Blueberry Creek

Blueberry Creek

BBLUEBERRY CREEK CATCHMENT

Tay River Subwatershed Report 2017

BLUEBERRY CREEK CATCHMENT

LandCoverTay-RiverBlueberry-Creek-001-001Figure 1 Land cover in the Blueberry Creek catchment

 

The RVCA produces individual reports for 14 catchments in the Tay River subwatershed. Using data collected and analyzed by the RVCA through its watershed monitoring and land cover classification programs, surface water quality and in-stream conditions are reported for the Tay River, Tay Watershed lakes and Tay tributaries along with a summary of environmental conditions for the surrounding countryside every six years, which includes analysis of data collected through the programs along with local information provided by stakeholders up to 2017.

This information is used to better understand the effects of human activity on our water resources, allows us to better track environmental change over time and helps focus watershed management actions where they are needed the most to help sustain the ecosystem services (cultural, aesthetic and recreational values; provisioning of food, fuel and clean water; regulation of erosion/natural hazard protection and water purification; supporting nutrient/water cycling and habitat provision) provided by the catchment’s lands and forests and waters (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005).

The following sections of this report are a compilation of that work for the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Table of Contents: Blueberry Creek Catchment Report
Catchment Facts Section 1.0
Water Quality Conditions Section 2.0
Riparian Conditions Section 3.0
Land Cover Section 4.0
Stewardship and Water Resources Protection Section 5.0
Accomplishments Section 6.0
Challenges/Issues Section 7.0
Actions/Opportunities Section 8.0

For other Tay River catchments and the Tay River Subwatershed Report, please see Rideau Valley Conservation Authority Subwatershed Reports.

1.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Facts

1.1 General/Physical Geography

Drainage Area

39.1 square kilometres; occupies 4.9 percent of the Tay River subwatershed; 0.9 percent of the Rideau Valley watershed.

Geology/Physiography

The Blueberry Creek catchment resides within a transitionary area between the physiographic regions known as the Algonquin Highlands and the Smith Falls Limestone Plain. The northern half of the catchment lies within the limestone plain, which is a broad flat poorly drained region underlain by thin soils, dolostone and sandstone. The southern part of the catchment lies within the ancient highlands of the Algonquin mass, a geologic region made up of such Precambrian rocks as marble, conglomerates, and dark or colour banded granite-like rocks. A veneer of glacial drift (glacial till, sand etc.) overlies the bedrock. Two geologic faults may cut through this catchment.

Municipal Coverage

Drummond/North Elmsley Township (21.6 km2; 55.5% of catchment)

Tay Valley Township (16.3 km2; 41.9% of catchment)

Town of Perth (1.0 km2; 2.6% of catchment)

Stream Length

All watercourses (including headwater streams): 45.9 km.

1.2 Vulnerable Areas

Aquifer Vulnerability

The Mississippi-Rideau Source Water Protection program has mapped the central part of this catchment as a Significant Groundwater Recharge Area and all of the catchment as a Highly Vulnerable Aquifer. There are no Well-Head Protection Areas in the catchment.

 

Wetland Hydrology

A watershed model developed by the RVCA in 2009 was used to study the hydrologic function of wetlands in the Rideau Valley Watershed, including those found in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

 

1.3 Conditions at a Glance

Aggregates

Three aggregate licenses in the Blueberry Creek catchment along with some sand and gravel areas of secondary and tertiary significance.

Fish Community/Thermal Regime

Warm and cool water recreational and baitfish fishery with 14 species observed in Blueberry Creek during 2017.

Headwater Drainage Features

Classified as wetlands and natural features with minimal modifications.  

Instream/Riparian Habitat

Blueberry Creek: Low to high habitat complexity along the surveyed sections of the creek. Areas with increased habitat complexity are observed in the lower and middle reaches of the system within the catchment along with a healthy diversity and abundance of plant types. Dissolved oxygen conditions vary from areas below levels required to support aquatic biota to areas that support warmwater fish species.

Land Cover Change (2008 to 2014)
Catchment Crop-Pasture Woodland Meadow-Thicket Wetland Transportation Aggregate Settlement
Hectares -6 -6 -2 +1 +1 +3 +9
Land Cover Type (2014)
Catchment Wetland Crop-Pasture Woodland Settlement Transportation Meadow-Thicket
Percent 40 34 18 5 2 1
Shoreline Cover Type (30 m. riparian area; 2014)
Catchment Percent Blueberry Creek Percent Streams* Percent
Wetland 55 Wetland 82 Wetland 47
Woodland 19 Woodland 6 Crop-Pasture 25
Crop-Pasture  19 Settlement 6 Woodland 24
Settlement  4 Crop-Pasture 3 Settlement 3
Transportation  2 Transportation 2 Transportation 1
Meadow-Thicket <1 Meadow-Thicket <1 --- ---
*Excludes Blueberry Creek

Significant Natural Features

Blueberry Marsh Provincially Significant Wetland

Species at Risk (Elemental Occurrence)
Status Species at Risk
Threatened     Blanding's Turtle Eastern Meadowlark
Special Concern Eastern Musk Turtle ---
Water Quality for the Protection of Aquatic Life
Water Quality Source Blueberry Creek
Surface Chemistry    Fair to Good
Instream Biological Poor to Fair

 

Blueberry Creek: Benthic invertebrate samples are dominated with species that are moderately tolerant and tolerant to high organic pollution levels.

Water Wells

Approximately 350 operational private water wells in the Blueberry Creek catchment. Groundwater uses are mainly domestic, but also include commercial, livestock, public and municipal water supplies and monitoring wells.

Wetland Cover

Wetlands are reported to have covered 65 percent of the Blueberry Creek catchment prior to European settlement, as compared to 39 percent (or 15.6 square kilometres) of the area in 2014. This represents a 38 percent (or 9.7 square kilometre) loss of historic wetland cover. Eighty-five percent of the remaining wetlands are regulated leaving 15 percent (or 2.4 square kilometers) unregulated.

