With the support of the Loblaw Water Fund, rare undertook a restoration of Bauman Creek, a cold water stream on our property. Most of Bauman Creek is suitable habitat for brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), but the current self-sustaining population is confined to approximately 300 meters due to historic human modification both upstream and downstream. The downstream portion, located on a part of the Grand River floodplain called Blair Flats, was historically diverted and channelized to increase the area of useable cropland, and a culvert was installed many decades ago by the previous landowners to allow farm equipment access. Over time the culvert shifted and the water stopped flowing, flooding a portion of the former agricultural field.
In 2010, Blair Flats was retired from agriculture, and the western part was planted in tallgrass prairie in support of a long-term ecological research project. The eastern area around Bauman Creek was allowed to naturalize. Since then, the area has been managed through invasive plant removal and native species planting. The remaining stream habitat was at risk of drying up, and while the trout still had some area to spawn, they had nowhere to seek refuge from low water and high temperatures in the summer.
In order to remedy these issues, we undertook a restoration to expand and improve the habitat, reconnecting it to the Grand River. This was done by removing the farm lane and culvert and realigning approximately 80 meters of meandering channel with a series of pools and riffles. This includes two extra-deep sections for fish to use during periods of low flow, and shallow sections with fast, turbulent currents. The channel was supplemented with logs, boulders and undercut banks to trap sediment, prevent erosion and provide shelter. Substrate texture ranges between sand and gravel to large boulders, reflecting the unsorted glacial deposits that underlie Blair Flats. With returned flow, the channel condition will improve along more than 400 additional meters. The developing wetland remains at a reduced size, since it is still fed by ground water, and the design allows periodic flooding from Bauman Creek.
Although the construction is complete and the channel has been reconnected, there is still work to be done. The next step is creating a riparian buffer by planting native trees and shrubs along the creek banks and collecting post-restoration fish and invertebrate data to help alleviate the fish data deficiency in the North Lake Erie Watershed. If you are looking to get involved with this exciting project, we will be hosting an Earth Day Tree Planting event on April 22nd from 10AM-2PM to create the riparian buffer. We will also be seeking volunteers to help with invasive species removal in this part of the property.
We are grateful for the advice and support of the World Wildlife Fund, R&M Construction, Water’s Edge Environmental Solutions Team, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Trout Unlimited, and the Grand River Conservation Authority. Funding supplied by the Loblaw Water Fund, the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund and the Environmental Damages Fund.
The completed channel, awaiting erosion blankets and seeding with native plants. Trees for riparian protection and shading will be planted on Earth Day 2017.
By: Tom Woodcock, rare’s Planning Ecologist & Alissa Fraser, rare’s Conservation Ecology Intern