TUC's two-person Ontario Strategic Watershed Action Team has been traveling throughout southern Ontario working to improve coldwater streams that have become degraded. Though most of these systems face similar issues, such as widening of the waterway leading to too much sediment buildup and increasing water temperatures, each stream is different and no one method works everywhere. Here is a selection of the restoration projects the SWAT Crew has conducted this summer and the approaches they used.
Barrhead Creek and Armstrong Creek, two tributaries of the Rocky Saugeen near Markdale, ON, have both become over widened from years of logging, gravel removal, and dam construction. They are both now slow-moving and full of sediment. To combat this, wooden structures were built that redirect and concentrate the flow back into the center of the stream which can help move the excess sediment, exposing gravel that Brook Trout need for spawning. Behind these structures, the crew created sediment traps by securing recycled Christmas trees under the water so that they slow the water and allow the sediment to settle and build up the new bank.
Working on a Bronte Creek tributary on the Niagara Escarpment, the SWAT Crew encountered a stream that was splitting off into smaller streams because of excess woody debris blockages that were impacting stream movement. Using some of this cleared woody material, the SWAT crew, and our friends at Conservation Halton narrowed a section of the stream by building a deflector, like the ones in Markdale. The creek however is a flashy system, meaning the simple structures from the Barrhead would be at risk of being washed away due to the amount of water that quickly enters the creek during a rain event. To combat this, the crew built a structure that was packed tight with logs, cedar branches, rocks, and mud until water couldn’t move through it. As a sturdy bank, it will slowly catch sediment during high flows and eventually become covered in mud and new vegetation.
By paying close attention to the behavior and specific needs of each river system, the Strategic Watershed Action Team has designed and implemented restoration structures that will help protect our aquatic ecosystems.