a valorization of its history, intimately linked to those of Port-Menier and Anticosti Island.

The objective, for Étienne Gariépy-Girouard, is above all to fuel reflection on the restoration of waterways. He emphasizes that the lessons of the Saint-Georges canal can also be applied to natural rivers.

Even watercourses of natural origin, today, evolve according to natural processes, but also according to social, political, economic processes, notes the geographer.

We must also recognize that a restoration action is also a human impact. It remains human development on waterways.

A quote from Étienne Gariépy-Girouard, candidate for a master's degree in geography at UQAR

The director of the ZIP committee of the Côte-Nord du Golfe, Sarah-Émilie Hébert-Marcoux, also hesitates to use the term restore when she talks about the project carried out by her organization in Port- Menier.

It's true, we can't restore the Saint-Georges canal, it was never a natural river, she admits. On the other hand, we can try to provoke fluvial processes that we would find in rivers. But again, it's not so easy to do.

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A fish pass was built following the dismantling of the old dam downstream of the Saint-Georges canal.

Indeed, the results of these interventions are often imperfect.

In follow-up studies carried out following the removal of the dam and other actions aimed at intervening in the fish habitat of the Saint-Georges canal, Étienne Gariépy-Girouard and his colleagues demonstrated that wildlife development led to an exacerbation of the erosion process in certain sectors.

If we cannot return the Saint-Georges canal to its natural state, since that would mean making it disappear, Étienne Gariépy-Girouard is of the opinion that it is possible to restore the relationship that people have with the watercourse .

The anthropogenic watercourse has heritage and historical values, indicates the geographer. The representations that people have of the watercourse are super important and we can restore that.

The director of the ZIP committee of the North Gulf Coast emphasizes that her organization could, in light of these reflections, follow up on the project carried out between 2019 and 2022. From this work, there is potential for a host of projects. other actions, affirms Sarah-Émilie Hébert-Marcoux, who specifies that it will above all be necessary to obtain the support of the municipality of L'Île-d'Anticosti to move forward with new interventions.

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The Saint-Georges canal in 1901, shortly after its construction.

Sarah-Émilie Hébert-Marcoux and Étienne Gariépy-Girouard both hope that the inclusion of Anticosti on the UNESCO world heritage list will provide opportunities to promote not only the natural heritage of the island, but also its cultural heritage.

We must give more importance to the communities that live near watercourses and not only restore the physical processes in the watercourses, but also the relationship that people have with the watercourse, access, uses, concludes the UQAR student.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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