Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed: Existing Conditions and Opportunities for Enhancement Completed by

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Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed:

Existing Conditions and Opportunities for Enhancement

Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed:

Existing Conditions and Opportunities for Enhancement

Completed by:

Kevin Esseltine

Contract Biologist

Kemptville and Kingston Area Offices

Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Steering Committee Members:

(in alphabetical order)

Anne Bendig- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Ross Cholmondeley- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Kerry Coleman- Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources

Jennifer Lamoureux- Rideau Valley Conservation Authority

Simon Lunn- Parks Canada- Rideau Canal

Lindsay Penney- Rideau Valley Conservation Authority

Andy Smith- Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Contributing Agencies and Partners

(in alphabetical order)

Christie Lake Association Inc.

Crosby Lake Cottage Association

Davern Lake Cottage Association

Ducks Unlimited Canada

Eagle Lake Cottage Association

Elbow Lake Cottage Association

Farren Lake Property Owners Association

Friends of the Tay Watershed

Greater Bobs and Crow Lake Association

Lanark Fish and Game Club

Lanark Stewardship Council and Stewardship Rangers

Leggat Lake Cottage Association

Little Silver Lake Property Owners Association

Long Lake Property Owners Association

Otty Lake Cottage Association

Pike Lake Cottage Association

Sharbot Lake Mishigama Anishinabe Algonquins First Nation

Executive Summary

This document, completed for the Tay River watershed (tributary of the Rideau River), reviews the current status of fish habitat and outlines possible enhancement projects to improve aquatic resources. The steering committee for the development of this document consisted of the following government agencies:

  • Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR Kemptville and Kingston Districts);

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) (Ontario - Great Lakes Area, Prescott);

  • Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA);

  • Parks Canada (Rideau Canal).

In addition, stewardship organizations, Cottage and Lake Associations, and Fish and Game clubs active in the Tay River watershed provided information and advice to the content of the document. All government, non-government organizations, and private citizens have a role in the protection and restoration of fish habitat. To this end, the present document is not designed as a ‘plan’ for any one agency, but rather a strategy for all agencies and partners to collectively assess, protect, and improve fish habitat within the Tay River watershed. The basis of this document stems from recommendations of the Tay River Watershed Management Plan, and various planning documents composed by the above government agencies.
This document provides detailed background information pertaining to natural features, fish, and fisheries of the Tay River watershed. General roles and impacts of sedimentation, nutrients, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and water control structures in relation to fish habitat are discussed. This background information is designed to provide an introduction to fish, fish habitat, and threats to fish habitat, to illustrate the importance and the role of various agencies and partners in fish habitat protection. In addition, this report reminds interested partners and members of the public to follow all regulations and provide the necessary documentation to aid the above resource management agencies in project planning. Such practices will ensure that fish habitat and other watershed phenomenon are not damaged prior to any undertaking in or around water.
As a continuation of the Tay River Watershed Management Plan, this document is designed to satisfy selected goals and objectives stated in the plan and act as an implementation strategy for fish habitat improvement within the watershed. To contribute to achieving the goals and objectives of the Tay River Watershed Management Plan, the steering committee recommended the following four objectives for this Fish Habitat strategy:

  1. Identify and map areas of critical and sensitive fish habitat present in the Tay River watershed;

  2. Document degraded habitat and issues that contribute to aquatic habitat destruction;

  3. Develop and prioritize recommendations to protect and/or enhance fish habitat in the watershed; and

  4. Promote education and resource stewardship.

In order to achieve these objectives, fish habitat was assessed, summarized and mapped during the summer of 2001. Observations of problems affecting these habitats were documented and solutions were recommended and prioritized within the report.

