Brewer Park Project Wins Prestigious National Conservation Award

OTTAWA, ON, Thursday, February 18, 2016Brewer Park Pond Restoration Project has received the Top Canadian Fishing Industry Conservation Project Award for 2015. This award, presented at the Spring Fishing and Boat Show at the International Centre in Mississauga, ON is determined by a vote of the members of the Canadian Angling Hall of Fame.

Award
2015 Conservation Award

For Muskies Canada (Ottawa Chapter) and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), this is the second year in a row where one of their partnership projects has received recognition. In 2014, the partners were recognized for work to create nursery and feeding habitat for fish along the Jock River in Richmond.

“The Brewer Park Pond Project was a particularly exciting project,” says Jennifer Lamoureux, RVCA Aquatic Fish Habitat Biologist. “Rarely is there a chance to have such significant impact on habitat in the heart of the city.”

Work began in fall 2014 to return the landlocked Brewer Park Pond, a former artificial swimming hole from the 1960s, back into a naturally functioning habitat connected to the Rideau River. Project partners looked to increase overall biodiversity of the pond with shoreline plantings, breeding bird habitat, amphibian habitat, and prime areas for spawning, nursery, rearing and feeding habitat for local fish species found in the Rideau all year round.

“It’s pretty special for a city to have northern pike and muskellunge in their downtown waterways,” said Peter Levick, President of Muskies Canada. “We worked for many years to support a project of this importance in an urban setting and we are delighted with the partnership that made it possible.”

The project brings biodiversity to the heart of the city with new and improved natural habitat for all sorts of aquatic species and improved habitat for shoreline animals.

“Extensive work was done to remove soil and contour the pond to make it a more useful and diverse fish habitat,” commented Mrs. Lamoureux who oversaw the project. “But a great deal of planning went in to optimizing the changes so that many different species — including birds, turtles and frogs, would benefit from the restoration.”

“This work is only made possible thanks to the many partners,” acknowledged Mr. Levick — a sentiment quickly reiterated by Mrs. Lamoureux. “Without the involvement of many, we couldn’t get this sort of work done. We’ve had great interest and support and needless to say, we’ll be looking for another project in the future.”

This award was accepted on behalf of Richcraft, Minto, the City of Ottawa, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Muskies Canada, the Institute of Environmental Science at Carleton University, and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. Special thanks goes out to the Ottawa South Community Association and the many community volunteers who assisted with tree and shrub planting.

Project Highlights:
16,000 square metres of new, functioning wetland and fish habitat in the heart of the City of Ottawa
1,000 truckloads of soil removed to contour pond into more productive habitat
1,600 trees, shrubs and aquatic plants planted in and around the pond by 120 community volunteers
8 weeks of construction from October to December 2014
basking logs, root wads and log piles installed as habitat for turtles, fish, amphibians

Photo available upon request. Contact diane.downey@rvca.ca

For more information contact:

Jennifer Lamoureux
Aquatic and Fish Habitat Biologist, RVCA
613-692-3571 Ext 1108
jennifer.lamoureux@rvca.ca

Brewer Pond Rehabilitation Project

Enhancing Muskie Habitat in Ottawa:

This fall, we’ve been preparing better breeding sites for our Muskies. The Ottawa Chapter of Muskies Canada has partnered with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA) to create two new breeding and nursery areas. The shovels and dump trucks have been busy re-working the landscape of the Rideau and Jock Rivers. This will offset lost habitat and enhance the shoreline to be better for Muskellunge.

Brewer Park Pond Restoration Project: 

Brewer Pond
Brewer Pond before restoration project

Back in the ‘60s, a swimming pond was created on the shores of the Rideau River in downtown Ottawa. This pond never worked very well for swimming and became an algae pit and fish trap. It would flood in the spring and gradually de-oxygenate over the summer. It had no natural connection with the river.

The federal Fisheries Act required that developers damaging fish habitat in their projects must offset that damage with a “make-good” initiative of equivalent size in the same region. Two developers, Richcraft and Minto are required to install storm water retention ponds in proposed development sites elsewhere in Ottawa, which will affect a creek. Their “ make-good »  is to fund this project, which will ultimately cost about $1 million. RVCA is the authority for the Rideau River and administered this « make-good » consideration to allow the Brewer Park Pond to be re-connected with the river. While this seems very logical, it was a complex and challenging project that took almost two decades to make happen.

Ottawa Chapter member Hedrik Wachelka was tireless in his work on this initiative. Slowly, after many years, countless meetings and a few near successes and setbacks, Hedrik was able to see his project get underway this fall.

Once the project is completed, monitoring will be very important to see if the fish will use this new feature. Every spring this is a fast-flowing part of the Rideau River with high water levels. The site constraints required a deep-water connection between river and the new pond, which will be achieved with a big culvert. This approach is very innovative but there are no real precedents to help us know how fish will use this new structure. There is a concern among several of the partners, including Muskies Canada and Carleton that this connection may inhibit Muskies from using the culvert to move in and out.

Calvert that will re-connect the pond to the main river
Culvert that will re-connect the pond to the main river

The Ottawa Chapter, with help from the Becker Foundation, is working with Carleton University to monitor Esox movement in the general area of the project. We need to see if Muskies will use this new wetland feature. The chapter has purchased the tags and has helped with the electrofishing and tagging process, as well as the ongoing monitoring. 20 Pike and 20 Muskies have been tagged and are being monitored. The work on this began last year and will need to be ongoing for the next two years. Due to project delays there may be a need to re-tag fish to ensure that the research can be completed post construction.

Heavy equipment
Heavy equipment digging out the pond

Heavy equipment has been working to dig out the new pond. This is an enormous task because the old pond was 1.5 meters higher than the mean river level. The excavation work is removing hundreds of truckloads of earth to dig the pond down deep enough to allow a connection that will not only re-connect with the river but that won’t freeze in the winter. The top layer of mud that was rich in aquatic plant seeds is being replaced when the pond is fully excavated to help aquatic vegetation regenerate quickly next spring.

Sub-surface structure (tree stumps and log piles) will enhance this nursery habitat for small fish. To make it work for Muskies, we need to also ensure there is a full range of aquatic insects and other small fish which hatchling Muskies will be able to feed on as they start to grow.

Sub-surface structure used to enhance the habitat
Sub-surface structure used to enhance the habitat
Brewer Pond Site Plan
Brewer Pond Site Plan

This is an innovative and exciting project. The Ottawa chapter is grateful for the support of partners RVCA, Richcraft, Minto, Carleton U., Ministry of Natural Resources, DFO, City of Ottawa, and the Ottawa South Community Association.

Together we have finally done it!