July 10, 2015
By Jean-Claude Cormier, Ambassador
With roughly 40 percent of New Brunswick’s population obtaining their drinking water from surface watersheds such as lakes, streams or rivers, it’s no wonder it is illegal for people to drive their motorized vehicles across rivers and streams in this province.
Just one liter of motor oil can contaminate one million liters of water, so when people drive across a stream, brook, or shallow river, that oily sheen you see trailing behind is contaminating a million times that amount. Most people are unaware they are breaking the law when they are doing it, and are quite surprised when faced with a $290 fine for a first offence and the possibility of having their vehicle impounded.
Fording (the act of driving a motorized vehicle across a watercourse) does so much more than merely contaminate water.
From an angler’s perspective, fording devastates fish populations. Fish, such as salmon and trout, create nests called “redds” on the river bottom in which they lay and fertilize their eggs, and then bury the eggs with surrounding gravel. When a motorized vehicle drives across the river, it destroys these nests along with all the eggs in them. If the young successfully hatch without having their nests destroyed, they like to hang out along the shore where they are safe from bigger fish looking to feed off them. When vehicles cross the river, these young are often crushed by tires or washed ashore.
From an environmentalist’s perspective, fording has environmental ramifications as well. Repetitive off-road driving up to a watercourse causes vegetation to die, leading the way for erosion and sediment accumulation in the water. For any naysayers, one only needs to observe an off-road trail from year-to-year to notice it getting deeper and deeper into the ground. Where’s the dirt going? It’s finding its way to the river! Driving on a riverbed causes changes to the river bottom and affects the flow of water, which may alter the channel and cause even more erosion down river.
There are a few designated watercourse crossings in New Brunswick, but these are intended for farmers to use with their farming equipment exclusively, especially on scheduled rivers. So unless you are a farmer who is driving a tractor across the river to plow a field, you are breaking the law. On non-scheduled rivers in New Brunswick, there are some designated watercourse crossings, but it is recommended that people not use them because of reasons listed above, and they are not meant to be used repetitively.
It’s illegal to drive across rivers and streams in most of New Brunswick, but even if it is not illegal in your area, it should be common sense not to ford watercourses. So please, do your part to help protect our water, environment, and fish.