1.4 Catchment Care

Environmental Management

Development along Blueberry Creek and in, and adjacent to, the Blueberry Marsh Provincially Significant Wetland in the catchment is subject to Ontario Regulation 174-06 (entitled “Development, Interference with Wetlands and Alterations to Shorelines and Watercourses”) that protects landowners and their property from natural hazards (i.e., flooding, fluctuating water table, unstable soils) along with the hydrologic function of the wetland.

Several Environmental Compliance Approvals and Environmental Activity and Sector Registries were sought and one Permit To Take Water (PTTW) is active in the catchment for aggregate operations.

 

Environmental Monitoring

Chemical surface (in-stream/lake) water quality collection by the RVCA since 2012 (see Section 2 of this report).

Benthic invertebrate (aquatic insect) surface (in-stream) water quality collection by the RVCA in Blueberry Creek since 2011 (see Section 3.3.1 of this report).

Fish survey and stream characterization survey by the RVCA on Blueberry Creek in 2016 included taking measurements and recording observations on instream habitat, bank stability, other attributes and preparing a temperature profile (see Section 3 of this report).

Eleven drainage feature assessments were conducted by the RVCA in 2017 at road crossings in the catchment. The protocol measures zero, first and second order headwater drainage features and is a rapid assessment method characterizing the amount of water, sediment transport, and storage capacity within headwater drainage features (see Section 3.4 of this report).

Classification of Blueberry Creek catchment land cover types derived by the RVCA from colour aerial photography that was acquired during the spring of 2008 and 2014 (see Section 4.1 of this report).

Groundwater chemistry information is available from the Ontario Geological Survey for one well (#13-AG-021) located in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Stewardship

Twenty-one stewardship projects were completed by landowners with assistance from the RVCA (see Section 5 of this report).

2.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Surface Water Quality Conditions

Surface water quality conditions in the Blueberry Creek catchment are monitored by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority's Baseline Water Quality Monitoring Program. This program provides information on the condition of  tributaries and the Tay River within the Tay River watershed.  Data is collected for multiple parameters including nutrients (total phosphorus and total Kjeldahl nitrogen ), E. coli, metals (like aluminum and copper) and additional chemical/physical parameters (such as alkalinity, chlorides, pH and total suspended solids). The locations of monitoring sites are shown in Figure 2 and Table 1.

WaterQualityTay-RiverBlueberry-Creek-001-001
Figure 2  Water quality monitoring site on Blueberry Creek in the Blueberry Creek Catchment
 

2.1 Blueberry Creek: Water Quality Rating

There is one monitored water quality site on Blueberry Creek in the Blueberry Creek Catchment (BLU-01), the RVCA's water quality rating for this site ranges from “Fair” to “Good”, this is based on the range of ratings calculated at three year intervals from 2012-2017 (Table 1) as determined by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Water Quality Index. The WQI and corresponding ratings are presented in Table 2.  A “Fair” rating indicates that water quality is usually protected but is occasionally threatened or impaired; conditions sometimes depart from natural or desirable levels. While “Good” indicates water quality is protected with only a minor degree of threat or impairment; conditions rarely depart from natural or desirable levels.  Each parameter is evaluated against established guidelines to determine water quality conditions. Those parameters that frequently exceed guidelines are presented below.  The data has been examined through the period of record to determine if conditions have changed.

The scores at this site are largely influenced by frequent high nutrient concentrations and occasional metal exceedances. For more information on the WQI please see the Tay River Subwatershed Report.

Table 1 Water Quality Index ratings for the Blueberry Creek Catchment
Location PeriodWQI ScoreRating
BLU-01Blueberry Creek at County Rd 6.2012-201477Fair
BLU-01Blueberry Creek at County Rd 6.2015-201780Good
 
Table 2 Water Quality Index ratings and corresponding index scores (RVCA terminology, original WQI category names in brackets)
RatingIndex Score
Very Good (Excellent)95-100
Good80-94
Fair65-79
Poor (Marginal)45-64
Very Poor (Poor)0-44

 

2.1.2 Blueberry Creek: Nutrients

Total phosphorus (TP) is used as a primary indicator of excessive nutrient loading and may contribute to abundant aquatic vegetation growth and depleted dissolved oxygen levels. The Provincial Water Quality Objective (PWQO) is used as the TP Guideline and states that in streams concentrations greater than 0.030 mg/l indicate an excessive amount of TP.

Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) is used as a secondary indicator of nutrient loading. RVCA uses a guideline of 0.500 mg/l to assess TKN[1].

Tables 3 and 4 summarize average nutrient concentrations at the monitored site within the Blueberry Creek catchment and show the proportion of results that meet the guidelines.

Table 3 Summary of total phosphorus results for the Blueberry Creek Catchment, 2012-2017
Total Phosphorus 2012-2017
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
BLU-010.02961%28
 
Table 4 Summary of total Kjeldahl nitrogen results for the Blueberry Creek Catchment, 2012-2017 (Highlighted values indicate average concentrations exceed the guideline)
Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen 2012-2017
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
BLU-010.9363%28
Monitoring Site BLU-01

Elevated TP results occurred occasionally at site BLU-01 throughout the monitoring period; about 61% of samples were below the guideline (Figure 4) though average concentrations generally exceed the guidelines during the summer months (Figure 3).  The average TP concentration was just below the guideline of 0.030 mg/l at 0.029 mg/l (Table 3). 

The majority of TKN results have exceeded the guideline (Figure 5), with only three percent of samples below the guideline. The average concentration was 0.936 mg/l and exceeded the guideline of 0.500 mg/l (Table 4).

There was no significant change[2] in the sampled concentrations of TP or TKN in Blueberry creek over the 2012-2017 period (Figure 4 and 6).

Figure x. Average monthly TP concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017.
Figure 3  Average monthly total phosphorus concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017.
Figure x. Distribution of total phosphorus concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 4  Distribution of total phosphorus concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017.
 
