Monday, 17 July 2017 07:00

SEAWA will undertake riparian restoration project

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This photo taken at Seven Persons Creek show some of the damage that exists in the riparian area due to flood and recreation over use. The South East Alberta Watershed Alliance has received funding for a riparian area restoration project in the Seven Persons Creek Watershed and is looking for landowners to participate. This photo taken at Seven Persons Creek show some of the damage that exists in the riparian area due to flood and recreation over use. The South East Alberta Watershed Alliance has received funding for a riparian area restoration project in the Seven Persons Creek Watershed and is looking for landowners to participate. Photo by Marilou Montemayor

The South East Alberta Watershed Alliance (SEAWA) has received provincial government funding to be able to undertake a two-year riparian restoration project and officials are looking for landowners to take part.


The new riparian area assessment and restoration project will take place in the Seven Persons Creek Watershed.
“When I joined (SEAWA) in April of last year, this project was already on my mind to do as I had seen these kinds of projects in my previous experience with other WPACs,” says Marilou Montemayor, executive director of SEAWA. “I know that the (government) is interested in assessing riparian areas in the province.”
SEAWA has received a grant of $221,000 from the provincial government through the Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP).
According to a news release from SEAWA, the WRRP “promotes resilience to future floods and droughts throughout the province by improving the natural capacity of wetlands and riparian areas to attenuate these extreme events.”
The money will be used to assess the condition of the riparian areas in the Seven Persons Creek watershed. Then funding will be provided on a 50-50 cost-share basis with landowners who volunteer to restore or prevent degradation of riparian areas on the land they own in that watershed.
Identifying locations that will most benefit from restoration work will be the first task of SEAWA officials. Some of that identification will take place through the professional collection an analysis of aerial imagery.
They are also looking for landowners in the watershed to step forward and volunteer to restore or protect the riparian areas on their lands.
Those volunteers will be able to work with SEAWA officials to prepare restoration plans this year which will be implemented in 2018.
Before restoration, areas under consideration will be assessed by officials with Cows and Fish (the Alberta Habitat Management Society), making this a truly collaborative project.
Montemayor says one of the reasons the Seven Persons Creek watershed was chosen for this project is because some of it is in poor condition, especially in areas through the City of Medicine Hat such as Kin Coulee Park.
“Historically, there hasn’t been much attention paid to having good riparian areas ... so this is a good opportunity to educate about the importance of healthy riparian areas,” she adds.
SEAWA’s news release explains that riparian refers to areas adjacent to streams, lakes, rivers and creeks where there is a strong interaction between land and water. They often have their own distinct plant communities.
Their benefits are numerous covering the spectrum representing ecological, economic and social.
Many trees such as Cottonwoods and willows rely upon the moisture found adjacent to water bodies and these plants in turn provide food and habitat for birds, mammals, amphibians and semi-aquatic organisms. When a riparian area is healthy it helps reduce damage from erosion, sediment transport when flows are high, regulates water temperatures, filters excess nutrients, stores water, and sustains vegetation and wildlife habitat during times of drought.
“In a watershed such as ours, in a semi-arid climate, riparian areas also provide naturally diverse green spaces for the enjoyment of everyone,” adds SEAWA officials in the release. “Degradation of riparian areas can be due to natural causes, and in time, they usually recover on their own. Human-caused degradation, however, often requires remedial work, and the prevention of degradation requires the active management of land use and users.”
Montemayor is hopeful there will be a lot of different partners who will step forward to be involved in this project. There is enough funding for about 10 kilometres of the watershed to be restored. She also sees the opportunity for SEAWA to raise its relevance to landowners in the area through the work to be done over the next two years.
“We’re very enthusiastic and looking forward to having these partnerships,” she adds.
“We’ve been fortunate to have very good support from the (provincial) government.”
Landowners and land managers who are interested in implementing riparian restoration are encouraged to contact SEAWA officials to discuss this project, which will be formally launched this fall. The funding application process and details on eligible projects and partnership agreements will be presented at that time.
For more information, contact Patrick Jablkowski, watershed co-ordinator by email at: patrick.jablkowski @seawa.ca or phone 403-580-8980.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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