The Fryer Dam
Since starting the operations of the Richelieu canals (Chambly canal and Saint-Ours Canal), various projects are planned to improve navigation on the Richelieu-Lake Champlain axis. It was not until the early 1930s that work to widen the Saint-Ours lock was undertaken in order to adjust its size to the systems of the St. Lawrence and New York State canals. In the Haut-Richelieu portion, construction began in 1938 on a dam/regulator at Fryer Island. However, the outbreak of World War II seemed to change priorities and all of the planned interventions were not carried out, putting a brake on this project to create a seaway on the Richelieu River. As a result, the Fryer Island dam/regulator will never be functional.
In the early 1970s, the Chambly Canal was enlarged in certain places but, once again, the overall project was never completed. In doing so, the Chambly Canal will never have reached the current dimensions of the Saint-Ours Canal and the Champlain Canal (New York State).
“The channelling of the Richelieu is permanently dead. A supposedly fabulous project that received a huge deal of attention in news publications and that every riverside community along the Richelieu ardently desired has just received its death warrant and will remain only an unfulfilled dream.” (Journal de Chambly, 1967)
Not to be missed
Some years ago, major soil erosion problems came to light along the shore near the Fryer Dam. To alleviate this situation, specialists planted willows, a plant which has the characteristic of generating substantial root networks. This stabilized the soil and elimi- nated erosion. The principle is called “bioen- gineering. ” Take a few minutes to observe this principle, with human ingenuity placed at the service of nature.
On a lighter note
Rumours are circulating among the local population. It is said, among other things, that the canal expansion project was abandoned because of errors in calculation, which is not true. This earned one of the canal’s concrete walls the nickname “wall of shame.”
It was also said that, once the dam became operational, the town of Iberville would have been completely submerge beneath the flood tides of the Richelieu River!
Did you know?
Fryer Island is home to a wide variety of tree and plant species. Located in the midst of wetlands, the island’s perimeter is colonized by the silver maple and the red ash. The island is recognized as the most northerly spot where the blue oak, a rare and endangered species, can be found. But watch out: the island is also home to many specimens of poison ivy. You are thus urged to stay on the trails.