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Lake Erie North Shore Watershed Plan - Niagara Peninsula ...

Lake Erie North Shore Watershed Plan - Niagara Peninsula ...

LAKE ERIE NORTH SHORE

LAKE ERIE NORTH SHORE WATERSHED PLAN In Niagara Region, drain maintenance has occurred on the following municipal drains since 2001: Casey Drain (main branch), Point Abino, Michener Drain, Beaverdam Drain. Drain maintenance has been scheduled in the near future for Bearss Drain and Bay Beach Area Drain, and reports for Wignell Drain and Little Marsh Drain are currently in progress. Natural Heritage and Resources Concern over the loss and lack of protection of natural areas was expressed by participants of a public open house and 2 public workshops in the spring and fall of 2008. Although regional and municipal official plans include the protection of environmentally significant areas, the loss of natural features still occurs with development. Natural features include, for example, wetlands, forests, meadows, and riparian stream cover, and they provide many ecological functions in the Lake Erie North Shore watershed in terms of protecting water quality, moderating water quantity and providing habitat. In natural areas stormwater is more or less infiltrated where it falls, allowing most of the pollutants to be filtered through soils. When these areas are lost, and their functions not replaced with infiltration, detention or restoration measures, receiving watercourses are negatively affected with increased flows and pollutant loads. A lack of tributary buffers has been identified as a major issue in the watershed (RMN 2006a) as well as the fragmentation of natural areas in the study area. Ecological linkages between natural areas facilitates in the movement of flora and fauna between natural areas as well as providing habitat and enhancing ecological diversity. The challenge for the Lake Erie North Shore watershed is to protect and preserve existing forest and wetland areas. The establishment and expansion of riparian buffers is needed to protect water quality in the watershed. The following is a brief summary of some of the benefits of each feature and its contribution to maintaining a healthy watershed. Wetland Habitat Wetlands provide very important water quality and ecological functions in a watershed. Currently, the percent of wetland cover in the Lake Erie North Shore watershed is high and should be maintained. Therefore, means to maintain the numbers and/or size of wetlands will be included in the watershed strategy because wetlands: naturally filter water resources thereby improving water quality, act like sponges, slowing the flow of water which reduces the impact of flooding and allows for groundwater recharge, help to prevent soil erosion, and augments low-flow by raising local water tables, which helps to maintain base flows. Riparian Cover Riparian cover in the watershed is moderate with 64 percent of the watercourses have some vegetation along the watercourse. Therefore a means to improve the riparian habitat will be addressed in the restoration plan of the Lake Erie North Shore Watershed Plan. Like wetlands, riparian buffers also improve water quality. For example, riparian buffers: 108

LAKE ERIE NORTH SHORE WATERSHED PLAN remove sediment and pollution such as chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, bacteria and road salt before they reach surface water, reduce the impacts of flooding, prevent erosion, improve water clarity, and provide shade and cooler water temperatures for fish and other aquatic organisms (NPCA 2003). Upland Habitat: Woodland and Grasslands (Prairies and Meadows) The amount of forest cover in a watershed determines its ability to support species diversity. The Lake Erie North Shore watershed is below adequate levels to protect water quality and provide habitat with 20 percent of the watershed in forest cover. Forest cover is beneficial because it: reduces flooding and high flow events by intercepting runoff thereby encouraging infiltration, improves water quality by slowing the rate of runoff to watercourses, and trapping, using or breaking down some of the pollutants and nutrients found in runoff water, improves water quality by lowering water temperatures and shading water courses, improves groundwater quality by increasing the amount of rainfall that percolates to the groundwater table, reduces soil erosion, and preserves and increases flora and fauna diversity. In addition, prairies and meadows also play an important role in creating habitat diversity and foraging areas for wildlife. Therefore, they should be given consideration in habitat creation and restoration actions in the Lake Erie North Shore watershed. Fish and Aquatic Habitat As previously mentioned the fish community in the Lake Erie North Shore watershed is representative of a tolerant warm water fishery. Different species of fish have varying tolerances to environmental change; therefore, they are considered valuable indicators of environmental and ecosystem health (Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority 1995). The protection and improvement of critical and important fish habitat has been identified as an issue in this watershed, in addition to the completion of fish habitat classification of all watercourses in the study area (RMN 2006a). Fish habitat consists of areas that fish need, whether directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes including spawning grounds, nursery, rearing, food supply, and migration areas. Broadly defined, wetlands, groundwater recharge areas, aquifers, and the quantity and quality of groundwater and surface water are all important factors for maintaining the quality and quantity of fish habitat. Development activities, structures, changes in land use, and alteration to hydrology can all impact fish 109

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