Figure 5 Average monthly total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 5  Average monthly total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017.
Figure 6  Distribution of total Kjeldahl nitrogen in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 6  Distribution of total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
 
Summary of Blueberry Creek Nutrients

This portion of Blueberry Creek can be identified as nutrient enriched.  Overall, average nutrient concentrations have remained consistent through the monitoring period. Both parameters (total phosphorus, total Kjeldahl nitrogen and ammonia) have concentrations that exceed their respective guidelines and average concentrations are approaching or exceed guidelines. Elevated nutrients may result in nutrient loading downstream to the Tay River. High nutrient concentrations can help stimulate the growth of algae blooms and other aquatic vegetation in a waterbody and deplete oxygen levels as the vegetation dies off.  It should be noted that this creek is fed by the extensive Blueberry Marsh; this wetland complex is naturally nutrient rich and is likely the largest contributor to elevated nutrient conditions.  Best management practices such as minimizing storm water runoff, enhanced shoreline buffers, minimizing/discontinuing the use of fertilizers and restricting livestock access in both surrounding agricultural and developed areas can help to reduce additional nutrient enrichment both within this creek, as well as the Tay River.    

 

2.1.3 Blueberry Creek: E. coli

Escherichia coli (E. coli) is used as an indicator of bacterial pollution from human or animal waste; in elevated concentrations it can pose a risk to human health. The PWQO of 100 colony forming units/100 millilitres (CFU/100 ml) is used as a guideline. E. coli counts greater than this guideline indicate that bacterial contamination may be a problem within a waterbody.

Table 5 summarizes the geometric mean[3] for the monitored site on Blueberry Creek and shows the proportion of samples that meet the E. coli guideline of 100 CFU/100 ml. The results of the geometric mean with respect to the guideline for the 2012-2017 period are shown in Figures 7 and 8.

Table 5 Summary of E. coli results for Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
E. coli 2012-2017
SiteGeometric Mean (CFU/100ml)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
BLU-016568%28
 
Monitoring Site BLU-01

E. coli counts at site BLU-01 show that there has been no significant trend in bacterial counts (Figure 8). The count at the geometric mean was 65 (Table 5), and majority of results (68 percent) were below the E. coli guideline.  Figure 7 shows that periods of elevated counts have occurred; this is observed during the summer months and may be attributed to warm weather and low flow conditions.

Figure 7 Geometric mean of monthly E. coli counts in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 7  Geometric mean of monthly E. coli counts in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 8 Distribution of E. coli counts in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 8  Distribution of E. coli counts in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
 
Summary of Blueberry Creek Bacterial Contamination

Bacterial contamination does not appear to be a significant concern in this reach of the Blueberry Creek.  As indicated by Figure 8 occasional exceedances above the guideline of 100 CFU/100ml have been observed. Best management practices such as enhancing shoreline buffers, limiting livestock access and minimizing runoff in both rural and developed areas can help to protect this reach of the Blueberry Creek into the future.

2.1.4 Blueberry Creek: Metals

Of the metals routinely monitored in Blueberry Creek (Blueberry Creek Catchment) aluminum (Al) occasionally reported concentrations above its respective Provincial Water Quality Objective, which  is 0.075 mg/l.  In elevated concentrations, these metals can have toxic effects on sensitive aquatic species.

Table 6 summarizes Al concentrations at site BLU-01 as well as show the proportion of samples that meet guidelines. Figures 9 and 10 show metal concentrations with respect to the guidelines for the monitoring period, 2012-2017. 

Table 6 Summary of aluminum results in Blueberry Creek from 2012-2017.
Aluminum 2012-2017
SiteAverage (mg/l)Below GuidelineNo. Samples
BLU-010.06950%10
Monitoring Site BLU-01

The average Al concentrations in site BLU-01 was 0.069 mg/l and did not exceed the guideline (PWQO). Fifty percent of samples were below the guideline and there was no significant change in Al concentrations across the monitoring period (Table 6, Figure 10).  Please note that metal concentrations are only monitored at this site twice per year, once during high flows in April and the second during the low flow period in August.  The elevated concentrations in August may be a result of groundwater contributions, leaching from stream sediments, or concentrated conditions during periods of minimal stream flow.

Figure 9 Average monthly aluminum concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012
Figure 9  Average monthly aluminum concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017.
Figure 10 Distribution of aluminum concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017
Figure 10  Distribution of aluminum concentrations in Blueberry Creek, 2012-2017.
 
Summary of Blueberry Creek Metals

In the Blueberry Creek Catchment there is little evidence of increased metal concentration above respectve guidelines. Continued efforts should be made to protect against possible pollution sources and implement best management practices to reduce any inputs such as storm water runoff from hardened surfaces to improve overall stream health and lessen downstream impacts to the Tay River. 


1 No Ontario guideline for TKN is presently available; however, waters not influenced by excessive organic inputs typically range from 0.100 to 0.500 mg/l, Environment Canada (1979) Water Quality Sourcebook, A Guide to Water Quality Parameters, Inland Waters Directorate, Water Quality Branch, Ottawa, Canada.

2 The evaulations of temporal trends or significant change over time in the data set was preformed using the Mann Kendall trend test and Sens slope estimator, a confidence levels of p<0.05 was used to determine if trends were significant.

3 A type of mean or average, which indicates the central tendency or typical value of a set of numbers by using the product of their values (as opposed to the arithmetic mean which uses their sum). It is often used to summarize a variable that varies over several orders of magnitude, such as E. coli counts.

3.0  Blueberry Creek Catchment: Riparian Conditions

The Stream Characterization Program evaluated 1.5 km of Blueberry Creek in 2016. A total of 15 stream survey assessments were completed in the second week of July. 

During the summer and fall of 2016, the Rideau Valley watershed experienced periods of severe drought. Precipitation levels were measured at less than 40% of the long-term average, as the water supply was unable to meet local demand. The lack of rainfall affected the success and function of farm crops, municipal and private wells, lawns and gardens, navigation and ultimately the health of our lakes, rivers and streams.

Low water conditions were readily observed throughout the watershed, as many of the streams were highly fragmented or completely dry. Aquatic species such as amphibians, fish and macroinvertebrates were affected, as suitable habitat may have been limited. Fragmentation of habitat was observed along Blueberry Creek (see photos below).

Private crossing upstream of Hwy. 7 showing the effect of the 2016 drought on Blueberry Creek
Private crossing immediately upstream of Hwy. 7 showing the effect of the 2016 drought on Blueberry Creek

3.1 Blueberry Creek Overbank Zone

3.1.1 Riparian Buffer Evaluation

The quality of the riparian area increases with the width, complexity and linear extent of its vegetation along a stream or creek. A complex riparian community consists of diverse plant species native to the site, with multiple age-classes providing vertical structural diversity along a watercourse.

