The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands
By Cathy Keddy
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists’ (MVFN) public lecture series, Biodiversity and Vital Connections for Fauna, Flora, and People, continues April 21 with the seventh presentation, “The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands.” You do not need to be an expert to enjoy these lectures—just bring your curiosity or appreciation for the environment and wild nature.
How often do you give a thought to a glass of water? Well, if you live in Lanark, the answer may be quite often, however for most of us the answer is likely to be, rarely if ever. Most of us take this essential resource for granted—the water that comprises 70% of our body mass, expecting always to have an unending supply to do everything we wish. We even have the luxury of using water fit for drinking to flush our toilets! On average we use 300 l of water each day! Compare this to the water ‘footprint’ of the average citizen of Mozambique (4 l/d), Cambodia (15 l/d), England (149 l/d), Japan (374 l/d) or the US (575 l/d).
Here in the Mississippi Valley, why do we have such a plentiful supply of good, clean water? The answer lies in the lay of the water over and under the lands of the Mississippi watershed. Watershed . . . catchment area . . .drainage basin . . . whatever term we use, water, the essential element of all life in our area enters the Mississippi River Valley we call home, spends time in it, and then leaves.
From its headwaters above Upper Mazinaw Lake till it reaches the Ottawa River, the Mississippi River, over 200 km in length, is associated with over 250 lakes and countless wetlands. With 19 constructed dams (average of one every 10 km!), its flow is governed largely by human desires. Covering an area roughly 3765 km2 (3/4 the size of PEI) the lands of the watershed include large forests, small tracts of agricultural land, limited industry, and the many small towns and villages we know so well. The surface geology ranges from a thin veneer of till over Precambrian rock in the northwest (great for groundwater infiltration), to thick Champlain Sea clays near the outlet (great for surface runoff in a storm event).
At MVFN’s upcoming presentation, speaker Patricia Larkin will explore water diversity and tell us about the lay of our water and how land cover, surficial geology and flow influence its quality and quantity for our use and the health of our natural environment. Larkin is an award-winning environmental educator who delivered the successful MVFN-sponsored Engaging Grade 8’s in Source Water Protection program in local schools in 2009. Larkin currently is a member of the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Committee and recent winner of a Tri-Valley Conservation Award for her work in protecting local waterways and fostering an understanding of water as a resource.
Learn the lay of your water, and develop an appreciation for it. Wet behind the ears about water? Then bring your hard, heavy, fresh, and stagnant water questions to this presentation “The Lay of the Water Over Mississippi Lands,” Thursday April 21, 7:30pm., Almonte United Church Hall, Almonte. All are welcome ($5 fee for non-members). For further information please contact MVFN’s Program Chair Cathy Keddy at 613-257-3089.
December 6, 2007
FIRST SOURCE PROTECTION COMMITTEE MEETING FOR MISSISSIPPI-RIDEAU
The first official meeting of the newly-formed Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Committee (SPC) will be held on Monday, December 17 at the Baxter Conservation Area near Kars. The 15-members of the Committee and Chair Janet Stavinga will be on hand to “meet and greet” the public from 6 – 7 pm followed by the first SPC business meeting starting at 7 pm. The meeting is open to the public and everyone is very welcome to attend.
The SPC represents the major municipal, business and interest group sectors in the huge area of the Mississippi and Rideau valley watersheds. They are charged with guiding and supporting the source protection planning process over the next five years of research, technical study, public consultation and development of municipal drinking water source protection plans.
Representing all watershed municipalities are Scott Bryce (Clerk/Treasurer, Village of Westport), Alex Cullen and Christine Leadman (Councillors, City of Ottawa), Paul Knowles (CAO, Carleton Place), and Eleanor Renaud (Councillor, Township of Elizabethtown-Kitley). Representing economic sectors are Richard Fraser (agriculture), Peter McLaren (agriculture), Domenic Idone (aggregates), Beverly Millar (small business) and Jim Riopelle (golf courses). Representing public interests are George Braithwaite (rural general public), Carol Dillon (Friends of the Tay Watershed), Patricia Larkin (non-governmental organizations), Randy Malcolm (Algonquins of Ontario) and Mary Trudeau (Ottawa Riverkeeper).
The formation of the local Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Committee is a result of the Clean Water Act (CWA) which was passed by the Ontario Legislature in December, 2006. The CWA is part of Ontario’s response to the Walkerton tragedy of 2000. The CWA prescribes a process of watershed-based research, analysis and actions rooted in good science, public participation and sustained effort for keeping Ontario’s sources of drinking water safe. The province is divided into 19 Source Protection Regions for purposes of source water protection. Each of these 19 regions has a Source Protection Committee directing the production of Source Protection Plans to protect primarily municipal drinking water sources in their area. The Mississippi-Rideau is one of those 19 regions.