Information on land use, fish community, issues, available information, data gaps, fish habitat summaries, and priority fish habitat enhancement projects are described for 14 sub-watersheds. Through fieldwork, literature research, and contact with various partners, the following threats to fish habitat were identified in the watershed:

  1. Lack of buffer strips and shoreline destruction;

  2. Nutrient loading- agriculture, urban, and cottage sources;

  3. Blockages of streams by dams, perched culverts, roads, etc.;

  4. Loss of littoral habitat critical for fish spawning and nursery;

  5. Loss or alterations to wetland habitat;

  6. Fluctuating water levels;

  7. Water quality;

  8. Water quantity;

  9. Exotic species- Zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil, purple loosestrife, etc.

Enhancement and rehabilitation projects that are suggested within the report are designed under the following rationale:

  1. mitigate impacts commonly observed throughout the watershed;

  2. contribute to resolving multiple issues (as identified above);

  3. are easily implemented and provide direct, noticeable results to the groups conducting the work; and

  4. will promote the productivity of native and naturalized self sustaining fish populations.

In summary, this project identified 23 shoreline and livestock access sites requiring management, 12 walleye spawning habitat rehabilitation projects, 6 lake trout spawning shoal enhancements, 2 major wetland habitat improvements, and several clean-up initiatives.

To establish priority for enhancement, each sub-watershed within the Tay River basin was evaluated using the following criteria:

  1. fish habitat status and capability;

  2. sensitivity of the resource;

  3. current land use stress; and

  4. number and scale of enhancement opportunities.

Using this scoring system, sub-watersheds are broken-down into three classes of priorities (high, medium, and low). The T3 and T6 sub-watersheds ranked as Priority 1 (high) based on the above criteria. High priority was given to the T3 sub-watershed due to cold water, sensitive lake trout habitat, reservoir for system (ie. fluctuating water levels), number and scale of enhancement opportunities, and community interest (Bobs/Crow Lake Association past habitat work). The T6 sub-watershed exhibits several critical spawning beds for resident Tay River walleye and Christie Lake walleye. The sensitivity of this resource, land use stress, community interest, and education and partnership building placed this area under Priority 1 (high), as well. Although the sub-watersheds ranked under Priority 2 (medium) provide substantial fish habitat they tend to exhibit relatively fewer enhancement opportunities or have less sensitive resources. Generally, those sub-watersheds ranked as Priority 3 (low) display relatively untouched resources, are less sensitive, and have few enhancement opportunities.
Prioritization is further broken-down by ‘key stone’ issues described below. The report identifies the sub-watersheds as the most critical under each ‘key stone issue’.

The five ‘keystone issues’ and their accompanying top priority sub-watersheds are:

  1. lake trout and walleye spawning bed creation and improvements, and nursery area preservation: Walleye- Tay River (T6 sub-watershed), Lake trout- Bobs and Crow Lake (T3 sub-watershed);

  2. assessment, repair and maintenance of water control structures- Tay River (T7 sub-watershed);

  3. restoration of riparian and shoreline vegetation (buffer strips)- Grant’s Creek (G2 sub-watershed);

  4. fencing of stream banks and lake shorelines to prevent livestock access- Grant’s Creek (G2 sub-watershed); and

  5. wetland protection and enhancement- Grant’s Creek (G2 sub-watershed).

Programs and funding avenues such as the Community Fisheries and Wildlife Involvement Program (CFWIP), Rideau Valley Clean Water Program, Wetland Habitat Fund, and The Living by Water Project are described to enable partners and agencies to implement recommended enhancement opportunities.

Recommendations under land use planning are made to protect sensitive natural heritage features such as wetlands, ANSI’s and fish habitat. These areas should be identified and protected in official planning documents and appropriate zoning by-laws.

In all planning processes natural shorelines and riparian areas throughout the watershed should be protected using conservation easements, setbacks, buffers and zoning to minimize the impacts of human development on sensitive fish habitats.

In addition, this document recommends all identified wetlands in the watershed be protected through appropriate measures in municipal planning documents, private land stewardship incentives, land trusts and public acquisition.
Further to these recommendations, stewardship and education initiatives are presented to involve organizations in resource management. To increase partnerships and education of watershed residences, the document advises that the report is distributed to all watershed organizations, promotion of incentive programs (particularly for farmers), continue the establishment of lake associations and “Friends of” groups, and support angling and nature appreciation events. The document concludes by outlining the need for monitoring and future studies pertaining to: wetlands, water quality, septic system evaluations, lakeshore capacity modeling, individual lake management plans, assessment of water control structures, fish population and habitat assessments, integration of all fisheries and fish habitat management agencies, and follow-up monitoring of projects and the overall strategy.

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