Concern over tinderbox conditions in the woods and a reliable source of water in the event of a fire is being cited as a reason by the MLA for Windsor and Hants West to override a federal ministerial order. 

The order issued by the federal Fisheries minister in March 2021 opened the sluice gates of the aboiteau on the Avon River next to a twinning project on Highway 101 to allow safe passage for fish. It was a win for fishermen and a local First Nations community.

A consequence of that decision was that water levels dropped in Lake Pisiquid, on the opposite side of the Avon causeway in the town of Windsor. Paddling and recreational programs were re-located last summer after water drained from the lake. 

How to best manage the flow of water while roadwork continues has for years divided people (and politicians) in the community as well as contributing to delays in twinning the highway.

Last night, Hants MLA Melissa Sheehy-Richard issued a news release announcing that John Lohr, the Nova Scotia minister responsible for Emergency Management, had issued an order that essentially trumps the one issued by the federal Fisheries minister. 

Here’s part of what Sheehy-Richard wrote:

An Emergency Order signed by EMO Minister John Lohr will ensure Hants County municipal fire services have reliable access to a water supply in the event of a fire.

Water levels in Lake Pisiquid are too low to provide enough water for firefighters to battle a fire. That’s an unacceptable risk at a time when fires are burning all over our province. The Emergency Order requires the sluice gates to be closed and the lake to be filled so firefighters can do their jobs and protect our community.

The sluice gates of the aboiteau were closed last night at 8pm. 

The provincial decision may be an entirely proactive safety measure to ensure adequate water supply in the event of a wildfire. It may also be another example of the Houston government disputing a federal decision. 

It’s only been a few weeks since Premier Tim Houston called “shame” on the federal fisheries department after a tidal power developer left the province claiming DFO was obstructing efforts to test its technology in the Minas Passage of the Bay of Fundy. 

As well, the premier’s ongoing and vocal opposition to the carbon tax is well known. Ottawa agreed to delay by six months the implementation of that tax which will take effect July 1. The aim of increasing the tax on gasoline and home heating fuels is to change behaviour and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow the pace of climate change.

Click here to visit our Nova Scotia wildfires resource page.

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

Join the Conversation


Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
  1. the water supply claim is dubious given that the ocean is directly beside this area.

  2. It would be nice to see the opinion of a lawyer as to which order legally trumps the other or if that is how that actually works one way or the other.
    If the closing of the aboiteau cases fish mortalities the province would be open to charges under the fisheries act for the mortalities and for ignoring a ministerial order.
    If local firefighting needs are dependent on this single water source that’s a problem beyond what this emergency order can solve. By now (after having this not available for a long time) they should have multiple water sources set up and available as most firefighting departments do. I suspect the minister is just using this as an excuse to close the gates out of spite as the practicalities of it don’t make sense.