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Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 Update Report

Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 Update Report

3.10 Monitoring

3.10 Monitoring recommendations Despite the designation of additional impairments, overall the problem definition for the RAP is much more focused following this review, and in many cases, the scope of impairment has been narrowed. This is due to progress made to date, such as the results from the contaminated sites assessment and the completion of several RAP recommendations, and the increased clarity about the specific sources or causes of impairment. Several information gaps and requirements were identified in the working document review. While monitoring recommendations from this review are implemented through a new monitoring plan, the information being gathered about the environment will help to answer the questions: “Have we met delisting criteria?” and if not “How much progress has been made, and what more needs to be done?” See section 5 for further information on the RAP monitoring plan. 3.10.1 Further Assessment Gaps in technical information have been identified and these are summarized below under fish, wildlife and water quality. 3.10.2 Fish There is limited data available (e.g., detailed population characteristics and age structure data, and fish health and/or condition data) for fish populations both in Welland River East/Lyons Creek, and in Welland River West/Binbrook Reservoir and the Niagara River. However, numerous projects have been underway to help address the limited data relating to fish populations. Some of these efforts include: }} the Angler diary project (complete), } } } Niagara River Watershed Fish Community Assessment (underway) } fish habitat inventory for the Niagara River (proposed) The existing evidence suggests that aspects of the fish community are likely impaired due to some combination of stressors related to: }} impacts on habitat and riparian function } }} flow reversals in the Welland River }} barriers to fish passage } } poor water quality due to non-point source pollution } cultural eutrophication of the Welland River west of the Old Welland Canal. These impacts appear to be manifesting in changes to the forage base and overall composition and dominance of different taxa in the fish community, although overall species richness is similar within similar types of sites. Hydrologic, hydraulic and chemical (eutrophication) changes to the Welland River and its tributaries also continue to have a negative effect on fish habitat and the aquatic ecosystem. 70

Niagara river remedial action plan stage 2 update 3.10.3 Wildlife }} There is limited data on wildlife with regards to the following: }} Status of native wildlife populations. }} Quantity of habitat relative to reference sites/delisting criteria }} Quality of habitat (including diversity) relative to reference sites/delisting criteria }} Access to and connectivity of habitat Table 20: Sentinel species used for assessment purposes Sentinel species or groups recommended to assess impairment status of wildlife populations in the AOC include: }} Colonial waterbirds (i.e., Black-crowned Night-Herons, Herring and/or Ring-billed Gulls) }} Wetland-dwelling wildlife (i.e., marsh birds) }} Contaminant level trends (i.e., Herring Gull, night-heron, snapping turtle eggs, and/or livers of mink) There is no robust wildlife population assessment data for mink or turtles, but there is a large data set (decadal population numbers since 1977) for the colonial waterbirds within the Niagara River. There is also a study that is currently underway with Bird Studies Canada to examine wetland-dwelling wildlife populations (i.e., marsh birds and amphibians) comparing the AOC to reference sites. 3.10.4 Water Quality: Phytoplankton and zooplankton populations When this BUI was first identified in the Stage 1 RAP report as Requiring Further Assessment there were no data or anecdotal evidence (e.g., stakeholder’s complaints) provided demonstrating a concern. To try and assess this BUI the NPCA has undertaken monitoring (Chlorophyll a) within the Welland River watershed as part of the Eutrophication Study. 3.11 Conclusions on RAP progress The work completed in the Niagara River AOC has successfully restored several Beneficial Use Impairments. This achievement demonstrates that significant progress has been made in the AOC but work remains to be done. In the Niagara River AOC the new five year work plan must be implemented to address the new recommendations and remaining priorities. In particular several key actions are required in the following priorities: 1. Addressing sources of nutrients to eutrophication of the Welland River and its tributaries and develop a set of delisting criteria. 2. Restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat, including unique habitats found rarely in other parts of the Great Lakes basin (e.g., by mitigating the impacts of hydroelectric operations at the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station on the river upstream of the Chippawa Power Canal). 3. Implementation of the monitored natural recovery strategy for PCB contaminated sediment at Lyons Creek East (e.g., administrative controls protocol). 4. Complete assessments for beneficial use impairment status for Degradation of Phytoplankton and Zooplankton Populations and implement appropriate actions for any other deemed impaired. 71

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