Windsor Aboiteau

The Avon River is a tidal river flowing from the Bay of Fundy inland, bringing with it the spawning Gaspereau, a species of salt water fish that spawn further inland in fresh water habitats. A causeway, built over the Avon River in 1970, essentially closed off this tidal river but left a small fish gate or aboiteau to allow the spawning Gaspereau through. The causeway also trapped water on the inland side of the causeway forming a water catchment that was dubbed Lake Pisiquid.  Often the gate was not open in time to allow the fish to pass and that resulted in massive fish deaths. After years of negotiations, the Federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans issued a Ministerial Order In March 2021, to ensure that the aboiteau would be opened on each tide change to allow sufficient fish passage. Opening the aboiteau also meant that Lake Pisiquid dried up,  this to the chagrin of the canoe club, Marlock Ski Hill (Lake Pisiquid provided water for snow-making), the Brison development along the lake and the organisers of the annual Windsor pumpkin regatta. Compensation was arranged for those affected by the loss of the water catchment.

In June 2023, massive wildfires whipped through the forests to the north west of Halifax. On Thursday June 1st 2023, Minister John Lohr (MLA Hants-West) declared a State of Emergency in Windsor and ordered the aboiteau to be closed. This in turn allowed Lake Pisiquid to fill again on the pretext of supplying sufficient water for possible wildfire response.  Note: a State of Emergency declared by a municipal or provincial government body overrides a Ministerial Order. According to the Minister, the decision was made in response to a request from the Windsor Fire Chief. This was later proven to be false. The emergency order continues to be extended (August 2023) even though the community is at greater risk of flooding than being threatened by forest fires. The resulting fish mortality has been massive.

The Windsor Aboiteau story is complex and spans 55 years of public debate, government interference, nepotism and divisive PR. The summary here is just that, a summary. Click here to read a more detailed account of what has happened and continues to happen in Windsor.

Kody Blois speaks on development versus wildfires

Links to additional information:

Preliminarly Study Avon River Causway, 1965

Lake Pisiquid Report April 2015

CLC Meeting September 19, 2018

Joint-Council Meeting, September 27, 2018

The timeline of the Aboiteau closure and the Houston government’s rationale for continuing to use the Emergency Measures Act in order to keep Lake Pisiquid full.

Results of an ATIP: correspondance exchange between Kody Blois, MP Kings-Hants and DFO Minister Leboutillier clearly show the two differenct positions on the fate of the Avon River and the aboiteau. PDF document can be found here.

Joint Council Meeting held on September 27, 2018 to discuss the aboiteau was recorded live. Watch here.

Key moments in this video are:

24:40 (not enough water in the summer to maintain fish ways)

26:20 (description of option C)

49:09 (“political whims of the day”, legalities of fish passage, Constitution and Rights)

1:22:07 (Current structure good for next 50 years: Fly over option although funding opportunity for option D is here now)

1:24:00 (“we’re not ramming a new aboiteau down your throats”)

1:25:42 (Mi’kmaq not yet consulted)

1:30:00 (audience gets choice to move from option C to option D)