OTF Grant with SCRCA
Friends of the St. Clair River in partnership with St. Clair Region Conservation Authority secured a grant through the Ontario Trillium Foundation to complete an array of work focused on the Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat BUI between 2015 and 2018. The collaborative project consisted of three major components.
1. St. Clair River AOC Aquatic Inventory
Aquatic Inventories: Thirty-nine fish surveys were completed throughout the AOC. A total of 57 species were observed with over 20,000 fish captured and identified. Five species at risk were observed between 16 sites. At risk fish include Blackstripe Topminnow (Special Concern), Silver Lamprey (Special Concern), Spotted Sucker (Special Concern), Grass Pickerel (Special Concern), and Lake Chubsucker (Threatened).
The 2016 mussel work consisted of a large mussel relocation on Bear Creek as part of a barrier removal project. The project was successful as over 600 mussels were surveyed and over 300 relocated including 69 Mapleleaf (Threatened). A Fawnsfoot (Endangered) mussel was discovered, which is a new species record for the North Branch of the Sydenham River. Additional species surveyed include White Heelsplitter, Pink Heelsplitter, Giant Floater, Fragile Papershell, Deertoe, Flutedshell, Spike, and Threeridge.
In 2017, fourteen intensive timed searches were completed on a 7 km stretch of Black Creek. 1296 live mussels were surveyed, as well as 139 dead mussels. In total 11 species were observed including 529 Mapleleaf (Threatened) and 1 Lilliput (Threatened – COSEWIC). The Lilliput is the only current (in the last 25 years) record for the North Sydenham. A 1-year follow up survey was completed as part of the previous year’s mussel relocation. An additional 294 mussels were surveyed.
In 2018, 20 intensive timed searches were completed – 16 on Bear Creek and four on Black Creek. 2168 live mussels were surveyed, as well as 4219 dead mussels. In total 16 species were observed including 1027 Mapleleaf (Threatened), 1 Lilliput (Threatened – COSEWIC), and 8 Threehorn Wartyback (Threatened – COSEWIC). Two new species records for the North Sydenham were observed in 2018, including the Threehorn Wartyback and the Pimpleback. A 2-year follow up survey was completed as part of the 2016 Bear Creek mussel relocation. An additional 217 live mussels were surveyed.
Temperature Monitoring: Seven watercourses were monitored for temperature in the AOC. After data analysis, watercourses were categorized as either warm, cool, or cold water. In 2016, 3 sites had temperature loggers deployed and all 3 were classified as cool water. In 2017, 2 sites were completed with both classified as warm water. In 2018, 2 additional sites were monitored, both will be categorized as cool water.
2. St. Clair River AOC Aquatic Habitat Restoration
Through the first two years, funding contributed to 10 restoration projects in the AOC. One project was a barrier removal and riffle habitat creation, seven have been wetland creation, and two were riparian buffer plantings. A total of 23.1 acres of habitat were improved or created and one in-stream barrier to fish passage was removed. In 2018, 2 wetland restoration projects were funded, and one wetland maintenance project was completed.
3. St. Clair River AOC Aquatic Outreach and Education
In 2016 and 2018, SCRCA education and biology departments joined a local AOC elementary school in a River Day Celebration along the St. Clair River. Students participated in Fish survey demonstrations and grade appropriate curriculum connected games and activities. All students (160) of the school attended.
In 2017, funds were used to develop and implement the biological component of the Great Lakes Student Conference held in Mooretown, ON. SCRCA staff gave students hands-on opportunities to handle and process live fish. Students also went through a mussel survey station where they could sift through sediment, find mussel shells, and learn how to identify them. Over 70 students from four Lambton-Kent District School Board high schools attended the conference and had the opportunity to learn about issues surrounding the Great Lakes, possible career paths and explore cultural connections.