N.B. seeks approval to dredge waterway behind Parlee Beach

·3 min read
The channel and lagoons behind Parlee Beach on Monday, with high water following a rain storm that resulted in flooding in the provincial park parking lots.  (Roger Whittaker/Submitted - image credit)
The channel and lagoons behind Parlee Beach on Monday, with high water following a rain storm that resulted in flooding in the provincial park parking lots. (Roger Whittaker/Submitted - image credit)

The New Brunswick government is seeking environmental approval from itself to dredge a channel and lagoon behind Parlee Beach to improve drainage.

The Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, which operates Parlee Beach Provincial Park, filed an environmental impact assessment document that lays out its plans in Pointe-du-Chêne.

Parlee Beach in southeastern New Brunswick is considered one of the province's marquee tourism destinations, though water-quality concerns have been an issue in recent years.

"Due to sand migration that has worsened over recent years, the mouth of the inlet has narrowed to a point where tidal waters and storm runoff can no longer sufficiently draining within a tidal cycle," the document, prepared by Englobe Corp., says.

"As a result, water quality within the channel and lagoons appears to be declining and stormwater retention capacity is diminishing, causing the parking lots surrounding the eastern end of the lagoon to flood following even moderate precipitation events."

Roger Whittaker/Submitted
Roger Whittaker/Submitted

The nearly 500-page document posted Tuesday includes reports on plants, wildlife, testing of sediment samples from where dredging is planned and the site hydrodynamics.

The proposed work involves dredging the mouth of the tidal inlet at the western end of the beach that has narrowed, as well as the channel and lagoons behind the beach. Sand dredged would be used for the beach volleyball courts or transported to the landfill in Moncton for use covering garbage.

It says without dredging, the beach would continue to migrate westward and would eventually block the inlet, increasing the flood risk.

Government of New Brunswick/Submitted
Government of New Brunswick/Submitted

Dredging over several phases would take place in a provincially significant wetland and requires the province's Environment Department to assess the plan and issue a decision.

It's unclear how long the environmental assessment could take.

The report calls for a first phase to widen the tidal inlet to take place as soon as possible, with a second phase in late fall 2022. A third phase involving one lagoon is planned if earlier work isn't sufficient. It is tentatively scheduled for fall 2023 or winter 2024.

The report says the work would take place outside the regular tourism season and would avoid bird migration season. It says some work in the western area may take place during nesting season, though there is less habitat in that area and an ornithologist would be at the site to identify areas to avoid.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

The province already digs up sand north of the inlet to replenish the beach, referred to as the "beach nourishment program." The report proposes carrying out the dredging of the waterway when required as part of that regular work.

Arthur Melanson with the Red Dot Association, an environmental group that has drawn attention to water quality and development issues surrounding Parlee Beach over the years, said on Wednesday that the group's members had yet to see the environmental assessment report and could not yet comment.

When concerns were raised about water quality at the beach, one area identified as a potential issue was the eastern lagoon behind the beach parking lot. Cottage owners and residents had pointed to the sewage lift station that can overflow into the lagoon as an issue.

A 2017 report says the waterway flowing from the lagoon, which the province now wants to dredge, "appears to be stagnant water with very little tidal flushing." The report noted there is a sewage lift station that has an overflow pipe that discharges into the watercourse.

It was recommended the pipe be removed or closed. A 2019 report on the waterway notes the lift station was decommissioned and the pipe removed.

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