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For more information: (on Tuesday Dec 11 please)
Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Region
613-692-3571 ext 1147 or 1-800-267-3504 ext 1147
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
January 29, 2007
by Howard Robinson
Linda Touzin Meets the Challenge for Best Forestry Practices While Protecting the Watershed
The Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) continued its lecture series of talks related to the “Mississippi Valley Watershed”. On 18rd January the lecture was well attended, by woodlot owners and others, with Linda Touzin presenting valuable and interesting information on “Managing forests to protect the watershed”.
The Mississippi Valley, Ms. Touzin said, has a very high percentage of wooded area compared to other developed parts of Ontario. It must be well managed in order to acquire wood products in a sustainable fashion without severely impacting the environment including our watershed.
There is much evidence of a cleaning effect for streams that pass through forests. It is hard to put a value on streams, wetlands and other kinds of ‘natural capital’. On the other hand it is easy to understand the economic value of woodlands and wood as a natural and renewable resource continues to increase in value.
The Mississippi Valley is in the Mazinaw-Lanark crown forest management unit and is the most southerly such unit in Canada . One third is Crown land and the rest is private. A sustainable harvest is guided by an extensive forestry plan covering a 20 year period with a view looking beyond 100 years. A detailed plan, which may take 2.5 years to produce, includes a lengthy consultation process and public input. Healthy collaboration with all concerned is a key part of the plan, with concerns generally met through guidelines based on science and core values.
While the plan is for a sustainable harvest, the operational plan and ‘silviculture system’ used have many considerations for protection of the environment and its watershed. Road building and logging must avoid damage to the watershed from run off, soil erosion with its excess nutrients and operational degradation. Heavy machinery around the watershed is avoided and a 30 metre minimum buffer is left near watersheds. Depending on the incline to the water and soil type, this buffer is increased.
Most harvesting is done on a partial cutting system where there is a general ‘thinning’ of trees of various ages suitable for wood products. The forest is left to regenerate with an ‘acceptable growing stock’ i.e. mix of age and trees known to help improve the forest and value of the resource. Danger trees may be taken down but care is also taken to identify all ‘forest values’ such as nesting sites, cold-water streams, vernal pools, or rare species which will be left with a ‘no-cut’ buffer. Harvesting is not done during the nesting season. Clear cutting done over ~ 17% of the area currently, involves primarily short life tree types that may be predominant in an area (e.g. Birch) and which will regenerate.
Linda demonstrated her excellent knowledge and experience as a Registered Professional Forester and answered many good questions from both MVFN members and others interested in private woodlot management. Linda stressed that sustainable forest management can be practiced by private landowners using the same best practices used by OMNR on crown lands. The information and tools are readily available and with public involvement in public processes we can all make a difference.
The signs of a healthy forest were described as having a diversity of species appropriate for the eco-site, vigorously growing native trees, forest values protected from timber harvest operations, having a variety of types and ages of trees and habitat features while also having demonstrated careful logging practices.
Finally, Linda advised those with wood lots to KEEP THEM, walk through all corners of your property making an inventory, keep good species, remove exotics, and whenever and wherever possible increase your woodlot or connect it with others. Make a plan for your woodlot and then choose consultants and tree markers accordingly, based on your plan and what you value most in your woodlot.
If you want to know how to keep a woodlot healthy or where landowners can turn for help, Linda’s recommended links are posted on MVFN’s website at www.mvfn.ca.
MVFN’s lecture series continues Thursday February 15th with Paul Hamilton of the Canadian Museum of Nature who will discuss “Water Quality”, 7:30 p.m. at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street in Almonte.
For more information please contact Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879 or , or visit www.mvfn.ca.
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
November, 3, 2006
by Pauline Donaldson
Pat Ferris to show how ‘boat loads’ of shoreline rehabilitation promote healthy watersheds, at next field naturalist lecture
On Thursday November 16, Pat Ferris will present “Shoreline re-habilitation and impacts on watershed health”, the third lecture in the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists watershed series. The lecture will focus on the work of MAPLE, the Mutual Association for the Preservation of Lake Environment in Ontario . Pat Ferris was the founding director of MAPLE, a volunteer group he established in 1983 while working as a Lakes Planner with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. He recognized the need for both “individual responsibility and group action to maintain shorelines in a natural state”.
