Many rural communities across the country have struggled to find long-term economic solutions to sustain themselves in the years following the Atlantic cod moratorium. Out-migration, seasonal employment and reliance on government funding are just some of the effects that can be seen in the past two decades. Now, a special project hopes to change that for one Newfoundland town.
CNA’s Wave Energy Resource Centre (WERC) has had a profound impact on the residents of Lord’s Cove on the Burin Peninsula, population 160. Through the project, residents have seen the renovation of the former fish plant, which has had social implications in the community.
Representatives of CNA met with the residents of Lord’s Cove in June to discuss the findings of a community-based qualitative research study. The study, entitled It’s Just Nice to See the Light on Again, explored the social implications of establishing research facilities in rural Newfoundland and Labrador – specifically Lord’s Cove.
The 38-page report features interviews with 12 citizens of Lord’s Cove and explores how residents have responded to the establishment of the centre in their community, and what they anticipate the outcome of the research may be.
As a viable option for long-term economic sustainability, WERC’s aim is to provide the community of Lord’s Cove with economic and technical benefits from both a wave-powered piston pump and a shore-based multi-species aquaculture facility located in the town’s former fish processing plant.
“The former fish plant building in the town serves as a symbol for the attitude of the people within the community,” the report states.
“When WERC researchers were completing renovations, little did they know they were simultaneously refurbishing community pride. In each interview, participants expressed how much it meant to them to see their former workplace transformed from a derelict structure into a state-of-the-art facility which could have the potential to bring prosperity back into the community.”
The purpose of the study, which was conducted and compiled by Janice Rowsell with support from CNA’s Office of Applied Research and the Rural Secretariat, was to gain intimate insight from community members in order to advance stakeholder knowledge on how to successfully conduct research, and establish research facilities in rural areas.
It was observed in the study that residents of the town recognized that many factors deciding the fate of their community were outside of their control; however they felt the WERC could serve as a catalyst for change.
“The potential of bringing economic longevity to Lord’s Cove is seen as an indicator of resilience on the part of community members. One point expressed by each person interviewed was the hope that the project would be successful,” the report says.
One resident feels it is refreshing just to see activity taking place in what used to be the most popular spot in town.
“There used to be no one on the wharf – for years. The only time the wharf has been used for a good many years was for the youngsters playing hockey… but I mean now, there’s always at least one car down there, or two. I gotta say, it’s just nice to see the lights on over there again. Something so simple as that. It’s just nice to see a light on to know there’s a bit of life over there again.”
The concept of a renewed sense of community pride was identified as a theme in the report.
“With the number of overwhelming changes this community has experienced in the last 20 years I felt it was important to take into account the human impact this project will have,” says Rowsell. “It’s important when conducting research to work closely with community members so that outcomes are mutually beneficial. We have learned just how important it is to maintain a positive relationship with community members throughout the life of the project.”
Analysis of the findings from the report is presented in terms of social factors that have contributed to resident attitudes. The report also provides recommendations to CNA on how to implement research projects that affect rural communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. Additionally, it explains social lessons that have been learned as a result of establishing the WERC which will be a useful resource to stakeholders.
“Given the results of this study, it is apparent that the community of Lord’s Cove has displayed a tremendous amount of resilience in its response to the many challenges faced over the last 20 years,” the report states.
“In spite of economic and personal hardships, residents remain hopeful that the Wave Energy Research Centre will prove to be a long-term economic benefit for their town, and optimistic that opportunities to bring expatriates home will arise as a result.”
Goal in sight
Each day the Wave Energy Research Centre in Lord’s Cove gets closer to its goal of harnessing the power of wave action for onshore aquaculture purposes.
Since 2003, a team of researchers have been working on the design and deployment of a wave-powered piston pump to provide low-pressure seawater to shore-based facilities. According to Dr. Michael Graham, administrator of the research project, the centre is now open for business and progress has been made on pump development.
“When the pump gets hit by a wave there are parts that move relative to each other that pump water,” says Dr. Graham. “We recently spent some time building models and put them in a tank at NRC (National Research Council) in St. John’s to see how they floated. We accurately monitored movement as they were pushed down and tipped from side to side. The data will be used in a numerical model.”
He says they hope to have the blueprints for the new model prototype completed by the end of December. In the meantime, the weather station is operational and wave measurement devices have been permanently installed one kilometre offshore at a depth of 80 feet.
“We are an operational test facility and anyone who wants to come in can do testing. We have wave data, weather data and imagery of the ocean floor.”
A 400-foot underwater pipeline used to pump water into the facility was completed this past summer, as was the introduction of 300 fish to the holding tanks.
“The big argument of not being able to go on land with aquaculture is that the cost is too much. One of the big costs is pumping water so that’s where the wave pump comes in because we don’t have any energy costs associated with that,” says Dr. Graham.
“The other thing we’re doing to try to maximize profitability and minimize the ecological footprint is, instead of just feeding the fish and throwing the water with all of the uneaten feed and feces back into the ocean, we are actually going through a series of tanks to put the water through a bio filter and remove as much of the particulates and organic and chemical matter from the water as possible.”
The end result is the water being returned to the ocean is clean.
“With our system you can support four or five marketable species such as sea urchins, mussels and scallops from one bag of feed, where in a normal system you’re only growing fish.”