Here is a list of watershed benefits from a healthy riparian buffer zone:

  • Reduces the amount of pollutants that reach the stream from surface runoff
  • Helps reduce and mitigates erosion
  • Provides a microclimate that is cooler during the summer months providing cooler water for aquatic organisms
  • Provides large wood structure from fallen trees and limbs that form instream cover, create pools, stabilize the streambed, and provide habitat for aquatic organisms
  • Provides organic material for stream biota that, among other functions, is the base of the food chain in lower order streams
  • Provides habitat for terrestrial insects that drop in the stream and become food for fish and travel corridors for other terrestrial animals
  • Dissipates energy during flood events
  • Often provides the only refuge areas for fish during out-of-bank flows (behind trees, stumps, and logs

Figure 11 demonstrates the buffer conditions of the left and right banks separately.  Blueberry Creek had a buffer of greater than 30 meters along 91 percent of the right bank and 93 percent of the left bank.

Figure 11 Riparian Buffer Evaluation along Blueberry Creek  
 

3.1.2 Riparian Buffer Alterations

Alterations within the riparian buffer were assessed within three distinct shoreline zones (0-5m, 5-15m, 15-30m), and evaluated based on the dominant vegetative community and/or land cover type (Figure 12). The riparian buffer zone along Blueberry Creek was found to be dominated by natural conditions in the form of forests and wetlands.

Figure 12 Riparian buffer alterations along Blueberry Creek
 

3.1.3 Adjacent Land Use

The RVCA’s Stream Characterization Program identifies seven different land uses along Blueberry Creek (Figure 13). Surrounding land use is considered from the beginning to end of the survey section (100m) and up to 100m on each side of the creek. Land use outside of this area is not considered for the surveys but is nonetheless part of the subwatershed and will influence the creek. Natural areas were dominant along Blueberry creek and were characterized by forest, scrubland, meadow and wetland. Forested habitat was dominant in the adjacent lands along Blueberry Creek at 73 percent of the surveyed sections.  The remaining land use consisted of recreational, residential and infrastructure in the form of railway and road crossings.

Figure 13 Land Use along Blueberry Creek
 
 

3.2 Blueberry Creek Shoreline Zone

3.2.1 Instream Erosion

Stream erosion is the process by which water erodes and transports sediments, resulting in dynamic flows and diverse habitat conditions.  Excessive erosion can result in drastic environmental changes, as habitat conditions, water quality and aquatic life are all negatively affected.  Bank stability was assessed as the overall extent of each section with “unstable” shoreline conditions.  These conditions are defined by the presence of significant exposed soils/roots, minimal bank vegetation, severe undercutting, slumping or scour and potential failed erosion measures. The majority of Blueberry Creek had low to moderate levels of erosion with the exception of one location along the system which had high levels of erosion in the upper reaches of the survey (Figure 14).

Figure 14 Erosion levels along Blueberry Creek
 

3.2.2 Undercut Stream Banks

Stream bank undercuts can provide excellent cover habitat for aquatic life, however excessive levels can be an indication of unstable shoreline conditions.  Bank undercut was assessed as the overall extent of each surveyed section with overhanging bank cover present. Figure 15 shows that Blueberry Creek had highly variable levels of undercut banks along the system and they typically coincided with areas that were experiencing high levels of erosion. 

Figure 15 Undercut stream banks along Blueberry Creek
 

3.2.3 Stream Shading

Grasses, shrubs and trees all contribute towards shading a stream. Shade is important in moderating stream temperature, contributing to food supply and helping with nutrient reduction within a stream.  Stream cover is assessed as the total coverage area in each section that is shaded by overhanging shrubs/grasses and tree canopy, at greater than 1m above the water surface.  Figure 16 shows low levels of stream shading along Blueberry Creek.  

Figure 16 Stream shading along Blueberry Creek
 

3.2.4 Instream Wood Structure

Forested shorelines provide essential complex habitat through the perpetual process of shoreline trees falling into the water.  This continuous recruitment of trees creates a wood-based physical structure in the littoral zone that is common on natural systems.  Insects, fish, amphibians, birds, and other animals have also evolved with this abundance of near shore wood and it is essential to their life cycles. With increased development along many waterways, forested shorelines have been altered and wood-based physical structure in many waterways has been reduced. It is important to maintain and restore this essential habitat to aquatic ecosystems.

Shoreline Protection
  • Protects shorelines by providing a barrier from wind and wave erosion
  • Reduces sedimentation of the water caused by shoreline slumping due to bank erosion
  • Allows detritus to collect and settle on the lake or creek bed providing the substrate structure required for native aquatic vegetation to establish and outcompete invasive species
Food Source
  • Wood complexes are an important food source for invertebrates 
  • Small fish feed on the abundance of invertebrates that are found around these structures
  • Larger fish, waterfowl and shorebirds all benefit from the abundance of invertebrates and small fish feeding around wood structures in the littoral zone 
Cover
  • Cover from predators is essential for many fish and animals to successfully complete their life cycle
  • The nooks and crannies of wood complexes offer organisms safety from predators while at the same time concentrating prey to make predators more efficient
  • Wood provides the structure on which many species must lay or attach their eggs, therefore these complexes provide spawning, nesting and rearing habitat
Diversity
  • Wood complexes in the littoral zone provide unique edge habitat along the shoreline
  • Edge habitats contain more species diversity and higher concentrations of species than the adjoining habitats

Figure 17 shows that the majority of Blueberry Creek had low levels of instream wood structure in the form of branches and trees along the system.

Figure 17 Instream wood structure along Blueberry Creek
 

3.2.5 Overhanging Wood Structure

Trees and branches that are less than one meter from the surface of the water are defined as overhanging.  Overhanging wood structure provides a food source, nutrients and shade which helps to moderate instream water temperatures.  Figure 18 shows the system ranges from low to moderate levels of overhanging wood structure along Blueberry Creek.

