History of ERMAThe Exploits River is the largest River in insular Newfoundland spanning from Notre Dame Bay in the North East to deep into the Long Range Mountains on the West Coast. It has a drainage area of over 12,000 square Kilometres.
Historically the River has been used, first by the Beothucks Indians to travel from the interior to the seacoast and for the past one hundred years as a industrial River in the paper making industry. The site of the Paper Mill in Grand Falls - Windsor was chosen because of the vast Forest resource upstream and the ability to transport harvested logs by water to the Mill yard. The Grand Falls offered a 100 feet drop in elevation that would be harnessed for the production of Hydro to drive the machinery and provide electric to the Community.
While the log drives have been captured in song and stories, today all Pulpwood is delivered to the Mill by Truck. The Hydro production has increased over the years utilizing new and modern technology.
Originally the Exploits had few Atlantic Salmon because of the large waterfalls in Bishop's Falls and at the Grand Falls. Less than 10% of the entire watershed was accessible to anadromous (Sea Run) Salmon due to the presence of these natural and the added industrial obstructions to upstream migration.
Salmon Enhancement on the Exploits had it's real beginning when a hydro dam was constructed on Rattling Brook in Norris Arm resulting in blockage of the Brook to returning salmon runs. To overcome this obstacle adult Fish were transferred from Rattling Brook to Great Rattling Brook, a tributary of The Exploits. This necessitated the construction of Fishways at Bishop's Falls and at Great Rattling Brook.
In view of the success of this transfer and the increased salmon population a program was developed to enhance the Mid Exploits in the area from the Grand Falls to Red Indian Lake.
In 1983 a group of members with the local Chamber of Commerce felt that there was potential for the Exploits River to become a World Class Atlantic Salmon River. From the initial thought came the formation of a not-for-profit Association, Environment Resources Management Association (ERMA), that would undertake the responsibility of working with Government through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to reach this goal.
A community based group, it has a volunteer Board of Directors that are elected at a Public Meeting Annually that sets the goals and objectives and oversees the many different divisions of their operations today.
A facility for egg incubation in use at the time by DFO at Noel Paul Brook, was expanded to handle a capacity of 8 Million eggs annually and used the stock from the lower section of the River as the Broodstock. From 1986 to 1992 in excess of over 50 Million young Salmon fry were transported by Helicopter to streams all over the Exploits River.
This enhancement program also required construction of fish passages systems at Red Indian Lake Dam and at the Grand Falls. All work was completed In house with employment levels reaching an average of 60 people annually.
In addition to the two fishways required at the Grand Falls Site, an Interpretation Centre was incorporated into the design. The ground level has displays on the Biology, Ecology, and Life cycles of the Freshwater Fish and the lower level has underwater viewing windows and Aquariums holding Juvenile fish.
While the Centre is one of the largest Tourism visitor sites in Central Newfoundland, it is also the prime location for Public Education and Awareness of our Natural Resources including the Freshwater species found in our waters.
In 1985 ERMA initiated the Exploits Valley Salmon Festival to highlight and bring attention to the Salmon that were returning to our Rivers. This Festival continues annually on the peak of the run of Atlantic Salmon.
While this Stock Enhancement Program was undertaken the Association conducted numerous River cleanup Projects removing debris from along the River shoreline. With the success of the Project came increased interest in the River and the opportunities that it presented. The Town of Grand Falls - Windsor initialized the construction of a sewage treatment plant to treat all effluent and the major industry stakeholder, Abitibi Bowater, has invested Millions on treating all of their discharge.
As well, the Hydro Plants on the River have installed the latest in Fish Diversion Technology and are constantly working to further increase production both in adult fish returning and smolts has they migrate to the sea.
From a returning run of 1500 in the late 1970's to a River Production of 35,000 adult fish today, the Salmon Enhancement Program has demonstrated what can be achieved when three levels of Government, Federal, Provincial, and Municipal combine with industry and Public Involvement Groups to reach a common goal - The Management and Development of our Natural Resources