LTVCA – 2020 Thames River Blue-Green Algae Bloom
During August-September 2020, a blue-green algae bloom developed throughout the Thames River. The bloom stretches from the mouth of the Thames River near Lighthouse Cove to the town of Delaware in Middlesex County. During 3 of the last 4 years, the Thames River has observed the development of blue and green algae blooms during the months of August-October. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) conducted sampling of the water near the McGregor Creek area of the Thames River during August. The sample results revealed low levels of harmful toxins that can be released by blue-green algae blooms. It should be noted that toxin levels may change depending on the types of algae present and the environmental conditions. For additional information regarding precautions that should be taken while the bloom is present, refer to the Chatham Kent Public Health news release: https://ckphu.com/2020/08/blue-green-algae-bloom/.

That algae blooms have developed within the Thames River at an increased frequency during the last 5 years is a cause for concern. Furthermore, it is a reminder that the community needs to continue to work together, with increased urgency, to implement projects and adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs) to reduce phosphorus loading within the Thames River watershed.

2021 Stewardship Projects

With the fall quickly approaching, it’s time to begin planning for 2021 stewardship projects! Conservation Authorities have funding available from several sources to offset the cost of planting trees, grasslands, buffer strips and in some areas, to restore wetlands. Furthermore, our stewardship staff are available to assist regional producers with planning and implementing projects. If you are interested in completing a stewardship project in 2021, contact one of the stewardship representatives listed below to start planning your project!

Gathering Perspectives for Community Energy Planning
A significant step in the battle against climate change is well underway in the Essex region, with the initiation of a Regional Energy Plan (REP). This Plan, which is made possible thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, will help the community to better understand current energy consumption, identify opportunities for energy efficiency, help to meet the community’s climate priorities, and strengthen the local economy. All seven Essex County municipalities are partners in this comprehensive plan, which is being co-led by the County of Essex and Essex Region Conservation Authority, and builds on work undertaken by the City of Windsor.

While it typically takes up to two years to undertake such a vast analysis, the Regional Energy Plan for Essex County is expected to yield its recommendations for implementation within eight months. Through the REP, we will have a thorough understanding of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from homes, transportation, industry and the greenhouse sector, along with the actions needed to implement change.

The Community Task Force includes stakeholders from a diverse range of backgrounds to provide insight and expertise relating to energy locally, including representatives from the agricultural sector. The Plan’s will work toward its aspirational vision: “The Essex Region is a globally innovative and sustainable energy centre of excellence that benefits the environment, economy and quality of life for residents and businesses”.

Preliminary analysis suggests that household energy use accounts for about 15% of our County’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions, higher than both the provincial and Canadian average and nearly double the global best practice. Transportation in this region accounts for nearly 30%. This data demonstrates that we each have an opportunity to make a big difference in reducing our own personal energy use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our own lives. By becoming knowledgeable and conscientious about how we use energy in our homes, and benefitting from the lessons we’ve learned about minimizing personal or work-related car trips through our COVID-19 experience, we can all make a really significant impact in mitigating climate change.

A website has been launched to share the progress of this effort with the community, and a survey is hoping to gain insight and perspective regarding the importance of energy use from diverse groups across Essex County. We want to hear from you, and encourage you to take the survey found at https://www.countyofessex.ca/en/essex-county-regional-energy-plan.aspx/REP/.

Protecting Endangered Turtles

In the spring and early summer, Ontario female turtles will migrate from wetlands, ponds, and rivers and seek out a nesting spot for their eggs. Each species has a certain substrate type that they prefer to lay their eggs. Some turtles, like the Spiny Softshell turtle, find sandy nesting spots right on the banks of the river that they live in. Snapping turtles prefer gravelly ground, which is commonly found on roadsides and in unpaved parking lots and typically further away from the water than other turtles. Land use changes have reduced the number of suitable turtle nesting sites (i.e. habitat loss) and have contributed to an increase in the populations of mid-level predators such as raccoons, skunks, and weasels.

A turtle nest can be crushed by cars if the nest is near a road, by livestock with access to watercourses, or even foot traffic along a shoreline. Together, these factors severely limit the success of a nest. Additionally, a female snapping turtle will not produce eggs until she is at least 10 years old. Snapping turtles are quite long-lived animals: some have been recorded to live at least 80 years old! That is an extraordinary feat when you consider only seven turtles of every 10,000 snapping turtle eggs reach adulthood. Once a turtle reaches adulthood however, it has few predators and very high survivorship (up to 97%).

SCRCA biologists as well as other local conservation authorities have created a turtle head-starting program in an effort to improve survivorship of hatchlings. While COVID-19 delayed the beginning of the SCRCA field season, staff were able to create safe protocols to ensure this head-starting program continued. Staff locate turtle nests within our watershed and monitor them during the incubation period. Staff carefully collect the eggs from nests in danger and incubate the eggs until they hatch. This spring, staff collected a total of 786 eggs (480 spiny softshell and 306 snapping turtle eggs). To date, over 665 newly hatched baby turtles were released in the locations they were collected!

If an individual sees a turtle nesting and is concerned, they are welcome to call our staff (Craig 519-245-3710 x252 or Erin 519-245-3710 x253); they should not interrupt the nesting process nor should they dig into the nest.

How You Can Learn More: Your local conservation authority offers a variety of programs, technical information and in many cases, funding for Best Management Practices. If you are interested in learning more, contact one of the agricultural liaisons listed below.

Essex Region Lower Thames Valley St. Clair Region
Michael Dick, Agricultural Technician Colin Little, Agricultural Program Coordinator Jessica VanZwol, Healthy Watershed Specialist
519-776-5209 ext. 369 519-354-7310 ext. 231 519-245-3710 ext. 241
mdick@erca.org Colin.Little@ltvca.ca jvanzwol@scrca.on.ca
essexregionconservation.ca lowerthames-conservation.on.ca www.scrca.on.ca

 

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