Maitland Conservation provides snapshot of a challenging year, focus on the future

·6 min read

MAITLAND VALLEY – Maitland Conservation (MC) provided a snapshot of their accomplishments and a glimpse into 2021 to members at their board meeting on Jan. 27 in what they called a challenging year.

MC completed several flood and erosion safety projects and is involved in on-going support to address Lake Huron water levels and provide erosion risk support to landowners along the shoreline.

The presentation said, “the water level of Lake Huron continued to be well above average throughout 2020.

“Staff responded to a record number of inquiries from shoreline landowners.”

MC provided information on coastal processes and erosion risks to landowners in a variety of formats, including:

-Video conferencing

-Presentations posted on the website

-Mailing of newsletters and photos to shoreline landowners

-Lake level projection and shore protection factsheets posted on the website and social media

-Two videos onshore processes were created.

This information can be found online at www.mvca.on.ca/lake-huron-shoreline/.

Additionally, MC completed floodplain mapping for the Township of North Huron and the Municipality of Morris-Turnberry. MC members, municipalities, and the public reviewed the mapping.

They also assisted the Town of Minto with selecting appropriate options for reducing the potential for flood damages and provided detailed modelling for downstream and by-pass options. MC also supported the technical report writing team.

MC’s flood forecasting system provides on-going maintenance of rain gauges and stream gauging stations. The monitoring happens 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They reported 16 events in 2020.

Staff responded to almost 1,000 inquiries under the Land Use Planning Support and Drainage Act, more than twice the annual average.

Watershed Stewardship Services’ efforts are focused on keeping sediment and nutrients on the land and out of waterways.

MC completed several stewardship projects in 2020, including the identification of areas that need stewardship work.

Wellington Rural Water Quality Program and Huron Clean Water Project saw 157 new projects approved and 177 projects completed.

Allocation of grants totalled $174,804 with total project costs of $705,064.

Top projects in 2020 were forestry management plans, erosion control, tree planting, and cover crops.

The Garvey-Glenn Watershed Restoration Project saw 500 metres of new stream buffer planted. Previous plantings were restocked. Eleven landowners participated in the cover crop incentive program involving 950 acres.

On-Farm Applied Research and Monitoring (ONFARM) focused on monitoring soil health and water quality within the Garvey-Glenn watershed. This initiative is part of a more significant provincial soil health monitoring effort.

MC conducted water sampling at 18 storm/snowmelt events. An additional 10 events were sampled at the edge-of-field monitoring station.

The Forestry Program had 63 spring orders totalling 4,836 trees. MC completed 41 planting projects, totalling 20,993 trees and shrubs. Nine kilometres of stream buffering was also completed.

Healthy Lake Huron Outreach Evaluation reviewed outreach strategies and tested new outreach approaches.

MC conducted interviews with local certified crop advisors and equipment dealers. Social media campaign implemented to highlight best management practices. This work was done in partnership with neighbouring Conservation Authorities and OMAFRA.

Middle Maitland Headwaters Restoration Project planted 2.7 kilometres of new stream buffer and restocked previous plantings.

Due to COVID-19, water sampling was on hiatus from mid-March until early October. Despite this, seven sampling runs of the Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network were completed, and 44 samples were submitted for analysis from 12 sites.

Samples were collected from eight wells through the Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network, and six pesticide samples were collected from one site.

Best Management Practices on Conservation Lands included removal of buckthorn from meadow areas at Wawanosh Valley, completion of phragmites control work at Naftel’s and Gorrie, naturalization of grounds at the office. Tree harvesting is completed at Galbraith and the tree marking in Wawanosh Valley plantations and hardwood areas is done.

Gorrie Dam and Conservation Area work continued throughout the year to address the impact of the June 2017 flood at Gorrie Conservation Area.

GSS Engineering Consultants completed dam decommissioning and remediation plans.

GSS presented the proposed plans to Maitland Conservation Members and Township of Howick council.

MC held scoping meetings with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The public use of conservation properties in 2020 significantly increased and MC provided additional inspections, extra maintenance and installed additional signage to support COVID-19 protocols.

Additionally, MC made repairs to trails and removed hazardous trees from Naftel’s Creek and Wawanosh Valley, plus a newly installed privy at Lake Wawanosh.

Despite a late start to the camping season due to COVID-19, visitation at Falls Reserve Conservation was up significantly in 2020. This increase included both camping and day-use visitors.

Operational procedures were developed, and adjusted as required, to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

Facilities and signage were modified based on local public health and provincial directives.

Hydro upgrades were completed in the Maple campground.

The application for a septic system replacement was submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Park. Staff are waiting for approval from the MECP to move ahead with the project.

The Carbon Footprint Reduction Strategy saw 410 trees and 270 shrubs planted. Carbon use is monitored for all Maitland Conservation operations.

MC participated in several corporate services initiatives including advocacy efforts with MPs and MPPs.

Along with representatives from the Ausable Bayfield and Saugeen Valley Conservation Authorities, the MC met with MPP Lisa Thompson to discuss the Healthy Lake Huron initiative, the need for a Federal-Provincial Flood and Erosion Damage Reduction Program and proposed changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.

They contacted local MPs and MPPs requesting support for allocating funds from the Federal Provincial Resilience Funding to the Conservation Authorities Act.

They provided information on concerns about Schedule 6 in Bill 229 to member municipalities and sent letters to the premier and relevant ministers.

MC drafted a three-year budget for 2021-23 and a work plan was developed and reviewed by members in October.

The Capital Infrastructure Plan Inventory of infrastructure was completed, and members provided direction on current surplus infrastructure.

A long-range infrastructure plan is currently being developed.

MC also laid out their key priorities for 2021 including reducing the risk of loss of life and community damage from flooding and erosion, keeping soil and nutrients on the land and out of watercourses, ensuring conservation areas are safe for visitors and showcasing best management practices and working towards stabilizing their operating budget.

MC will continue to work on watershed stewardship, flood and erosion safety, conservation area and corporate services.

For a complete list of upcoming projects and initiatives visit http://www.mvca.on.ca/.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times