Manitoulin Streams recognized by province with Agri-Food Innovation Excellence Award

SUDBURY—The Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association (MSIA) has been recognized by the Ontario government with a regional Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

“It is pretty exciting that we received this award,” stated Seija Deschenes, coordinator of MSIA, after the award ceremony on Monday. She pointed out that along with a plaque and a gate sign stating they had won the award, MSIA also received a financial award of $5,000.

MSIA was one of five regional winners announced for the Premier’s Awards for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence at a ceremony held in Sudbury on Monday. The other winners included Thompson’s Maple Products of Hilton Beach, Boreal Berry Farm and Winery in Warren, True North Community Cooperative of Thunder Bay and Golden Beef Producer Cooperative of Val Gagne.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, minister of Agriculture and Food said, “I congratulate all of our award recipients across the province whose innovative ideas and products help advance our agri-food industry and build on our strengths to create more good jobs for the people of this province.”

“These awards demonstrate the innovative and collaborative spirit that thrives in Ontario’s Northern communities,” said Rick Bartolucci, MPP for Sudbury. “I congratulate all the winners on their achievements and thank them for contributing to our province’s agri-food sector.”

In the award profile it is stated that, “when farmers on Manitoulin Island want to protect the waterways that run through their property, they know who to call—the Manitoulin Streams Improvement Association. Since 2001, this non-profit organization has been working with landowners, businesses, schools and government to restore cold-water streams on the Island. Over the past 12 years the organization has planted 23,887 trees to reduce erosion, installed more than 3,000 metres of fencing to prevent livestock from contaminating water, decommissioned two dams and set up livestock watering systems. As well as improving wildlife habitat, watershed rehabilitation can double the productivity of a fishery. On an Island where fishery-driven tourism brings in millions of dollars a year, the entire community is reaping the rewards.”

To date, Manitoulin Streams has completed over 40 in-stream rehabilitation projects (30 large and 10 small scale projects), explained Ms. Deschenes. “Large scale projects involved bio-engineered site designs to restore and enhance the aquatic ecosystem. Twenty-seven (27) of these projects were working in cooperation with our agricultural producers on Manitoulin Island.”

“Manitoulin Streams aids farmers to reduce the impact their livestock are having on important cold water streams,” said Ms. Deschenes. “This has been completed by means of installing remote watering devices (frost free nose pumps, seasonal and solar water pumps), cedar rail fencing and controlled livestock ramps for watering and to promote rotational grazing. In addition, re-establishing riparian areas stabilize shoreline banks; reduce water temperatures by providing shade and reducing the impacts of climate change and reconnect fragmented habitat providing wildlife corridors and areas for species at risk.” She explained, “a total of seven watering pads have been installed, two of which allow rotational grazing on fields on the opposite side of streams, four frost-free nose pumps, two seasonal and two solar water pumps have been installed.”

A total of 2,825 metres of cedar rail fencing and 1,235 metres of page wire fencing have been installed to restrict livestock from damaging shoreline banks and riparian habitat; 23,887 trees have been planted to stabilize and protect 280,154 m2 of riparian shoreline creating wind buffers, wildlife corridors and providing shade for the streams to cool water temperatures, continued Ms. Deschenes. Two historical dams were decommissioned that created a water holding pond for livestock and the stream was re-designed to its original state using bio-engineered techniques to reduce fragmented habitat for migrating salmonids and trout.

Ms. Deschenes outlined that the operational benefits of the frost-free nosepump include: decreased problems with herd health; clean water source, no foot rot due to livestock  standing in streams; they are dependable, maintenance free and increased efficiency (don’t have to worry about power outages); no time spent watering cattle; various settings to allow calves the ability to draw water.

Livestock have access to water 24 hours/day with the frost-free nose pump and it is energy free (no electricity, gas or solar power required). There are reduced expenses (no batteries, panels, heating elements, no power bills) and they are durable, with a powder-coated steel (acrylic nose plate), said Ms. Deschenes. “The pump will not freeze. A drain-hole in the riser pipe allows water to drain (important in cold climates). A device in the trough prevents contaminated water from draining into the water source (clean water source for cattle which is important for herd health).”

A 25-foot cement pad aids in the prevention of ground water contamination and there is reduced manure deposition into streams-improving water quality (nutrient levels, drinking sources).

“It increases the ability for remote pastures that could not traditionally be accessed because of the cost or unavailability of an energy source to now be used for grazing,” said Ms. Deschenes. “This can increase the farmer’s ability to allow for rotational grazing and increased weight gains and therefore increased income. Remote livestock watering prevents shoreline erosion and loss of land to farmers.”

“I would like to thank the agriculture community on the Island,” said Ms. Deschenes. “All land on the Island is privately owned and these land owners have been fantastic in working with us, on proactive and best practices for their property. The cooperation we have received has been fantastic.”

“I would also like to thank Brian Bell (Manitoulin Agricultural Development Advisor) for his support and working with us, along with Mary Scott (Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association) of OSCIA for helping with  Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) funding,” said Ms. Deschenes.

Tom Sasvari