A personal view of Knowlton, Quebec, the Eastern Townships most beautiful village.

Knowlton Residents Upset With State of Mill Pond
Read the full story here.

With all the rain we've been having this year it's no wonder that there have been many problems come to our attention because of flooding. Early in the morning a large white banner was attached to the Mill Pond Dam saying "Mr. Mayor, water is supposed to go over not under this dam".

The recent breaking of river banks that made national news has underlined many issues that concern the residents of Knowlton. With the Coldbrook flooding and the Yamaska River breaching under the incredible rainfalls there have been many residents concerned about the state of the Mill Pond in the center of Knowlton. Recently a large banner was unfurled in the early morning after a rainfall; the dam at the Mill Pond seemed to be malfunctioning and water was pouring under the timbers and some irate residents made there feelings known. Many members of the community feel that the Mayor of Knowlton, Mr. Richard Wisdom, and the city fathers need todo something about the Mill Pond before it is too late!

With the permission of the authors, Destination Knowlton offers the open letter that recently appeared in the local Knowlton newspaper about the state of the Mill Pond. The article was written by Christina Ishoj and Antoine Rempp of the firm Ecodesign Akwatec Inc. who are an environmental firm based in Knowlton and they have graciously allowed us to republish this letter which sums up the feelings of many residents regarding the state of the Mill Pond:

Mill Puddle and Warm Brook
When it comes to the environment very often there is much more than meets the eye. Take for example the article in the Tempo about the replacement of the Blackwood Dam at the Mill Pond in downtown Knowlton. We are all in agreement that the dam is in need of replacement, (including a fish ladder that is properly designed) but let's look at the dam in the context of the immediate watershed of the Mill Pond. We can then begin to see a lot more needs to be cared for than just the dam.

The old dam is in a sorry state, much like the pond itself. Natural sedimentation that over time was intensified by human activity has reduced the depth of the pond to such a point that sand bars abound in the middle of the pond. Coupled with periodic lowering of the water levels for reasons unclear to us, we have an ecosystem poorly managed, and in dire need of serious remediation.

The deeper parts of the pond are not sufficiently deep to control water temperature, thus higher water temperatures reduce dissolved oxygen levels that in turn prove disastrous for indigenous aquatic life in the pond. Consider also that Mill Pond is an important feature in the watershed of Lac Brome. The relatively good water that enters Mill Pond from the Mont Glen watershed is efficiently reduced in quality by the pond where it is warmed, where the sediment load is greatest and where oxygen levels are reduced. Thus water of reduced quality leaves the pond over the dam, via Cold Brook heading toward Lac Brome. Gravel pits aside, we must be thankful that the water entering Mill Pond is of good quality, because this means our work is less extensive than in other watersheds where development upstream has created serious problems downstream.

Over the century, the purpose of the dam has changed, from function to aesthetique. In the recent past a fish ladder was introduced along the existing dam which as predicted by a few, proved to be highly ineffective. Why not consider a dam system that is more naturalized, consisting of large rock placements coupled with carefully designed embankment, which will function to control water levels while allowing fish to travel upstream as intended by nature. A thorough restructuring of the banks, shoreline (including aquatic plantations) and a dredging of the entire basin of Mill Pond will greatly improve habitat and the water quality of this watershed, and thus of Lac Brome. This way, when fish do arrive in the pond from Cold Brooke (because they can), they are greeted by a revitalized ecosystem that consists of cold, deep water, indigenous food sources, diverse aquatic flora and fauna habitat, and a clear passage upstream to cool brooks and gravel beds where nature intended them to spawn.

By simply replacing an existing older dam with a new one that may include an ineffective fish ladder, we are applying an expensive band-aid to a community wound that has been festering far too long. Perhaps an aquatic habitat of such poor quality doesn't affect the local residents too much. But think about the potential for wildlife and recreational tourism, if the pond were restored to its original glory.

Think about bird watching along a boardwalk, or renting a paddleboat to explore the pond after having lunch in onbe of the many local coffe shops that overlooks the pond. A green park space could surround the newly reclaimed pond, which could be connected to other recreation trails along Cold Brook toward the schools and new community centre. Even if this town is experiencing serious economic cycles of the down town core, such a reclamation of a wetland and integrated recreational path system, could be just the boost Knowlton needs.

A global plan to restructure Mill Pond would certainly give it the second wind it deserves. And if done properly, the benefits of such work would reach far beyond the pond, as the quality of life for the citizens; the educational opportunities for the children and the pleasure for the tourists improve immensely. It has been forty years since children have been able to fish trout in Mill Pond. Human activities have created this problem; we certainly have the solutions to remedy it.
What about the cost you say? Much like the Knowlton community centre, where there is a will, there is a way. All three levels of government have programs to assist with such work, (see what Regina did : go to http://www.wascanalake.com/) and with increasing
demands on urban wildlife spaces for condo projects, there is no reason why the proponents of new developments cannot significantly contribute to the beautification of water that will surely increase their profits. Creativity and diligence are just two ingredients that may propel this project full steam ahead. Everyone will benefit.

Let's keep Mill Pond a pond and Cold Brook cold, or consider renaming our water resources, Mill Puddle and Warm Brook.

Antoine Rempp, Ing. Jr. M.Sc.Env., Christina Ishoj B.E.S., B.Ed., Ecodesign Akwatec Inc., http://www.akwatec.ca/Ecodesign Akwatec Inc. is an Aquatic Engineering firm based in Knowlton, Quebec.

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