Figure 18 Overhanging trees and branches along Blueberry Creek
 

3.2.6 Anthropogenic Alterations

Stream alterations are classified based on specific functional criteria associated with the flow conditions, the riparian buffer and potential human influences.  Figure 19 shows 40 percent of the sections surveyed on Blueberry Creek remains “unaltered” with no anthropogenic alterations.   Thirty three percent of Blueberry Creek was classified as natural with minor anthropogenic changes, while 27 percent was considered altered.  The alterations along Blueberry Creek were in the form of road and railway crossings.

Figure 19 Anthropogenic alterations along Blueberry Creek
 
 

3.3 Blueberry Creek Instream Aquatic Habitat

3.3.1 Benthic Invertebrates

Freshwater benthic invertebrates are animals without backbones that live on the stream bottom and include crustaceans such as crayfish, molluscs and immature forms of aquatic insects. Benthos represent an extremely diverse group of aquatic animals and exhibit wide ranges of responses to stressors such as organic pollutants, sediments and toxicants, which allows scientists to use them as bioindicators.  As part of the Ontario Benthic Biomonitoring Network (OBBN), the RVCA has been collecting benthic invertebrates at the Highway 7 site on Blueberry Creek since 2011.  This site was added in 2011 as result of an identified gap in the network during the previous preparation of the 2011 Tay River Subwatershed Report. Monitoring data is analyzed for each sample site and the results are presented using the Family Biotic Index, Family Richness and percent Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera.  There were no values recorded for the Fall of 2016 due to extreme drought conditions therefore no samples could be collected.

Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index

The Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index (FBI) is an indicator of organic and nutrient pollution and provides an estimate of water quality conditions for each site using established pollution tolerance values for benthic invertebrates. FBI results for the Blueberry Creek catchment sample location at the Highway 7 sample location are summarized by year from 2011 to 2016.  “Fair” to “Poor” water quality conditions were observed at the Blueberry Creek sample location (Figure 20) using a grading scheme developed by Conservation Authorities in Ontario for benthic invertebrates. 

Figure 20 Hilsenhoff Family Biotic Index at the Highway 7 sample location
 
Family Richness

Family Richness measures the health of the community through its diversity and increases with increasing habitat diversity suitability and healthy water quality conditions. Family Richness is equivalent to the total number of benthic invertebrate families found within a sample.   The Blueberry Creek site is reported to have “Fair” family richness (Figure 21).

Figure 21 Family Richness at the Highway 7 sample location
 
EPT

Ephemeroptera (Mayflies), Plecoptera (Stoneflies), and Trichoptera (Caddisflies) are species considered to be very sensitive to poor water quality conditions. High abundance of these organisms is generally an indication of good water quality conditions at a sample location.  The community structure is dominated by species that are moderately tolerant and tolerant to poorer water quality conditions.  As a result, the EPT indicates that the Blueberry Creek sample location is reported to have “Fair to Poor” water quality (Figure 22) from 2011 to 2016.

Figure 22 EPT results at the Highway 7 sample location
 
Conclusion

Overall the Blueberry Creek sample location aquatic habitat conditions from a benthic invertebrate perspective is considered “Fair to Poor” from 2011 to 2016 as the samples are dominated by species that are moderately tolerant and tolerant to high organic pollution levels.

3.3.2 Habitat Complexity

Habitat complexity is a measure of the overall diversity of habitat types and features within a stream. Streams with high habitat complexity support a greater variety of species niches, and therefore contribute to greater diversity. Factors such as substrate, flow conditions (pools, riffles) and cover material (vegetation, wood structure, etc.) all provide crucial habitat to aquatic life.  Habitat complexity is assessed based on the presence of boulder, cobble and gravel substrates, as well as the presence of instream wood structure.

Low to high habitat complexity was identified for Blueberry Creek (Figure 23). Regions with increased habitat complexity were observed in the lower and middle reaches of the surveyed sections of the system within the catchment.

Figure 23 Habitat complexity along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.3 Instream Substrate

Diverse substrate is important for fish and benthic invertebrate habitat because some species have specific substrate requirements and for example will only reproduce on certain types of substrate.  The absence of diverse substrate types may limit the overall diversity of species within a stream. Figure 24 shows the overall presence of various substrate types observed along Blueberry Creek.  Substrate conditions were highly diverse along Blueberry Creek with all substrate types being recorded at various locations along the creek.  Figure 25 shows the dominant substrate type observed for each section surveyed along Blueberry Creek.

Figure 24 Instream substrate along Blueberry Creek
 
Figure 25 shows the dominant substrate type along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.4 Instream Morphology

Pools and riffles are important habitat features for aquatic life.  Riffles are fast flowing areas characterized by agitation and overturn of the water surface. Riffles thereby play a crucial role in contributing to dissolved oxygen conditions and directly support spawning for some fish species.  They are also areas that support high benthic invertebrate populations which are an important food source for many aquatic species.  Pools are characterized by minimal flows, with relatively deep water and winter/summer refuge habitat for aquatic species.  Runs are moderately shallow, with unagitated surfaces of water and areas where the thalweg (deepest part of the channel) is in the center of the channel. Figure 26 shows that Blueberry Creek is fairly uniform; 93 percent of sections recorded runs, 80 percent pools and seven percent riffles. Figure 27 shows where the limited riffle habitat area was observed in the lower reach of Blueberry Creek.

Figure 26 Instream morphology along Blueberry Creek
 
Figure 27 Instream riffle habitat along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.5 Vegetation Type

Instream vegetation provides a variety of functions and is a critical component of the aquatic ecosystem.  Aquatic plants promote stream health by:

  • Providing direct riparian/instream habitat
  • Stabilizing flows reducing shoreline erosion
  • Contributing to dissolved oxygen through photosynthesis
  • Maintaining temperature conditions through shading

For example emergent plants along the shoreline can provide shoreline protection from wave action and important rearing habitat for species of waterfowl.  Submerged plants provide habitat for fish to find shelter from predator fish while they feed.  Floating plants such as water lilies shade the water and can keep temperatures cool while reducing algae growth.  Narrow leaved emergents were present in 100% of the sections surveyed, algae was observed in 87% of sections, floating plants were observed in 67% of sections surveyed,  broad leaved emergent and submerged plants were observed in 47% of sections while robust emergent were documented in 20% of sections surveyed.  Figure 28 depicts the plant community structure for Blueberry Creek. Figure 29 shows the dominant vegetation type observed for each section surveyed along the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Figure 28 Vegetation type along Blueberry Creek
 
Figure 29 Dominant vegetation type along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.6 Instream Vegetation Abundance

Instream vegetation is an important factor for a healthy stream ecosystem. Vegetation helps to remove contaminants from the water, contributes oxygen to the stream, and provides habitat for fish and wildlife. Too much vegetation can also be detrimental. Figure 30 demonstrates that the Blueberry Creek reach had normal to common levels of vegetation recorded at 47 and 40 percent of stream surveys.  Extensive levels of vegetation were observed along 20 percent of the surveyed sections while seven percent of sections had areas with no vegetation.

