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Addendum to Appleton Wetland Report strengthens recommendation to restore historic (lower) water levels

A report entitled The Appleton Wetland; Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action released by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) Appleton Wetland Research Group in 2014 clearly identified the manipulation of water levels for hydro operations in Almonte (and across Reach 18 of the Mississippi River) as the cause of the dying maple trees in the Appleton Wetland. That report strongly recommended amendment of the Mississippi River Water Management Plan to restore levels to historic (lower) values to permit recovery of healthy tree growth in the wetland.

The research group has recently completed an analysis of data on power production potential across Reach 18 and impact of manipulation of water levels in Almonte. The report on the power analysis is in the form of a supplement to the original report and includes Addendum Number 1: Reach 18 Power Production, and Appendix R: Reach 18 Power Production. The new sections have been added to the original report on the MVFN website, and is found here  (http://mvfn.ca/appleton-wetland-its-decline-cause-and-recommended-actions/).

The conclusion from the information presented in the addendum is that since there is no increase in power production that could possibly justify the higher water levels, the case for amending the Mississippi River Water Management Plan water levels to historic (lower) values to protect the wetland is even stronger.

The River and the Appleton Wetland Report kicks off new MVFN series

Poster for our September talk

The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) natural history lecture series resumes for a new season Thursday, September 18 in Almonte. The theme for this year’s series is a twist on the conundrum “When A Tree Falls in the Forest, Does Anyone Hear?”  If no one is there to hear the sound of a tree as it crashes through the undergrowth to the forest floor, was it ever there?” Nature teaches us that when we ignore the ‘crashing trees’, we do so at our own peril. Like a stone dropped into a pond, the impacts of changes to our natural environment grow in an ever-widening circle, reaching into every aspect of our lives. This year’s speakers will challenge us to inform ourselves and engage or perhaps reengage with important issues affecting our natural world.

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The Appleton Silver Maple Swamp. photo by Al Seaman

The series begins with an issue close to home with a talk based on the Appleton Wetlands and the findings outlined in an MVFN report The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action released last month. The Appleton silver maple swamp, which has been flooded each spring for generations, is designated as a provincially significant wetland and an ANSI, or area of natural and scientific interest – declared by the provincial government in recognition of its unique ecological features. By 2006 however, extensive damage to the flood-tolerant trees in the wetland became obvious.  Concerns about the decline were raised to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority  to no avail. In 2011, and again in 2013, MVFN formed a research group to examine the possible causes of damage to the trees, including the possibility of adverse effects due to continually high water levels as a result of ongoing power generation operations in Almonte.

Speaker for The Appleton Wetland Report presentation will be Al Seaman, a Professional Engineer, and member of MVFN’s Appleton Wetland Research Group and lead author of the report released in August. Mr. Seaman, an Almonte resident and native of the northwestern Quebec mining town of Noranda, graduated from McGill University as an Electrical Engineer.  Early on in his career Al realized that goals of industry do not always respect the requirements of pristine nature.

Seaman’s lecture topic is ‘The River’, specifically the Mississippi River with a focus on the stretch from Almonte to Appleton. Mr. Seaman will endeavour to demonstrate the impact of changing water levels on the extensive Appleton wetland.

All are welcome to this MVFN presentation. Find out why water levels matter and get answers to all your questions about the detailed findings of the research group! The talk takes place at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 18, 2014 at the Almonte United Church Social Hall, 106 Elgin St., Almonte, ON. There is a non-member fee of $5. Refreshments will be available. For further information, please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Gretta Bradley at .

 

The Appleton Wetland; Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action

This report is a culmination of over three years of study, research, observations and actions, and was prepared by the Appleton Wetland Research Group of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN).

The initial study of this Provincially Significant Wetland began in 2011, in response to the mass die-off of the trees within the wetland. An expanded Research Group was formed by MVFN in the summer of 2013, commissioned to complete research into the causes of the die-off, and to prepare a report on findings and recommendations for remediation. The intended primary recipients for the report were the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and the Standing Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Mississippi River Water Management Plan. A preliminary verbal report, with accompanying MS PowerPoint presentation, was presented to the above agencies in March of 2014.

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photo Al Seaman

We have now completed an extensive written report of our research and findings. The final report, an executive summary, Appendices A through Q, plus the preliminary presentation are all posted  below. To contact the Research Group for more information or comments, please contact Research Group member Al Seaman at 613-256-1155 or by email at .

Copyright Notice: Please note that all information contained within the preliminary report, the final report and the Appendices are copyright the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (except where indicated). All Rights Reserved. The information may be copied, in whole or in part, without editing or alteration, for non-commercial purposes, provided that the information source and copyright are identified with such copy.

A printed copy of the report and appendices posted below are also available for reference at the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library.

Executive Summary Appleton Wetland Report

Appleton Wetland Report

Appendix A-Definitions

Appendix B-Extracts-MRWMP

Appendix C-Flow Records

Appendix D-Level Records

Appendix E-Photo Analysis

Appendix F-Appleton Level Reference

Appendix G-MVFN Tree Project

Appendix H-Coordinated Level Measurements

Appendix I-Rock Ridge levels

Appendix J-The Vanishing Island

Appendix K-Wetland Inspection

Appendix L-Tree Coring

Appendix M-SAC-Min

Appendix N-PSW-ANSI

Appendix O-Wetland Photos

Appendix P-More Flow-Level

Appendix Q-MVCA-report

Appleton Wetland Preliminary Report Power Point Presentation 2014-03-11

 Appleton Wetland at Tipping Point 

After thriving for thousands of years, the Appleton Wetland is now endangered due to man-made effects of summer flooding caused by manipulation of water levels for hydro power generation.

