A new study by researchers at Dalhousie University concludes that a plan to release brine water into a nearby river while creating caverns for natural gas storage does not pose a risk to striped bass reproduction.

Alton Natural Gas Storage LP is developing an underground natural gas storage facility and associated pipelines in the Stewiacke Salt Formation near Alton, N.S., about 70 kms from Halifax.

The company says the new gas storage facility will help stabilize Nova Scotia’s natural gas costs year-round by storing the gas in the summer months when the demand is low and withdrawing the gas in the colder winter months, when the demand is high.

It would be the only natural gas storage facility in Atlantic Canada and the only storage facility connected to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline.

The researchers at Dal’s Agriculture Campus in Bible Hill say the plan to release brine water into the Shubenacadie River won’t have a significant impact on striped bass eggs or larvae stage, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald reports. (The work focused on striped bass because, the company says, no other species relies only on the Shubenacadie estuary.)

“All these estuarine species for millions of years have adapted to changing salinities and they move quite freely between freshwater and high salinity water,” biology professor and study co-author James Duston told the newspaper.

The water used to dissolve the salt deposits and create huge underground caverns for gas storage will be held at a brine pond and discharged back into the river on the flood tide, the Herald says, while salt concentration would not be allowed to exceed 28 grams per litre – the highest level of naturally occurring salinity scientists have measured in the river since 2008.