Manitou River goes to rehab to make its flow go slow

The Manitou River passes through many kilometres of farm country on its way from Lake Manitou to the shores of Lake Huron at Michael’s Bay. Restoration work will prevent a problem curve from blowing out.

TEHKUMMAH – The Manitou River is expected to soon undergo restoration work at a problematic river bend along Michael’s Bay Road in Tehkummah, pending a successful conclusion of a request for quotations issued by Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association.

“This was one of the sites we identified over a year ago, but we didn’t have the funding then,” said Manitoulin Streams project co-ordinator Seija Deschenes.

This project involves fixing the bend at the corner to increase its stability while also improving fish habitat. The habitat improvements include the addition of root wads on the bend and adding rock and boulder clusters in the water to offer fish places behind which they can rest.

“In the middle of the night the water level came downstream really fast; it blew out the corner bend and washed out a bit of the road. Tehkummah maintenance crews went out and secured it and had to do an emergency repair just to hold it off,” said Ms. Deschenes. She added that this full restoration work will prevent future corner blow-outs and prevent sediment from flowing downstream and covering fish habitat.

“The Manitou River is known for its rainbow and salmon runs. We don’t want all that sediment to go downstream and cover prime spawning habitat. Anything that can prevent that from occurring is important,” she said.

The funding for this project is coming from the Canada-Ontario Agreement fund, a pool of money set aside to help the country meet its goals as prescribed by the Canada-US Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Ms. Deschenes said her organization has been fairly successful in recent years in its bids to secure funding through this agreement for its restoration projects.

Manitoulin Streams has had an enhancement strategy in place for the Manitou River since 2003. It identifies some 141 sites along the Manitou River and the Blue Jay Creek which are in need of restorative work. The sites are addressed in order of priority and undertaken based on what funding is available every year.

Manitoulin Streams undertakes the bulk of its construction work in August because water levels tend to be lower, making the work easier to complete. Its permit to work within the waterways stretches between June 16 and August 31 of each year, dates that avoid interference with the various fish species that spawn in either the spring or fall.

“Outside of that period, we can do anything else on land that needs to be done, like planting trees,” said Ms. Deschenes.

“We certainly appreciate the work that Manitoulin Streams does in the township,” said Tehkummah Reeve David Jaggard. “They’ve spent a lot of time and a lot of money on the Manitou River and the Blue Jay Creek to keep the rivers healthy.”

Reeve Jaggard said this work should enhance the safety of all people travelling and living in the area due to the river overspilling its banks onto Michael’s Bay Road when it floods.

“For the township, it would be quite a task for us to get the permission (to work in the waterway) and complete the engineering,” said Reeve Jaggard. “It takes a burden off the township as far as keeping the road open for those people down there.”

Municipal roads crews will re-grade the road after all the work is completed to ensure the travelling surface is fit for motorists. 

Manitoulin Streams has its sights set on several areas beyond the Manitou River as well. Bids are currently pending on a livestock restriction project at the Grimesthorpe Creek near Spring Bay. It will involve installing fencing to keep livestock out of the waterway.

This is a known brook trout creek, a fish species which depends on cold water. Much of the work at this creek will focus on the riparian (river bank) environment and see the installation of trees and shrubs, designed to add shade and keep the water temperatures under control.