The Headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek
Healthy Twelve Mile Creek is an initiative of the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada with support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
This landowner stewardship program aims to work with private property owners along the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek and its tributaries to help preserve, protect, and enhance the watershed. The health of the headwaters of Twelve Mile Creek is critical to the quality of water flowing downstream through St. Catharines and into Lake Ontario. With over 80% of the land within the headwaters privately owned, landowners have the potential for major impact on the quality of the watershed. By participating in this restoration work landowners can help ensure the health of Twelve Mile Creek.
Healthy Twelve Mile Creek
Healthy Twelve Mile Creek is an initiative of the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada with support from community partners.
Healthy Twelve Mile Creek aims to educate and encourage landowners to become ‘stewards’ of Twelve Mile Creek. They can do so by working with us and restoration experts to create a plan for the improvement of the stream that runs through or adjacent to their land.
With support from Ontario Trillium Foundation and others, the first year of Healthy Twelve Mile Creek will establish the foundation for an expanded landowner stewardship program.
Once plentiful in Twelve Mile Creek, Brook Trout serve as the best indicator of a healthy watershed. Where they thrive, the water must be cold, undisturbed, clean, and clear.
Now reduced to a few protected pockets of suitable habitat along the Twelve, they provide evidence of how the stream has been degraded over the last 50 to 60 years. Thermal pollution is the main culprit: Brook Trout suffer when the water temperature reaches 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), and die when it reaches and remains at 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit) for more than 48 hours.
Removal of trees and shrubs from the stream banks has allowed sunlight to warm the water in the creek much more than it once did. Development (pavement and roof tops) in the headwaters has also warmed the water greatly. Sedimentation smothers Brook Trout eggs. Erosion destroys their habitat. Pollution kills them and the aquatic creatures they eat.
Brook Trout, as the only native species of trout in our streams, tell us clearly when our streams are suffering, and if we can expand their range and increase their numbers through restoring our watersheds, they will be a clear measure of our success.
Healthy watersheds, clean water, and healthy animal communities should be of interest to all of us. Healthy watersheds mean increased biodiversity, healthy water quality, and decreased flooding and erosion risks.
However, human activities have altered the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of Twelve Mile Creek. As a result, the quality of the water has degraded, causing the population of native Brook Trout to dwindle. Today, people have a better understanding of the importance of watersheds and the impacts that people can have on them.
Stream Rehabilitation is the conservation and rehabilitation of watersheds and streams by trained and knowledgeable community groups with the assistance of professionals. True restoration can usually only be accomplished by working at the watershed level.
Examples of methods to improve the condition of a stream include:
the stabilization of stream banks and shorelines with natural materials such as vegetation, woody debris, and stones/boulders
the addition of materials used by fish for cover, rearing, and/or spawning
the addition or removal of structures to allow and enhance fish passage
the manipulation of water quality characteristics (e.g. dissolved oxygen, pH, etc.)
The first objective of any restoration plan should be to prevent further degradation of habitat. To achieve long-term success, a rehabilitation project should address the causes and not just the symptoms of ecological disturbance. Restoring watersheds takes time, commitment and community involvement, but the benefits of a healthy aquatic environment are easily worth the effort.