Project Spotlight: The Restoration of Second Creek

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By: Mark Mattson, President, Swim Drink Fish Canada

Swim Drink Fish Canada is proud to partner with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority (CVC) on the final stage of the work to restore the flow of Second Creek in the Terra Cotta Conservation area. This initiative is part of the Great Lakes Challenge, which is  made possible by the generosity of the The W. Garfield Weston Foundation. Through their $1 million grant we are administering four restoration projects this year; transforming the way we think about restoration and connect people to water.

Originally, the Second Creek flowed through what is now the Terra Cotta Conservation Area, its natural meanders, riffles and pools provided habitat for a variety of fish. Years ago, among a variety of changes to Terra Cotta Conservation Area, the creek was dammed into three ponds cutting off the natural flow and destroying the natural meanders, riffles and pools.

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Our ideas about conservation have evolved since then. Terra Cotta Conservation Area is a great example of that evolution. Originally the conservation area was manicured and landscaped to be more aesthetically appealing to visitors. "Natural" was thought to be unruly and unappealing. One of the many wetlands in Terra Cotta was transformed into a concrete chlorinated swimming pool.

Since then, our knowledge about the effects of human development on nature have deepened and with it our concept of conservation. Recently, CVC officials dismantled the pool and restored the wetland.

Similarly, returning the flowing water to Second Creek has had a cascading benefit to the surrounding eco-system. Not the least of which is the benefit to the brook trout whose habitat continues to be under threat.

Brook trout are a native species of cold water fish. Their habitat is cold clear water, mostly streams and rivers with overhanging vegetation and of course meanders, riffles and pools. Human development has reduced the supply of these ideal rivers and streams. The brook trout is also nearly 6 inches smaller than the more aggressive brown trout. Couple that competition for food with the rising water temperatures from Climate Change and it’s not a good time to be a brook trout looking for a place to start a family.

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Throughout the last several decades the increased urbanization of the Great Lakes basin has compromised the quality of our streams and rivers and decreased fish habitat for a variety of species. On the Credit River alone officials estimate that there are 666 fish dams and online ponds in the credit river watershed.

But there is hope.

Conservation Authorities like Credit Valley are monitoring the problem and actively pursuing projects to restore and protect fish habitat, eliminating fish barriers and increasing overhanging vegetation.

And the private sector is ready to help. The W. Garfield Weston Foundation understands that this project is an opportunity not only to undo the sins of the past but to get the community on board with the benefits of restoration.

Our project will complete the restoration of the third of three ponds that was dammed years ago (Muskrat Pond). Funds from the Great Lakes Challenge will contribute directly to dam removal and creek restoration costs. This will create almost 9,000 m² of shoreline habitat and reconnect 2.5-kilometres of stream to the Credit River.

 A natural channel forming in Spring Pond after drawdown. - Terra Cotta Conservation Area

A natural channel forming in Spring Pond after drawdown. - Terra Cotta Conservation Area

The Second Creek Project proves we've learned a lot since the early days of the Terra Cotta Conservation Area. Most importantly, don't bulldoze wetlands. Secondly, find ways to restore destroyed habitat. The Second Creek Restoration is proof we are moving from an era of destruction to an era of restoration. And that is a great development for the Great Lakes and its community of people and nature.