Partnership keeping lamprey out of Lake Huron

by Jeff Helsdon | October 8, 2019
Denny's Dam on the Saugeen River
Denny’s Dam on the Saugeen River. (Photo courtesy Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority)

The Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) was honoured in mid-June by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission (GLFC) for its part in controlling sea lamprey in Lake Huron.

Chief Lester Anoquot of the Saugeen First Nation (represented by Head Councillor Conrad Ritchie), Chief Gregory Nadjiwon of the Chippewas of Nawash, Mr. Doran Ritchie, manager of resources and infrastructure for SON, and Ms. Kathleen Ryan, Saugeen Ojibway’s energy manager, were presented with the C.C. “Buzz” Besadny Award for Fostering Great Lakes Partnerships during the commission’s annual meeting. The award was for work done on Denny’s Dam on the Saugeen River.

Dam built as barrier

The dam, which spans the river 1.5 kilometres from Lake Huron, was built in 1970 as a lamprey barrier. Located north of Port Elgin, it’s a popular fishing spot.

“It needed to be rehabilitated and we saw the need to get in there because if it wasn’t done with lamprey in mind, lamprey would get in upstream,” said Dr. Marc Gaden of the GLFC.

GLFC Commissioner Tracey Mill said, “The rehabilitation of Denny’s Dam was made possible by a shared understanding between the Commission and the SON that efforts to plan, design, engineer, construct, and monitor the project would respect the SON’s aboriginal and treaty rights. The collaboration formed a basis of knowledge, trust, and a ‘sleeves-rolled-up’ environment where everyone was working ‘on the ground’ and issues could be immediately raised and thoughtfully addressed.”

Structure got facelift

The dam was dewatered, the face rebuilt, the concrete shored up, and a lip put at the top of the dam.

Gaden said the dam is blocking 100 kilometres of potential lamprey habitat. If lamprey were to invade the Saugeen, estimates are it could produce 30,000 per year. That is significant, considering Lake Huron’s total lamprey population is 70,000. The cost to treat the river with lampricide is estimated at $600,000.

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