Figure 30 Instream vegetation abundance along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.7 Invasive Species

Invasive species can have major implications on streams and species diversity. Invasive species are one of the largest threats to ecosystems throughout Ontario and can out compete native species, having negative effects on local wildlife, fish and plant populations. One hundred percent of the sections surveyed along Blueberry Creek reach had invasive species. The invasive species observed in the Blueberry Creek reach were European frogbit, bull thistle, common/glossy buckthorn, purple loosestrife and poison parsnip.  Invasive species abundance (i.e. the number of observed invasive species per section) was assessed to determine the potential range/vector of many of these species (Figure 31).

Figure 31 Invasive species abundance along Blueberry Creek
 
 

3.3.8 Water Chemistry

During the stream characterization survey, a YSI probe is used to collect water chemistry information.  Dissolved oxygen (DO), specific conductivity (SPC) and pH are measured at the start and end of each section. 

3.3.8.1 Dissolved Oxygen

Dissolved oxygen is a measure of the amount of oxygen dissolved in water. The Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) suggest that for the protection of aquatic life the lowest acceptable dissolved oxygen concentration should be 6 mg/L for warmwater biota and 9.5 mg/L for coldwater biota (CCME, 1999).  Figure 32 shows that the dissolved oxygen in Blueberry Creek supports warmwater biota and in certain locations is below the recommended levels to support aquatic life.  The average dissolved oxygen levels observed within Blueberry Creek was 5.9mg/L which is just below the recommended levels for warmwater biota. 

Figure 32 Dissolved oxygen ranges along Blueberry Creek
 

 

3.3.8.2 Conductivity

Conductivity in streams is primarily influenced by the geology of the surrounding environment, but can vary drastically as a function of surface water runoff. Currently there are no CCME guideline standards for stream conductivity; however readings which are outside the normal range observed within the system are often an indication of unmitigated discharge and/or stormwater input. The average conductivity observed within the main stem of Blueberry Creek was 540.7 µs/cm.  Figure 33 shows the conductivity readings for Blueberry Creek.

Figure 33 Specific conductivity ranges in Blueberry Creek
 

 

3.3.8.3 pH

Based on the PWQO for pH, a range of 6.5 to 8.5 should be maintained for the protection of aquatic life. Average pH values for the Blueberry Creek catchment averaged 7.81 thereby meeting the provincial standard (Figure 34).

Figure 34 pH ranges in Blueberry Creek
 

 

3.3.8.4 Oxygen Saturation (%)

Oxygen saturation is measured as the ratio of dissolved oxygen relative to the maximum amount of oxygen that will dissolve based on the temperature and atmospheric pressure. Well oxygenated water will stabilize at or above 100% saturation, however the presence of decaying matter/pollutants can drastically reduce these levels. Oxygen input through photosynthesis has the potential to increase saturation above 100% to a maximum of 500%, depending on the productivity level of the environment. In order to represent the relationship between concentration and saturation, the measured values have been summarized into 6 classes:

 

Dissolved oxygen conditions along Blueberry Creek varied along the system with areas below levels to support aquatic life as well as areas that support warmwater species (Figure 35).

Figure 35 A bivariate assessment of dissolved oxygen concentration (mg/L) and saturation (%) in Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.8.5 Specific Conductivity Assessment

Specific conductivity (SPC) is a standardized measure of electrical conductance, collected at or corrected to a water temperature of 25⁰C. SPC is directly related to the concentration of ions in water, and is commonly influenced by the presence of dissolved salts, alkalis, chlorides, sulfides and carbonate compounds. The higher the concentration of these compounds, the higher the conductivity. Common sources of elevated conductivity include storm water, agricultural inputs and commercial/industrial effluents.

In order to summarize the conditions observed, SPC levels were evaluated as either normal, moderately elevated or highly elevated. These categories correspond directly to the degree of variation (i.e. standard deviation) at each site relative to the average across the system.

Normal levels were maintained along the majority of Blueberry Creek, however there were moderately and highly elevated areas in the middle reaches (Figure 36).  The highly elevated area was located at the Highway 7 crossing likely linked to stormwater runoff from the roadway.

Figure 36 Relative specific conductivity levels along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.9 Thermal Regime

Many factors can influence fluctuations in stream temperature, including springs, tributaries, precipitation runoff, discharge pipes and stream shading from riparian vegetation. Water temperature is used along with the maximum air temperature (using the Stoneman and Jones method) to classify a watercourse as either warm water, cool water or cold water. Figure 37 shows where the thermal sampling sites were located on Blueberry Creek.  Analysis of the data collected indicates that Blueberry Creek catchment is classified as a warm water system with cool water reaches (Figure 38). 

Figure 37 Temperature logger locations along Blueberry Creek
 
Figure 38 Temperature logger data for the sites on Blueberry Creek 
 

Each point on the graph represents a temperature that meets the following criteria:

  • Sampling dates between July 1st and September 7th
  • Sampling date is preceded by two consecutive days above 24.5 °C, with no rain
  • Water temperatures are collected at 4pm
  • Air temperature is recorded as the max temperature for that day

3.3.10 Groundwater

Groundwater discharge areas can influence stream temperature, contribute nutrients, and provide important stream habitat for fish and other biota. During stream surveys, indicators of groundwater discharge are noted when observed. Indicators include: springs/seeps, watercress, iron staining, significant temperature change and rainbow mineral film.  Figure 39 shows areas where one or more of the above groundwater indicators were observed during stream surveys and headwater  drainage feature assessments. 

