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Lower Welland River Characterization Report - Niagara Peninsula ...

Lower Welland River Characterization Report - Niagara Peninsula ...

Establishment/Enhancement Upland and Ecological Linkages Lower Welland River Study Area Characterization Report •a large number of watercourses commence in and flow through agricultural fields with little to no riparian buffer; most of the tributaries west of the QEW have little to no buffer strips •investigate possibility of additional bioengineering projects along riparian zone of Welland River to alleviate impacts of water fluctuations on littoral zone •riparian buffers will help to reduce sediment and contaminant loads from adjacent land uses, and cool the water to enhance water quality and fish habitat while facilitating the movement of flora and fauna between natural areas • investigate possibility of building on previous NPCA Water Quality Improvement projects •currently amount of upland habitat is lower than EC recommendations (27.6%) •suitability mapping indicates very high suitability for enhancement of uplands and wetlands as well as filling in gaps and corridor creation in western portion of study area along Thompsons Creek and Welland River subwatershed boundaries. •creating an upland buffer surrounding a wetland is called a Critical Function Zone (CFZ): a CFZ is a functional extension of the wetland into upland habitat providing for a variety of critical functions for wetland-associated fauna that extend outside the wetland boundary (e.g. nesting habitat). •filling in gaps between and within natural areas reduces forest edge –interior ratio creating a larger continuous natural area. A larger natural block could support a larger diversity of flora and fauna •investigate possibility of building on previous NPCA Water Quality Improvement projects Wetland Habitat •currently the level of wetland coverage meets EC minimum recommendations (14%) •very high suitability for riparian-wetland restoration along Welland River; linking existing fragmented natural areas and creating a continuous buffer along the watercourse • protect existing wetlands by creating a buffer called a Critical Function Zone (CFZ) surrounding the wetland: a CFZ is a functional extension of the wetland into upland habitat providing for a variety of critical functions for wetland-associated fauna that extend outside the wetland boundary(e.g. nesting habitat). NPCA Education and Incentive Programs Riparian Buffer Education Program Agricultural Best Management Practices Program Abandoned Well Decommissioning Program Many landowners keep their properties manicured or plant crops to the edge of the creek. The NPCA‟s program aimed at educating landowners about the benefits of buffer zones along watercourses should be extensively promoted. In addition, landowners should be made aware of and encouraged to participate in the Conservation Authority‟s Water Quality Improvement Program. This program provides grants to a maximum of 75% of the cost of a project with caps between $2,000 and $10,000. The NPCA‟s program aimed at educating landowners about the benefits of rural and agricultural best management practices should be extensively promoted. In addition, landowners should be made aware of and encouraged to participate in the Conservation Authority‟s Water Quality Improvement Program. This program provides grants to a maximum 75% of the cost of a project with caps between $5,000 and $12,000 depending on the project. Abandoned wells that are not properly decommissioned (capped and sealed) pose a threat to groundwater resources by providing a direct route to groundwater. The NPCA has a well decommissioning program in place for its jurisdiction. Grants are available for the decommissioning of unused water wells only. Priority is given to hydrogeologically sensitive areas, projects located in areas with a high density of domestic water wells, and areas where watershed plans have been completed or are ongoing (NPCA 2007). Approved grants will cover 90% of well decommissioning costs to a maximum of $2,000 per well (limit of 2 wells per property). This is a 64

Lower Welland River Study Area Characterization Report Wetlands are Worth It Program reimbursement program, which means that the landowner will pay the full cost to the contractor, and will be reimbursed for 90% of the total project cost after all receipts, invoices, and water well decommissioning records are submitted to the NPCA. Wetlands provide important water quality and ecological functions in a watershed by augmenting low flow, acting as natural filtration systems and helping to reduce flooding by acting like giant sponges and absorbing excess water. The Wetlands are Worth It Program through NPCA‟s Water Quality Improvement Program aims to assist landowners that are interested in restoring, protecting, rehabilitating and creating wetland habitat on their property by providing grants to a maximum of 75% of the cost of a project with a grant ceiling of $10,000. 65

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