Ottawa will spend $22 million over the next two years to improve several small craft harbours in southwest Nova Scotia.
It continues a series of summertime spending announcements by Bernadette Jordan, the province's representative in the federal cabinet.
Meteghan, Dennis Point, Pubnico and Wedgeport are among the ports that will receive upgrades, Jordan, the federal fisheries and oceans minister, said Friday in Wedgeport.
The announcement was live streamed on the minister's Facebook page.
"These improvements are going to make our harbours cleaner, safer and more efficient," she said.
The case for Wedgeport
In Wedgeport, where annual scallop and lobster landings are valued at $15 million, the money will be used to reconstruct the existing breakwater, dredging and pile repairs.
This year for the first time, several vessels were stranded at low tide, says Lucien LeBlanc, a Wedgeport lobster fisherman and local municipal councillor.
"It's extremely important," he said.
"If you want to trace the economics of our area right down to where it begins. It all starts with these wharves where product comes in. So if we don't have a safe haven to moor our vessels, you know, it's a great concern."
Ironically, some in the area blame Wedgeport's silt problem, in part, on a previous federal harbour project.
LeBlanc said: "I would agree. The way that the rock wall was structured at our port, it's filling quicker than it ever has before. So it feels like we are playing a little bit of catch up but of course it's great to see the funding."
Big number, bigger need
Other projects will take place in Centreville, Hampton and Parkers Cove.
Property will also be acquired to construct a containment cell to manage dredge materials from Centreville, Sandy Cove East and Little River (Digby Neck) harbours.
As big as the $22-million number looks, there is agreement the need outstrips the funding available.
"I think that if you were to add a zero to that $22 million, I think that you could still reasonably invest all of that money in bringing up the local works just to a basic safety level," said Sarah Shiels, a Yarmouth lawyer who has worked with about 20 harbour authorities in the region. "The need is that great.
"From where I sit there does seem to be a chronic issue affecting many, if not most small ports and harbours with respect to the basic safety, operational safety of their wharves. That is based on observations of fishermen and sometimes based on engineering reports as well."
The situation can lead to conflict, forcing local harbour authorities to choose who can access which parts of a harbour or wharf and whether certain facilities have to be shut down because of safety or operational concerns.
Given the need is so widespread, she said it's not clear why some harbours get money and others do not.
The federal government has set aside $300 million to repair, upgrade and build new small craft harbours across Canada over the next two years.
"I will say we know there is more to do but this is the start and it's exciting to see," said Jordan.
West Nova seeing money
All of the harbours named in Friday's announcement are in the riding of West Nova, represented by Conservative MP Chris d'Entremont.
Like LeBlanc, d'Entremont said the funding is needed and welcome, but it's unlikely to repair Jordan's standing in the riding where commercial fishermen are angry over DFO's management of the First Nations moderate livelihood fishery.
"I think people see it for what it is, that it is electioneering going on," d'Entremont said.
"There's something coming in the next few months. So they see it for what it is. The larger issue of the lobster dispute is still pretty raw within the fishing community. So this might help out a little bit. But I think there's a long ways the government's going to have to go to get them under their wing again."
LeBlanc takes it in stride.
"It's good news," he said. "I mean, it's pretty obvious there's likely an election coming and this type of system is nothing new to us. But funding is always welcome. However, I can't reiterate enough that there's always room for more."
Replace structure 401
Up to $6,310,000
Centreville & Sandy Cove East
Land acquisition and containment cell development
Up to $250,000
Extension on right side of 403
Up to $2,160,000
Up to $1,136,000
Up to $1,650,000
Up to $1,900,000
Replace structure 406 & 407 = wooden pile wharf
Up to $3,860,000
Up to $945,000
Reconstruct breakwater, dredging
Up to $3,830,000
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