Figure 39 Groundwater indicators observed in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.3.11 Fish Community

The Blueberry Creek catchment is classified as a mixed community of warm and cool water recreational and baitfish fishery with 14 species observed. Table 7 is a list of species observed historically in the catchment and during the 2016 field sampling season. Figure 40 shows the sampling locations of the fish species identified in the catchment.

 
Table 7 Fish species observed in the Blueberry Creek catchment
Fish SpeciesScientific NameFish codeHistorical2016
blackchin shinerNotropis heterodonBcShiX
blacknose daceRhinichthys atratulusBnDacX
brook sticklebackCulaea inconstansBrStiXX
brown bullheadAmeiurus nebulosusBrBulX
carps and minnowsCyprinidaeCA_MIX
central mudminnowUmbra limiCeMudXX
common shinerLuxilus cornutusCoShiXX
creek chubSemotilus atromaculatusCrChuXX
etheostoma sp.etheostoma sp.EthSpX
golden shinerNotemigonus crysoleucasGoShiX
hornyhead chubNocomis biguttatusHhChuXX
northern redbelly daceChrosomus eosNRDacXX
pumpkinseedLepomis gibbosusPumpkXX
rock bassAmbloplites rupestrisRoBasXX
white suckerCatostomus commersoniiWhSucX
yellow bullheadAmeiurus natalisYeBulX
TOTAL Species1014

 

Figure 40 Historical and 2016 fish sampling locations in the catchment.
 
A fyke net set on Blueberry Creek in 2016
 

3.3.12 Beaver Dams

Overall beaver dams create natural changes in the environment. Some of the benefits include providing habitat for wildlife, flood control, and silt retention. Additional benefits come from bacterial decomposition of woody material used in the dams which removes excess nutrient and toxins. Beaver dams have the potential to flood agricultural areas and can be considered potential barriers to fish migration.

Several beaver dams were identified on the surveyed portions of Blueberry Creek in 2016 (Figure 41).

Figure 41 Beaver Dam type and locations along Blueberry Creek
 

3.3.13 Riparian Restoration

Figure 42 depicts the locations of riparian restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey.  The project recommended is one that involves streambank erosion mitigation.   

Figure 42 Riparian restoration opportunities in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.3.14 Instream Restoration

Figure 43 depicts the locations of instream restoration opportunities as a result of observations made during the stream survey.  The project recommended is a stream garbage cleanup opportunity downstream of Highway 7.   

Figure 43 Instream restoration opportunities in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4 Headwater Drainage Feature Assessment

3.4.1 Headwaters Sampling Locations

The RVCA Stream Characterization Program assessed Headwater Drainage Features for the Bluberry Creek subwatershed in 2017. This protocol measures zero, first and second order headwater drainage features (HDF).  It is a rapid assessment method characterizing the amount of water, sediment transport, and storage capacity within headwater drainage features (HDF). RVCA is working with other Conservation Authorities and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to implement the protocol with the goal of providing standard datasets to support science development and monitoring of headwater drainage features.  An HDF is a depression in the land that conveys surface flow. Additionally, this module provides a means of characterizing the connectivity, form and unique features associated with each HDF (OSAP Protocol, 2013). In 2017 the program sampled 11 sites at road crossings in the Blueberry Creek catchment area (Figure 44).  

Figure 44 Location of the headwater sampling sites in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4.2 Headwater Feature Type

The headwater sampling protocol assesses the feature type in order to understand the function of each feature.  The evaluation includes the following classifications: defined natural channel, channelized or constrained, multi-thread, no defined feature, tiled, wetland, swale, roadside ditch and pond outlet.  By assessing the values associated with the headwater drainage features in the catchment area we can understand the ecosystem services that they provide to the watershed in the form of hydrology, sediment transport, and aquatic and terrestrial functions.  The headwater drainage features in the Blueberry Creek catchment are primarily classified as wetland for a total of six; three were classified as a road side ditch and two features as channelized.  Figure 45 shows the feature type of the primary feature at the sampling locations.

Figure 45 Headwater feature types in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 
A spring photo of the headwater sample site in the Blueberry Creek catchment located on Clarchris Road
 
A summer photo of the headwater sample site in the Blueberry Creek catchment located on Clarchris Road
 

3.4.3 Headwater Feature Flow

The observed flow condition within headwater drainage features can be highly variable depending on timing relative to the spring freshet, recent rainfall, soil moisture, etc.  Flow conditions are assessed in the spring and in the summer to determine if features are perennial and flow year round, if they are intermittent and dry up during the summer months or if they are ephemeral systems that do not flow regularly and generally respond to specific rainstorm events or snowmelt.  Flow conditions in headwater systems can change from year to year depending on local precipitation patterns.  Figure 46 shows the observed flow condition at the sample locations in the Blueberry Creek catchment in 2017.

Figure 46 Headwater feature flow conditions in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4.4 Feature Channel Modifications

Channel modifications were assessed at each headwater drainage feature sampling location.  Modifications include channelization, dredging, hardening and realignments.  The Blueberry Creek catchment area had seven with no channel modifications observed, three sites as having been historically straightened/dredged and one location had mixed modifications.  Figure 47 shows the channel modifications observed at the sampling locations for Blueberry Creek.

