Flora and Fauna Actions

Action FF-1: Bar River Habitat Project Including Recovery of the Walleye Habitat and Spawning Stock

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

It may be possible to contribute to the recovery of the Bar River walleye spawning stock by mitigating the effects of land use practices (primarily agricultural) upstream of historic spawning grounds. Geiling (1998) provided a description of land use practices along the river, identifying sites prone to erosion, agricultural run off, and sites where livestock have direct access to the stream. Remedial options include placement of stabilizing structures, contouring stream banks, installation of exclusionary fencing, and tree planting. Approximately 6,900 white cedar seedlings would be required to replant the river bank (ie., one tree every two metres, two rows deep, for 6.9 km of stream bank) (Geiling 1998). Exclusionary fencing would have to be constructed in areas where livestock have access to the river. Alternate watering sources for livestock would also be required. There are two sections of the Bar River that have been altered, likely to accommodate increased crop production. These straightened areas with steep banks and no vegetation are highly susceptible to erosion and elevated water temperatures. Remediation would require contouring and stabilization of the stream banks and up slope planting of trees (Geiling 1998).

  • With support from ECCC and the local office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), tree planting was carried out in Spring 1999 by the local chapter of Scouts Canada and teachers and students from Central Algoma Secondary School. Cedar, spruce and some hardwood species cultivated in the Ontario Forest Research Institute’s arboretum were planted on three properties in the upper reaches of the Bar River.

  • In July 2013, ECCC-Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) conducted a follow-up site reconnaissance ($2,500) to determine the efficacy of the original restoration project and to provide a qualitative evaluation of the current condition of the Bar River. The team looked to identify any significant impacts from livestock or farming practices, which were the original stressors that prompted the restoration project in 1999.
  • The conclusion is that, overall, the positive effects of the 1999 restoration project are still evident, particularly with the improvement of stream bank and riparian zone conditions through plantings and livestock restriction. The stream bank remains well vegetated and continues to stabilize the riverbank, and fencing appears successful in reducing the instances of livestock access to the river. There were isolated locations with damaged livestock fences, and these have been flagged to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), as the relevant authority for appropriate follow-up.
  • But for the Bar River overall, observations suggest the project has had a lasting, positive effect on the St. Marys River years after its implementation, and can be seen as a positive step in helping delist the St. Marys River as an AOC.

Action FF-2: Watershed Development Plan for Bennett and West Davignon Creeks

Current Status: UNDER REVIEW

BUIs Addressed: Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

The Bennett and West Davignon Creek system empties into the St. Marys River at the Algoma Steel boat slip. A Diversion Channel accepts flood waters from both creeks. A small rural tributary, Leigh’s Bay Creek, empties into the Diversion Channel. The Watershed Development Plan (1998) for this system identifies specific remedial options to address habitat components and outlines preventative measures required to protect this northern Ontario watershed. This watershed development plan addresses urban, rural, and industrial development and is a proactive approach to the application of pollution prevention concepts in Lake Superior. However, since this draft plan has not been submitted for public comments and has not been approved by any of the stakeholders, it will be necessary for the implementing organizations, in consultation with stakeholders, to review and revise it as required prior to implementation.

  • Sub-actions (a)-(g), (k)-(o), (q), (s)-(t), (v)- (w) are covered by the Sault Ste. Marie Region Conservation Authority (SSMRCA) mandate/regulations.
  • (h) is implemented through the City of Sault Ste. Marie’s Official Plan and MNRF regulations.
  • (i) – (j) MECP and Algoma Steel will ensure that these sub-actions have been addressed. All but one underground fuel storage tank at Algoma Steel has been removed and the sites remediated. The former Domtar site has been remediated and covered with a clay cap and vegetated. Some hydrocarbon contaminated sites within the bounds of the slag storage area were remediated and covered with clay caps to prevent infiltration of water.
  • (n) SSMRCA also allows the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to control Sea Lamprey (e.g. using lampricide) via the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission.
  • (p) is the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and private property owners.
  • (r) is addressed by the City of Sault Ste. Marie under the stormwater management policy and master plan (see Action PS-2).
  • (u) is the responsibility of private property owners

  • (w) SSMRCA encourages non-governmental organizations to accomplish this sub-action with respect to the Diversion Channel as long as it does not impede flood flows. ECCC will accept project proposals to its Great Lakes Protection Initiative
  • Algoma University is in consultation with the SSMRCA and the City to identify where habitat improvements can be made along tributaries connecting to the AOC as a component to developing sub-watershed plans.

Action FF-3: Watershed Development Plan for the East Davignon and Fort Creeks etc.

Current Status: UNDER REVIEW

BUIs Addressed: Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

A watershed plan similar to Action FF-2 should be developed for the East Davignon and Fort Creeks, which also pass through urban and industrial lands (P. Kauss, pers. comm.). Subwatershed plans should also be developed for Root River, Crystal Creek, and the Big and Little Carp Rivers, subject to the acquisition of funding.

Similar to Action FF-2, please see above for detailed explanation. Some additional sub-actions are listed below.

