River's health gets a boost with new platform
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Feb 12, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

River's health gets a boost with new platform

Stratford Gazette

Jeff Heuchert editor@stratfordgazette.com

The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority has taken further steps to strengthen the north shore and habitat of Lake Victoria.

This week the finishing touches were placed on what's called a habitat platform – a natural erosion-preventing structure made from layers of wood and rock. It's designed to stabilize the bank and provide shelter for aquatic life, while also reducing the amount of sediment entering the Thames River.

It's the third such structure the UTRCA has installed along the river, near North Shore Park, in the last four years. But unlike the previous two – one of which is above ground but long since covered over with natural vegetation, and the other installed under water – the new platform will very much remain in sight.

Brad Glasman, a conservation services coordinator with the UTRCA, says consideration was given to the structure's overall appearance, noting that once topped with a filter cloth that allows for natural drainage but stops surface materials from entering the river, causing poor water quality, the 20-foot platform will be covered with a chip and dust mix.

"It will be smooth and blend right into the trail that's here," he adds.

Glasman says the erosion is a natural occurrence but that it does require maintenance from time to time in particular spots, such as the north shore on Lake Victoria where a well-used pedestrian trail is just feet away. If the erosion was left unchecked, eventually the trail might no longer be safe to use.

"It's inevitable that we were going to have to help it out at some point," Glasman adds.

The total project cost is estimated at around $25,000 and was funded by the federal Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program, the Avon River Environmental Association, and the Rotary Club of Stratford.

A roughly 80-metre stretch of the river's north shore had to be dug up and flattened to create a stable base for the structure. The cribbing consists of layers of wood, including timber posts supplied by Festival Hydro, that go down about four feet below the surface. In between the lumber are 75 tonnes of rocks that required a small backhoe to be moved into place.

The rocks create a shoal for fish as well as nooks and cavities for other aquatic life. Conservation authority officials hope the result over time will be a wider variation of underwater species making their home in the Avon watershed, which encompasses portions of Perth East, Perth South and Stratford.

UTRCA marketing specialist, Steve Sauder, says the conservation authority has been doing these kinds of erosion-protection and habitat-building projects in the northern portions of the Avon watershed for 20 years with positive results. Last year they successfully established a brook trout population in some of the tributaries upstream from Stratford.

"It's all about improving the watershed's health," says Sauder. "If we can get a good variety of species we know that the improvements we've done are helping."

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