Many lake associations have embraced MAPLE’s guidelines which help groups survey and assess individual shoreline properties, and recommend restorative action for properties with low natural value, such as those rated ‘ornamental’ which in the extreme may have chemically treated lawns extending to the waters edge. MAPLE can provide native plants and trees for shorelines requiring re-vegetation. The re-vegetated shoreline, unlike those with hard rock, provides habitat, not only erosion control.
MAPLE also runs a nursery on Christie Lake to cultivate indigenous plants and shrubs, and hosts volunteer spring and fall planting and cuttings days. Each spring, species such as Virginia creeper and willow are ready to be ferried around various lakes by brigades of boats. This is an interesting and rewarding program, one those living by water can learn much from. Shore dwellers can also do a lot by simply doing nothing as recommended in the ‘MAPLE 10′ program. To promote a healthy watershed, at your waterfront, mark off the area from the shore back 10 m and then do nothing. The natural ‘seed bank’ will soon sprout native plants which will slow erosion and start the shoreline naturalization process.
Ferris will outline MAPLE’s programs and the critical role natural shorelines play in reducing pollution and erosion, in providing shaded habitat for birds, amphibians and aquatic organisms, etc. Come and hear what can be done and what sources of information are available on what to plant, as well as how, when and where to plant.
Pat Ferris’s presentation is Thursday, November 16th at 7:30 pm at the Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin St., Almonte. All are welcome. MVFN members and children under 16 receive free admission and for others a $5 fee applies. Host for the evening is MVFN member Paul Egginton. Following the presentation refreshments will be available. For more information please contact MVFN Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879/ or check the MVFN website at www.mvfn.ca
Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists
September 21, 2006
by Sheila Edwards
Michael Runtz brings to life the work of one of nature’s great engineers in the watershed – the Beaver
A large crowd gathered on Thursday the 14th for Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) September lecture. Michael Runtz was the keynote speaker for the first of a series of talks exploring the “Mississippi Valley Watershed”.
One sign of a great educator is when an audience doesn’t realize how much they are learning. In his presentation “Beaver Ponds in the Watershed”, Michael Runtz showed he is one such educator. His enthusiastic delivery style brought to life information based on his astute observations of nature. A well respected naturalist, nature photographer, and author, Runtz captivated his audience with stories about beavers, the topic of his next natural history book. Based on the response Thursday, it should prove as popular as his other Canadian best-sellers such as Wild Wings, Algonquin Seasons and Moose Country .
Runtz showed us how beavers play the role of engineer when it comes to creating nutrient rich ponds, teeming with life. Water levels are raised, new species are attracted, and the forest gradually acquires a pond, marsh, and ribbon of grassland. The habitats thus created by this impressive rodent are vital to the health of our watershed.
As the seasons change, a beaver pond changes as well. In the spring, nutrients will be washed out, enriching the water downstream; frogs will be at their noisiest, many birds will be arriving to nest in the forest and on dead trees standing in the pond; and the beavers will be busy feeding and working on their dams and lodges. Beavers feed on tree bark, the soft layer under the bark, and also herbaceous plants like pond lilies. As fall approaches, the beaver becomes more visible during the day as it works on creating a food pile for the winter and does fall maintenance on its structures; the lodge’s insulation is upgraded by piling more mud on top and the dam must be high enough to ensure the pond does not completely freeze. The lodge’s exits are about 1.5 m below the water’s surface, at a depth which hopefully will remain unfrozen throughout the winter. The beaver swims underwater to the food pile, eating the branches that are weighed down by less edible wood like alder. Beavers keep the lodge’s upper chamber clean for sleeping by eating and defecating in the lower chamber. Like the rabbit, the beaver has a ‘two-pass’ digestive system to maximize the nutritional benefit of its high-roughage diet.
If you are interested in observing beavers, Runtz had some good suggestions. For the paddler, beaver can stay underwater for as long as 15 minutes, so if they startle and dive down, they could be gone a long time. For the XC-skier, if the hole at the top of the lodge is open, and surrounded by frost; the occupants are alive and well. When watching a beaver cutting wood, they may use their tail as a stool by leaning back on it; they will also use either their front teeth or side teeth depending on whether they are eating or cutting respectively.
On Thursday October 19th, MVFN welcomes guest speaker Aquatic Ecologist, Brian Potter (OMNR) who will discuss “Wetland Habitats in the Watershed” (7:30 p.m. Almonte United Church, 106 Elgin Street). For more information on the lecture series please contact Program Chair Joyce Clinton at 613-257-4879/email , or visit our website at www.mvfn.ca . For those interested in an MVFN nature walk, the next one will be hosted and led by Joel Byrne at his property “Big Creek” near Watsons Corners, Sunday October 15th. If interested, and for more information, please contact Mike McPhail at 613-256-7211 or email