  • In 2005, SSMRCA identified the need for sediment studies and improvements.
  • In 2009, SSMRCA completed improvements South of Second Line, planted trees, established a pond which increased wildlife, and improved flow with sediment and garbage removal.

  • Many are the same as above.
  • Discuss possibilities of assessing Root River, Crystal Creek, Big Carp River, and Little Carp River.

Action FF-4: Sedimentation Reduction in the Munuscong River/Bay

The Munuscong River is in need of several key non point source pollution control projects to reduce sedimentation in the river and in Munuscong Bay. The Stirlingville Bridge site and further upstream at Pickford are two examples where eroding streambanks need stabilization.

Action FF-5: Characterization/Feasibility Study for Waste Removal in Mission Creek

Mission Creek in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, has been identified by local residents as having been a waste dump for many years. The creek still contains a great amount of household waste, appliances, cars, containers, and what appears to be waste from former local industries including the Union Carbide operations. Citizens are requesting that a complete hydrogeological and waste characterization study be completed including a feasibility study for the removal of waste and restoration of the natural flow of the creek (see also Actions NPS-7 and NPSM-9).

Action FF-6: Remediation of Rapids Habitat and Associated Wetlands

Current Status: UNDERWAY

BUIs Addressed: Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

The Flora and Fauna Task Team examined a number of options for the remediation of rapids habitat and associated wetlands. The options listed below were designed to restore and rehabilitate habitat in order to enhance fish and wildlife populations in the AOC. The implementing organizations will examine all of these options and decide which should be implemented.
(a) Protection of remnant rapids habitat This option encompasses both the protection of remnant habitat from further reduction and degradation as well as the maximization of the productive capacity of the rapids area. In essence, this is a water quantity issue.
Water use demands in the rapids area have been prioritized by the International Joint Commission (1978) as follows: (1) shipping (ie., lock operation); (2) protection of rapids fishery; and (3) other approved uses including hydroelectric power generation. A berm was constructed in 1985 to prevent intermittent dewatering of the rapids. While the structure is largely effective, dewatering of portions of the rapids still occurs. A preliminary assessment of the extent of dewatering has been completed (see Rapids Hydrology Study above); however, the impact of dewatering on the biotic community remains to be examined.
Fisheries assessment using conventional netting in the rapids area is recognized as being either extremely difficult or impossible. A series of controlled angling efforts would, however, identify use of rapids habitat by larger fish. Conventional sampling gear could then be used in the shallow waters around the edge of the rapids to provide information on forage fish and the young of some predator species.
(b) Physical enhancement of remnant rapids habitat Berm construction represents the first attempt to enhance the remnant rapids habitat. The berm maintains a minimum level of flow along the southern shore of Whitefish Island, an area believed to contain some of the best fish spawning habitat in the rapids. The area also supports a highly productive benthic invertebrate community. The option requires the placement of additional substrate to potentially increase the size and productive capacity of the remnant rapids.
Preliminary assessment would involve mapping existing substrate composition, identifying target fish species assemblages, and noting areas likely to become dewatered under differing water supply scenarios. This information could then be used to guide substrate placement strategies.
(c) Creation of new rapids areas in the St. Marys River An alternative to enhancing or enlarging the remnant rapids would be to augment rapids elsewhere in the St. Marys River (eg., Little Rapids restoration). Areas in the river or its tributaries, which have the hydrologic and physical characteristics required to support rapids regeneration, need to be identified. Vertical drop, substrate type, streambank characteristics, the potential for ice scouring, and flow velocities are factors that must be accounted for at each site. Artificial rapids would have to be designed to incorporate sea lamprey control mechanisms.
(d) Creation of alternatives to rapids habitat A variety of methods are available to either create artificial spawning substrate or to cleanse existing habitat in order to enhance fishery production. Artificial substrate would have to have similar characteristics to a rapids area. A self-cleaning substrate system involves directing water into a bed of distribution pipes underlying a man made spawning bed, creating an upwelling through the bed. The self-cleaning system is applicable to areas with high fine sediment deposition
(e) Creation of wetlands in association with existing rapids Wetland creation downstream of Whitefish Island would connect wetland habitat to the adjacent remnant rapids. The option would involve depositing suitable fill in the area between Whitefish Island and the channel leading to the former Canadian navigation lock. Placement of boulders and rock rubble as a buffer against the fast current of the rapids would protect the site from erosion. A number of small channels could be constructed between the rapids and the new wetland to direct drifting larval fish into the wetland area.
(f) Creation of new wetlands/rapids complexes It may be possible to create a simulated rapids area in the Great Lakes Power tailrace just upstream from Fort Creek in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Clean rock fill could be added to deflect most of the existing current away from the mouth of Fort Creek while the remainder of the flow would be directed over the top of the structure. Wetland features could be incorporated into the design.
A series of islands and shoals extending along a band of shallow water on the north shore of Sugar Island can also be considered for wetland development. Riffle habitat could be created by placing boulder/rubble obstructions to concentrate river flows over suitable gravel/cobble substrates. The lee of these boulder barriers might then accommodate wetland development.
(g) Enhance habitat and water quality in tributary watersheds Creating or enhancing wetlands in selected areas of tributary streams would provide a range of fish and wildlife habitats and would reduce sediment and nutrient inputs to the St. Marys River. Tributary streams provide spawning and nursery habitat for anadromous fish species, forage fish production, and linkages to terrestrial inland habitats. Removing barriers or impediments to migration, such as low head barrier dams, would also enhance fish production in tributary streams.
(h) Do nothing The Flora and Fauna Task Team recognize that this option will maintain or increase dependence on hatcheries and stocking programs to enhance fish populations in the St. Marys River.