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photo Al Seaman

Almonte ON, August 11, 2014 – The Appleton Wetland is under immediate threat says a detailed scientific report published by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. The report states that excessive water levels resulting from Enerdu Power Systems Inc.’s current hydro operations are drowning towering silver maple trees upstream, and that the proposed Enerdu expansion in Almonte’s heritage district will kill the very species that anchors a wetland older than the Great Pyramids or Stonehenge.

The 76-page report calls for an immediate amendment to the Mississippi River Water Management Plan (MRWMP) overseen by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry that will allow for a “valid operational summer water level” and allow the silver maples to survive, and that “approval of the current upgrade plan for Enerdu must be delayed until the recommended amendment has been resolved.”

“The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action”, is the result of hundreds of hours of work by a five-member Research Group Chaired by Cliff Bennett, the founding member of the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists and the club’s current President. Bennett’s Research Group colleagues include the report’s Principal Author Al Seaman, Joachim Moenig, Mike O’Malley and Howard Robinson.

“Our research results confirm that excessive water levels resulting from Enerdu’s operations are causing the die-off of the silver maples in the Appleton Wetland. In effect, the trees are drowning. The Enerdu operational limits in the existing Mississippi River Water Management Plan clearly do not conform to the priorities of the plan that rank ecological integrity above power generation. Thus an amendment to the Plan is urgently required to preserve a Wetland that has survived for millennia but is now at a tipping point,” said Bennett.

The report is also endorsed by Dr. Paul Keddy, one of Canada’s most prolific and distinguished ecology professors. Based on his 30-year career focused on the study of wetlands at the University of Guelph and University of Ottawa, Keddy stated that, “Further summer flooding will kill the last trees and the thousands of years of development will be ended abruptly. The negative effects will occur not only within the boundaries of the Appleton Wetland, but will cascade through fish and wildlife populations for many miles downstream. Restore the summer low water periods, and the trees will recover and continue to provide the ecological services that they have provided free for thousands of years.”

Continued Dr. Keddy: “Some of the Earth’s most biologically productive habitats are the great swamps that form along water courses. Known as ‘alluvial wetlands’, they are intimately connected with rivers, providing shelter for birds, breeding grounds for fish, habitat for mammals, and generating organic matter that feeds wildlife production for many miles downstream. Some of the better known examples occur in the Amazon, the Congo, and the Mekong rivers, but every large river floodplain has alluvial wetlands. In eastern Ontario, there are alluvial wetlands along rivers including the Mississippi, Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers. One of the finest examples is along the Mississippi River.”

Interested members of the media will be provided with a copy of the full report with appendices on CD and/or its Executive Summary by email upon request.

NOTE: The full report is  posted here on the websiteA printed copy of the report and appendices  are also available for reference at the Almonte branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library.

About the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists:

Now in its 25th year of operation, the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists provides opportunities to learn about and help conserve the natural world with people of all age groups and ranging from neophyte nature lovers to knowledgeable field naturalists and experts, with a focus on the pristine Mississippi River Valley. The club offers many activities, from monthly natural history talks, regular nature walks, field trips and canoe/kayak outings and other opportunities to explore many fascinating aspects of our natural world. There are also opportunities to take part in habitat creation projects, trail building, citizen science work, environmental stewardship projects, writing about natural history for club publications, communications and other volunteer work.

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Al Seaman

Principal Author of “The Appleton Wetland: Its Decline, Cause and Recommended Action”

Email:

Phone: 613-256-1155

or

Cliff Bennett

President, Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists

Email:

Phone: 613-256-5013

High Canopy and Forest Floor Bird Loss Due to Death of Soft Maples in Appleton Soft Maple Swamp

Prior to the beginning of the new millennium, Appleton Wetland Swamp was a lush area of several hundred acres of soft maple and willow trees, reaching forty to sixty feet tall. Much wildlife was to be found in this swamp including otter, muskrat, beaver and many different species of high canopy and forest floor nesting birds.

Today (2014), the dying and dead trees have drastically altered the habitat of these animals and birds. During the five years of the 2nd Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas (2000-2005 Cadman et al.), the Appleton Swamp was part of the atlas square surveyed by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists. Many species of birds nesting in the swamp at that time, are no longer to be found.

The largest factor for the disappearance of these birds in the Appleton Wetland can be attributed to the loss of tree canopy because the trees are either dying or already dead. The resulting opening or removal of the canopy causes these birds to be vulnerable to predation by hawks. Also, nestlings are deprived of protection from the sun’s heat when there are no leaves. When this happens, birds abandon their preferred nesting sites and either move on to other suitable habitat or fail to reproduce.

The following bird species, known and potential, are no longer present in the Appleton Wetland:

High Canopy Birds:
Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawk, red-shouldered hawk (on species-at-risk list), least flycatcher, American crow, wood thrush, gray catbird, warbling vireo, scarlet tanager.

Forest Floor Birds:
Winter wren, veery, hermit thrush’, palm warbler, black and white warbler, ovenbird, Northern waterthrush, Canada warbler.

Other Forest Dwellers:
Black-billed cuckoo, olive-sided flycatcher, Eastern wood pewee, yellow-bellied
flycatcher, Swainson’s thrush, Acadian flycatcher, alder flycatcher, blue jay,
wood thrush, blue-headed vireo, red-eyed vireo, mourning warbler.

A change in water management regime for this section (Reach 18) of the
Mississippi River would help greatly in eventually allowing new growth of the
trees and would encourage the return of many of these bird species.

Article written by Cliff Bennett
Reference: A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds, 2nd edition,
Paul J.Baicich, Colin J.O. Harrison, 1997

The Messenger

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Our natural history talks are at 7:30 pm on the third Thursday in January, February, March, April,  September, October and November at Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St. in Almonte, Ontario. All are welcome to attend! Non-members $5. 

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