Kagawong River restoration project now well underway

Artist in residence Michael Belmore uses a sanding tool on one of three large boulders that are part of a semi permanent sculpture that will be placed along the Kagawong River in conjunction with 4elements living arts, Billings Township and Manitoulin Streams rehabilitation project. photo by Sharon Jackson

KAGAWONG— Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association in partnership with Billings has begun a restoration project on the Kagawong River.

“We completed an environmental assessment on 182 watersheds and identified the top 10 streams that were in need of restoration on Manitoulin, developing enhancement plans for each. So far we have created enhancement plans for five of the streams including the Kagawong River, Manitou River, Blue Jay Creek, Mindemoya River and Grimesthorpe Creek,” explained Manitoulin Streams Project Coordinator Seija Deschenes.

The enhancement plan for the Kagawong River identifies 20 key areas in need of work, the concerns for each of the areas, the solutions to resolving the concern and the estimated costs.

“We have planned to tackle three sites this summer at the lower end of the river by the mouth,” continued Ms. Deschenes. “The restoration will include improving the riparian vegetation on both sides of the river, improving the canopy on both sides, repairing bank erosion, reducing the stream width and increase the streams depth, improving center habitat, improving the edge habitat and accommodating flow fluctuations due to the hydro dams. Site designs have been created to restore the aquatic and fish habitat, improve river hydrological function and connectivity to critical aquatic habitat for various species.”

“We will be using the water and in-stream structures to do the work for us to create carving pools and cleaning any sediment off prime spawning habitat,” she added. “We will also be adding boulder clusters which will oxygenate the water and provide habitat for fish. Vortex weirs will improve centre habitat and direct the water flow into the center and away from shoreline banks causing erosion. We will also stabilize the banks by using boulders and root wads, while providing habitat for fish and aquatic invertebrates. Using coconut coir matting, which biodegrades over time, we will prevent the erosion of banks and place banks with seeds of native grass seen and plant trees over top.”

To assist with the invasive emerald ash borer, which has been identified on Manitoulin, Manitoulin Streams will be planting various tree and shrub species to replace the many ash trees which line the river should they be impacted by the insect.

“We started planting the trees this spring before the poison ivy came out,” said Ms. Deschenes. “The trees and shrubs will provide shade to reduce river water temperatures, provide shelter for fish and wildlife, while the roots will absorb nutrients before it enters into the river acting as a filter.”

In addition to partnering with Billings, Manitoulin Streams has partnered with 4elements Living Arts on the Kagawong River restoration project.

“4elements is hosting a River School Project which includes children’s educational environmental tours and art activities focussing on the life of the stream and human/river interaction,” Ms. Deschenes said. “We also have artist Michael Belmore carving artwork into three large boulders, which will be installed as a portion of the project’s bioengineering design as land based art.”

“Michael Belmore is working on the pieces at the Billings municipal building by the dog park off of Carter Crescent in Kagawong on Tuesday and Thursdays from 1:30 to 3 pm if people would like to stop in and see the work in progress,” 4elements executive director Sophie Edwards explained. “We are really excited about this partnership and the River School Project has been going well.”

To learn more about Manitoulin Streams visit www.manitoulinstreams.com or to learn more about 4elements visit www.4elementslivingarts.org.

The rehabilitation work on the Kagawong River will commence in mid August, with the portion of the river being worked on temporarily closed off during the construction process.

Anyone looking to volunteer with the project can contact Ms. Deschenes at 705-859-1653.

“If you give back to the land, the land will give back to you,” concluded Ms. Deschenes.