  • In October 2013, following a competitive bid process, ECCC hired a contractor ($115,000) to collect the necessary data and evaluate the physical, ecological and economic feasibility of undertaking actions FF-6 c and f (creating new or augmenting existing rapids areas in the St. Marys River) and FF-6 e (creating wetlands in association with the existing Big Rapids).
  • ECCC also entered into contracts with Batchewana First Nation and Garden River First Nation to secure their knowledge, data and insights into past and current habitat conditions within specific locations, and for their ides on future potential options to create and/or augment rapids habitat.
  • In March 2015, results of the feasibility study were presented and discussed with BPAC, and the report was shared with community stakeholders. A total of five conceptual designs were developed, with commentary on the overall benefit to the specific study area and to the AOC. The options identified to be most feasible are: 1) channel modifications/ enhancements and wetland creation on Whitefish Island, followed by: 2) wetland creation, channel realignment, and habitat enhancements at the mouth of Fort Creek.
  • The latter was discussed with City officials in June 2015, who indicated Fort Creek (currently a brownfield) is not an option because the City-owned area is already slated to be part of the City's proposed "Gateway site" under the long-term Canal District Neighbourhood plan.
  • In December 2016, concept drawings for Whitefish Island were shared with BPAC that illustrate options for naturalizing channel bed and bank areas, replacing concrete/rock berms with natural materials and plants, creating wetland features, improving fish passage and sediment transport to benefit Brook Trout and other fish, and building a series of islands and shoals east of the island to provide nursery habitat for Whitefish and Walleye.

  • In 2018-19, ECCC, it's contractor (Riggs Engineering), and the Batchewana First Nation have been working to advance proposed aquatic habitat restoration on Whitefish Island. Completed fieldwork included hydrology and bathymetry surveys. In early 2019, engineered designs will be produced further detailing the options for naturalizing the channel bed and bank areas of the Whitefish Channel and constructing islands and shoals east of Whitefish Island to benefit native fish populations. A presentation on the work was delivered to BPAC in March 2019.

Action FF-7: Develop a 10 Year Fisheries Assessment Program for the River

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

Netting survey results (1995) indicated an estimated 51% mortality rate for walleye in the St. Marys River (Fielder and Waybrant 1998). Northern pike and yellow perch also appeared to be experiencing very high mortality rates. High mortality rates for these species, combined with slow growth rate as a result of the cold, oligotrophic Lake Superior water, and a short growing season, should be cause for concern and requires further assessment. Therefore, the St. Marys 74 River Fishery Task Group (SMRFTG) should continue its efforts to develop a 10 year assessment program for the river.

  • In 2002, the St. Marys River Fisheries Task Group completed the St. Marys River Fisheries Assessment Plan to guide fisheries management for the next ten-year period. The plan provides a standardized approach for regular assessment of the river’s fishery and aquatic resources.
  • The plan ensures coordination of management actions for the St. Marys River Fishery through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission’s Lake Huron Committee.

  • As part of the above plan, the Task Group has ongoing Fish Community Surveys.
  • This assessment was setup for a ten-year period and will be reviewed periodically to ensure that it reflects the ongoing needs of the St. Marys River fisheries.

Action FF-8: Continued Support for Sea Lamprey Control Efforts

Current Status: ADDRESSED

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Fish and Wildlife Populations, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

  • There are dedicated programs dealing with Sea Lamprey that are led by the Sea Lamprey Control Centre (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) in Sault Ste. Marie. It functions independently of the RAP.
  • This action is already addressed because aquatic invasive species are a lake- and basin-wide management issue.

Action FF-9: Stabilize Shoreline of the Algoma Slag Dump to Provide Habitat for Plants

Current Status: COMPLETE

BUIs Addressed: Degradation of Aesthetics, Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat

Materials have been deposited over the years along the shoreline of the Algoma Slag Dump to extend the dump and, in the process, encroach upon the St. Marys River. Although actions were taken in 1993 to stabilize the shoreline along the slag dump, there is relatively little shoreline stability in some areas and poor habitat for plant growth. Stabilizing these areas and providing a more hospitable habitat for plants (eg., via soil addition) is required.

  • In the early 1980s, the slag pile banks along the St. Marys River were sloped and stabilized.
  • In 2010, approximately 2.6 km of shoreline was covered with biosolids from St. Mary’s Paper and successfully hydro-seeded.
  • The entire perimeter of Essar’s material storage and re-processing yard (5.3 km) has stabilized slopes and is not subject to any erosion.

No further action needed.