July 5, 2022, Cornwall, Ontario – Shoreline habitat restorations are well underway across the St. Lawrence River Area of Concern, with local partners Watersheds Canada, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, River Institute, Great River Network, and Raisin Region Conservation Authority on track to restore 3-kilometres of shoreline habitat between 2021 and 2024.
Generously funded by the Great Lakes Protection Initiative – Areas of Concern (AOC) Program by Environment and Climate Change Canada, this three-year project will support important shoreline restoration in the St. Lawrence River AOC through the Natural Edge Program. Through collaboration with local partners and waterfront property owners, 12,500 native species of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers will be planted to restore 12,500-square metres of vital terrestrial and aquatic habitat along three kilometres of degraded shoreline.
One landowner who participated in the Natural Edge Program this spring was Curtis Lazore, a Wolf Clan member of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation. Curtis has spent his entire life growing up on the St. Lawrence River, where he has seen many changes over the past few decades.
“The role of individual property owners is a responsibility to our natural world,” says Curtis. “All living matter needs a healthy land-water interface [the riparian zone] to survive. It is our individual responsibility, especially as people who inhabit around natural spaces, to contribute to the enhancement of the natural world. For myself as a First Nations individual, we inherit responsibility from our oral tradition that we need to give thanks, we need to enhance, and we need to do right by our nature and the Mother Earth. I try to live by the words of our ancestors and continue that contribution and awareness.”
It has been thirty-five years since the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall was first designated as an AOC in 1987. Over the decades, immense pressure from industry, contamination, and population growth has strained the health of the river and the wildlife that live there. This three-year project will work towards addressing contributing factors of poor water quality and major shoreline habitat loss experienced within the St. Lawrence River AOC.
Tanice Jock is a Project Aid with the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Environment Program and a Technician with Watersheds Canada’s Natural Edge team. She is connecting local landowners with the Natural Edge Program by organizing site visits and community planting days, such as the one that took place at Curtis’ property.
“The Natural Edge Program will address problems we have in Akwesasne like poor water quality and shoreline erosion from the wakes when boats go by,” says Tanice. “In the summer we have ‘dog days’ when the bacteria levels become high and it is dangerous for people to swim. The Natural Edge Program will work to protect shorelines and improve local water quality through the planting of native vegetation along shorelines.”
This Natural Edge project will also contribute to the actions of the Remedial Action Plan to restore the St. Lawrence River (Cornwall) Area of Concern. According to the St. Lawrence River Remedial Action Plan website, the status of an AOC is determined by “assessing the state of local environmental conditions against fourteen different beneficial use impairments, as identified in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement”. The delivery of the Natural Edge Program will directly address the legacy issues of ‘Loss of Fish and Wildlife Habitat’ and ‘Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae’ that have contributed to the AOC status for decades.
“The River Institute was interested in participating in this project because it is under the Area of Concern program which we coordinate”, says Georgia Bock, Remedial Action Plan Coordinator at the St. Lawrence River Institute. “This project was a great way to work with a number of partners on an important project and work towards fixing the issue of shoreline erosion.”
“The Great River Network focuses on remediating the St. Lawrence River and tackling problems along the river that we see as being detrimental,” says Mark Kaddie from the Great River Network. “The Network is comprised of over 50 organizations invested in the health of the great river and we draw on each other’s expertise to complete different projects. We were very interested in this project as it was a great way of progressing with our mandate to remediate the river.”
He adds, “It is in the best interest for property owners, along with boaters, anglers, and anyone who utilizes the river, to have a healthy river. If you want to use the resource you have to give back to the resource. A healthy shoreline will give you a healthy waterfront and a healthy river.”
Landowners with waterfront property in need of restoration along the St. Lawrence River on the Ontario portion of the Akwesasne Territory and along Lake St. Francis are eligible to participate in this project. If you are interested in learning more about the project or connecting with project staff for a confidential free site visit, please contact Tanice Jock at firstname.lastname@example.org
Eligible waterfront property landowners will receive a free site visit which provides advice and recommendations to improve shoreline health. If planting is recommended, a Shoreline Re-Naturalization Starter Kit can be purchased which includes the creation of a shoreline restoration plan for the property, native plants and materials, as well as education guides on how to maintain shoreline health. Each customized restoration plan will provide detailed descriptions of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers suitable for planting based on site conditions and landowner preferences. To learn more about what is included in a kit and its cost, please visit naturaledge.watersheds.ca
About Watersheds Canada
Watersheds Canada is a federally incorporated non-profit organization and registered Canadian charity committed to providing programs to communities across the country that work to engage and help shoreline owners enhance and protect the health of lakes and rivers.
About Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA) is the official governing agency of the northern portion of the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory. It is a community government, which is elected by the residents of the Mohawk Community of Akwesasne.
About Raisin Region Conservation Authority
Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) is one of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities. RRCA guides the community in the protection, enhancement and restoration of our natural environment through programs that balance human, environmental and economic needs for a sustainable future.
About River Institute
River Institute is a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to research, education and community outreach on the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries. It is a non‐government organization established in 1994 as a unique community partnership among governments, educators, business and industry, and the Mohawks of Akwesasne.
About Great River Network
The Great River Network is an environmental hub comprised of over 50 river-related organizations, agencies and volunteers who organize initiatives to improve the environment of the Upper St. Lawrence River.
Natural Edge Program Manager
Featured Image by Stephany Hildebrand, River Institute