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Survey of Candidate Sites on the St. Clair and Detroit River for Potential Habitat Rehabilitation/Enhancement


This report is based on the Stage 1 Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) for the St. Clair and Detroit River which among a variety of use impairments (14 in total) recognize the loss of beneficial fish and wildlife habitat in the two rivers. Stage 2 of the RAPs are currently underway which will identify the goals and objectives for the various use impairments in the rivers. This report is background information for the implementation of the Stage 2 RAPs, in particular for the impaired use status for fish and wildlife habitat.

The report and associated appendices identify approximately 70 candidate sites on the two rivers that have potential to be rehabilitated to increase fisheries and wildlife habitat. Each site has a conceptualized site plan which may include the use of a number of habitat rehabilitation techniques to increase natural habitat within the Areas of Concern. Techniques were researched and conceptualized to obtain the greatest net gain in habitat while consequently addressing engineering, construction, regulatory and maintenance considerations.

Various legislative approval procedures have been examined as they relate to the concept site plans. The rationale for the selection of the various rehabilitation techniques is outlined, including a rating system for various rehabilitation sites and concept plans.

Various other considerations for planning, development and implementation of habitat remediation proposals are also examined. These include concept funding sources, partnership opportunities and rehabilitation techniques for smaller sites.

Complete Report (PDF 15Mb)

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Primary Objective

Remedial Action Plans for both rivers recognize that the status for fisheries and wildlife habitat is impaired to some extent. undertakings to improve or create habitat will be required. This is a long term goal of the RAPs with little base information available to begin the process. In order for the status to change, considerable

From the onset of the design of this project, the essential goal was the compilation of every possible site within the St. Clair and Detroit River areas that had the potential to be rehabilitated or enhanced for fisheries and wildlife habitat or where habitat could be artificially created. This would be one of the future steps in de-listing the impaired status for habitat in the Remedial Action Plans.

The identification of these sites is needed in order to determine the overall potential for habitat rehabilitation and to prioritize the sites to utilize the limited amount of funding available in the most effective manner.

The sites were examined to determine existing habitat and potential restoration techniques. Sites with severely impaired habitats were examined to determine what types of habitats could be physically created. In order to de-list the impaired status from the two RAPs, it will be necessary to create new, non-existent habitats due to the irreversible losses of habitat in the rivers.

These sites were conceptualized using known and proposed habitat rehabilitation techniques that would produce the desired or required habitat for that site. Each site and associated technique was tested through a theoretical "in-house" environmental assessment process in order to determine the realistic chances for implementation of the concept plans.

Secondary Objectives

A compilation of known and proposed habitat rehabilitation techniques was produced using engineering input from the Ministry of Natural Resources. Each technique was designed for use in the two large river systems. This compilation of techniques can be used by area resource managers and regulators to assist in habitat restoration within the two AOCs and to work toward, a net gain in the overall productive capacity for the two rivers through on-going management practices. All regulatory requirements were considered for these techniques to ensure that negative impacts on the river did not occur through the implementation of the techniques and concept plans.

The MNR routinely recommends fisheries habitat compensation agreements as part of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans "Policy for the Management of Fish Habitat". These compensation agreements are an integral part of the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans authorization to destroy fish habitat. Habitat rehabilitation sites were designed to enable portions of them to be used as fisheries habitat compensation areas. Generally, the sites were designed to incorporate highly intensive techniques such as breakwaters or armour-stone groynes, coupled with low intensive techniques such as the installation of logs, brush bundles or spawning substrate. The low intensive techniques could be used by area fisheries habitat regulators for fisheries habitat compensation plans where habitat in other areas of the AOCs are destroyed through authorization. Compensation agreements and their role within the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers is further outlined in section 11.0.

This project is an excellent opportunity towards achieving partnerships with other public agencies, private organizations and individuals. It has recently been recognized that government funding is not adequate to achieve all of the goals and objectives of the Remedial Action Plans. Responsible resource managers must therefore solicit the support and resources of every other possible sector with similar interests and concerns. Contact was made with a number of agencies in order to explain the project and to create an initial relationship for future partnerships.

It was also recognized that habitat rehabilitation and enhancement need not be restricted to a particular designed concept site. Many techniques can be implemented by owners of small parcels of shoreline property that would also assist in achieving a net gain in habitat. Techniques of this type were also documented and designed. This was not necessarily restricted to physical structures and a compilation of non-structural habitat improvement techniques, such as riparian buffer strips, were examined and compiled.

A system to prioritize the concept sites was drafted. It is unlikely that all of the habitat sites will be implemented (or for that matter could be implemented) due to unrelated non- physical factors such as costs or unwilling land owners. It is therefore necessary to establish a mechanism to guide managers in selecting sites that would have the greatest overall impact towards de-listing the degraded habitat status from the two AOCs.

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