Wiikwemkoong students rehabilitate Smith’s Bay Creek

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The remediation work on Smith’s Bay Creek has already paid off as many species of fry have since appeared in the creek.

MANITOWANING – About 200 students from the Wiikwemkoong School Board rolled up their sleeves and set to work rehabilitating Smith’s Bay Creek, a stream that runs through the community, passes schools and powwow fields to the water. bay. The efforts of the students complemented the work done by the contractors of Manitoulin Streams, who laid the foundation on which the bushes, trees and shrubs were planted. Manitoulin Streams, an award-winning conservation program that works with private landowners across the island to rehabilitate streams and help these streams, and the countless species they support on their shores, to thrive. re-establishing after nearly a century of interaction with far-from-ideal land use practices.

Anyone who has observed the work of Manitoulin Streams over the past few years can attest to the remarkable speed with which these streams transform from brownfields to vibrant and almost pristine waters teeming with fry. The impact the work has had on the island’s large-water fisheries has been extremely positive.

The students who participated in the work included classes in Grade 3 of Ms. Trudeau, Grade 2 of Ms. Payette and Kindergarten by Ms. Manitowabi of the Junior School; Ms Wemigwans 4th grade, Ms Pulkkinen 4th grade, Ms Parrington 6th grade, Mr. Ominika 6th grade, Ms Leeson 8th grade and Ms Clarke grade 8 from Wiikwemkoong Pontiac School; and Mr. Rampersad’s Grade 9 Science, Mr. Mara’s Grade 9 Math, and Mr. Recollet’s Green Technology at Wiikwemkoong High School.

“It all fell into place, all the partnerships on the reserve came into being,” said Nimkii Lavell, land-based learning instructor. “Most importantly, the kids totally bought into it. I believe they have reconnected with the earth.

Mr. Lavell’s program seeks to bring students back in touch with the land, for it is the land from which the traditions and culture of the Anishinaabe originate. There is a huge difference between seeing something in photographs and videos and the tactile experience of actually being in nature, he pointed out. “It’s something really remarkable to see happen firsthand,” he said. “It’s rewarding for everyone involved. “

Manitoulin Streams, in partnership with the unceded territory of Wiikwemkoong (the Land, Tourism and Education Council Departments), is working on Smith Bay Creek to restore 123 meters by 1.5 meters (or 184.5 meters squares) of habitat in the stream using bioengineering techniques to reduce erosion and prevent sedimentation from occurring on critical spawning habitats, ”explained Manitoulin Streams Program Director Seija Deschenes. “They planted 300 native trees, 300 shrubs and 100 milkweed plants to restore 123 meters by three meters on both sides, creating 738 square meters of riparian habitat to trap and absorb nutrients and rainwater runoff and reduce the impacts of climate change on the temperatures of rivers. The students also helped clean up the garbage on the 4,602 square meters of the stream’s watershed to prevent plastics from entering their stream and affecting water quality. Finally, the project aimed to eliminate invasive Phragmites at the mouth of the stream to help migrating salmonids access spawning grounds and protect native species and the aquatic ecosystem.

“We had community participation from various interest groups including Wiikwemkoong Lands and Resources, Wiikwemkoong Tourism, Point Grondine park wardens, Manitoulin Streams members and school groups from Wasse-Aubin Junior, Pontiac and Wiikwemkoong, ”she said. “These organizations and volunteers contributed to the realization of the project with in-kind support and resources. “

It was all over the bridge as students and community volunteers planted hundreds of trees along the shores of Smith’s Bay Creek.

The collaboration between Manitoulin Streams and the unceded territory of Wiikwemkoong will have many benefits, Ms. Deschenes noted, including improved fishing for food security and recreational and cultural tourism; cleaner and healthier water for the community and surrounding waters; adaptations to reduce the impacts of climate change and the elimination of invasive species impacting resources used for materials, medicinal purposes and cultural activities.

She noted that “Smith Bay Creek is an essential stream for community members because it is at the heart of their community. It flows beside their schools and is used for learning and educational purposes on earth; resides along the powwow grounds used for cultural ceremonies and used as a traditional harvesting area for food security, ”she said. “The improvements could boost the economy with respect to cultural tourism (creek-side tours) and recreational fishing and employment opportunities.”

“Electric fishing assessments in 2018 indicated 11 different species dominated by rainbow trout,” Ms. Deschenes said. “However, inconsistencies with the presence of certain species in the creek indicate unsuitable habitats or barriers to migration, all of which will be exacerbated by climate change.”

She pointed out that the pipeline between 1971 and 2016 caused habitat loss (lack of basins, rafts), erosion and sedimentation in Lake Huron. “Concerns identified in the improvement strategy include: removal of debris due to the recent gust of wind which destroyed many older trees along the creek blocking the stream; bank erosion requiring slope leveling and stabilization; planting trees and shrubs to help adapt to climate change; pinch points that require stream widening, stabilization and introduction of raft and basin sequences to improve aquatic spawning and fish habitat; and garbage removal to reduce plastic pollution as this area is close to community centers and their cultural facilities.

Additionally, at the mouth of Smith Bay Creek, “there are invasive species Phragmites that are replacing native vegetation and have the potential to prevent migrating salmonid species from accessing critical spawning and breeding grounds. have an impact on traditional harvesting areas, ”she said.

While planning the project, a hydrological / water resources engineer created site designs using “nature-based solutions” and provided site supervision. All constructions follow the instructions of the technical offers.

Bioengineering techniques used included stabilizing the toe of stream banks with rocks, woody habitat, soil and biodegradable coir mats to prevent erosion and settlement of backyard habitats. water (groups of blocks, areas of basins and rafts, placement of spawning gravel). “Restoration will reduce the amount of sedimentation that spawns on the primary spawning habitat; improve fish habitat (eg, channel edges, center of channel, width / depth ratios, pits and riffles, bottom substrate); reduce the effects of fluctuating water levels and rising water temperatures, thereby improving the overall quality and productivity of this river’s aquatic habitats and associated biota over the long term, ”said Deschenes. “Riparian vegetative buffers will trap and absorb nutrients and runoff before they enter the watercourse; stabilize the banks; reduce soil erosion and sedimentation; prevent potentially damaging floods; provide habitat corridors for wildlife; and providing shade to help reduce the effects of climate change that increase water temperature as well as optimize the Wiikwemkoong regreening initiative.

Consultation with the Wiikwemkoong Land and Resources Department and elders identified trees, shrubs and plants that were traditionally and currently used for medicine, food, materials and cultural practices, said Ms Deschenes, noting that through ongoing work, “they will be protected or reestablished along this watershed. Community members and school groups have helped with the planting of native trees and shrubs and a cleanup. garbage to reduce the entry of plastic into Lake Huron, improving water quality and community health. Manitoulin creeks have suppressed invasive species Phragmites that have impacted aquatic biota and fish migration at the mouth of Smith Bay Creek.

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