Figure 47 Headwater feature channel modifications in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4.5 Headwater Feature Vegetation

Headwater feature vegetation evaluates the type of vegetation that is found within the drainage feature.  The type of vegetated within the channel influences the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem values that the feature provides.  For some types of headwater features the vegetation within the feature plays a very important role in flow and sediment movement and provides wildlife habitat.  The following classifications are evaluated no vegetation, lawn, wetland, meadow, scrubland and forest.  Figure 48 depicts the dominant vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Figure 48 Headwater feature vegetation types in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4.6 Headwater Feature Riparian Vegetation

Headwater riparian vegetation evaluates the type of vegetation that is found along the adjacent lands of a headwater drainage feature.  The type of vegetation within the riparian corridor influences the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem values that the feature provides to the watershed.  Figure 49 depicts the type of riparian vegetation observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Figure 49 Headwater feature riparian vegetation types in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4.7 Headwater Feature Sediment Deposition

Assessing the amount of recent sediment deposited in a channel provides an index of the degree to which the feature could be transporting sediment to downstream reaches (OSAP, 2013).  Evidence of excessive sediment deposition might indicate the requirement to follow up with more detailed targeted assessments upstream of the site location to identify potential best management practices to be implemented.  Sediment deposition ranged from none to minimal for the headwater sites sampled in the Blueberry Creek catchment area.  Figure 50 depicts the degree of sediment deposition observed at the sampled headwater sites in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Figure 50 Headwater feature sediment deposition in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

3.4.8 Headwater Feature Upstream Roughness

Feature roughness will provide a measure of the amount of materials within the bankfull channel that could slow down the velocity of water flowing within the headwater feature (OSAP, 2013).  Materials on the channel bottom that provide roughness include vegetation, wood structure and boulders/cobble substrates.  Roughness can provide benefits in mitigating downstream erosion on the headwater drainage feature and the receiving watercourse by reducing velocities.  Roughness also provides important habitat conditions for aquatic organisms.  Figure 51 shows the feature roughness conditions at the sampling location in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Figure 51 Headwater feature roughness in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

4.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Land Cover

Land cover and any change in coverage that has occurred over a six year period is summarized for the Blueberry Creek catchment using spatially continuous vector data representing the catchment during the spring of 2008 and 2014. This dataset was developed by the RVCA through heads-up digitization of 20cm DRAPE ortho-imagery at a 1:4000 scale and details the surrounding landscape using 10 land cover classes.

4.1  Blueberry Creek Catchment Land Cover/Change

As shown in Table 8 and Figure 1, the dominant land cover types in 2014 is wetland closely followed by crop and pastureland.

Table 8 Land cover (2008 vs. 2014) in the Blueberry Creek catchment
Land Cover20082014Change - 2008 to 2014
AreaAreaArea
HaPercentHaPercentHaPercent
Wetland **15604015614010
>Evaluated(1315)(34)(1315)(34)(0)(0)
>Unevaluated(245)(6)(246)(6)(1)(0)
Crop and Pasture134834134234-60
Woodland*6991869318-60
Settlement1905199590
Transportation74275210
Meadow-Thicket301281-20
Aggregate9<112<130
Water<1<1<1<100
* Does not include treed swamps ** Includes treed swamps

From 2008 to 2014, there was an overall change of 14 hectares (from one land cover class to another). Most of the change in the Blueberry Creek catchment is a result of crop and pastureland being converted to settlement and aggregates. The remainder of the change can be attributed to the transformation of woodland to crop and pastureland and settlement (Figure 52).

Figure xx Land cover change in the Kings Creek catchment (2014)
Figure 52 Land cover change in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2008 to 2014)
 

Table 9 provides a detailed breakdown of all land cover change that has taken place in the Blueberry Creek catchment between 2008 and 2014.

Table 9 Land cover change in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2008 to 2014)
Land CoverChange - 2008 to 2014
Area
Ha.Percent
Crop and Pasture to Settlement6.343.5
Woodland to Crop and Pasture2.819.7
Crop and Pasture to Aggregate2.719.1
Woodland to Settlement2.617.8
 

4.2 Woodland Cover

In the Environment Canada Guideline (Third Edition) entitled “How Much Habitat Is Enough?” (hereafter referred to as the “Guideline”) the opening narrative under the Forest Habitat Guidelines section states that prior to European settlement, forest was the predominant habitat in the Mixedwood Plains ecozone. The remnants of this once vast forest now exist in a fragmented state in many areas (including the Rideau Valley watershed) with woodland patches of various sizes distributed across the settled landscape along with higher levels of forest cover associated with features such as the Frontenac Axis (within the on-Shield areas of the Rideau Lakes and Tay River subwatersheds). The forest legacy, in terms of the many types of wildlife species found, overall species richness, ecological functions provided and ecosystem complexity is still evident in the patches and regional forest matrices (found in the Tay River subwatershed and elsewhere in the Rideau Valley watershed). These ecological features are in addition to other influences which forests have on water quality and stream hydrology including reducing soil erosion, producing oxygen, storing carbon along with many other ecological services that are essential not only for wildlife but for human well-being.

The Guideline also notes that forests provide a great many habitat niches that are in turn occupied by a great diversity of plant and animal species. They provide food, water and shelter for these species - whether they are breeding and resident locally or using forest cover to help them move across the landscape. This diversity of species includes many that are considered to be species at risk. Furthermore, from a wildlife perspective, there is increasing evidence that the total forest cover in a given area is a major predictor of the persistence and size of bird populations, and it is possible or perhaps likely that this pattern extends to other flora and fauna groups. The overall effect of a decrease in forest cover on birds in fragmented landscapes is that certain species disappear and many of the remaining ones become rare, or fail to reproduce, while species adapted to more open and successional habitats, as well as those that are more tolerant to human-induced disturbances in general, are able to persist and in some cases thrive. Species with specialized-habitat requirements are most likely to be adversely affected. The overall pattern of distribution of forest cover, the shape, area and juxtaposition of remaining forest patches and the quality of forest cover also play major roles in determining how valuable forests will be to wildlife and people alike.

The current science generally supports minimum forest habitat requirements between 30 and 50 percent, with some limited evidence that the upper limit may be even higher, depending on the organism/species phenomenon under investigation or land-use/resource management planning regime being considered/used.

As shown in Figure 53, 25 percent of the Blueberry Creek catchment contains 693 hectares of upland forest and 285 hectares of lowland forest (treed swamps) versus the 47 percent of woodland cover in the Tay River subwatershed. This is less than the 30 percent of forest cover that is identified as the minimum threshold required to sustain forest birds according to the Guideline and which may only support less than one half of potential species richness and marginally healthy aquatic systems. When forest cover drops below 30 percent, forest birds tend to disappear as breeders across the landscape.

Figure 53 Woodland cover and forest interior in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2014)
 

4.2.1 Woodland (Patch) Size

According to the Ministry of Natural Resources’ Natural Heritage Reference Manual (Second Edition), larger woodlands are more likely to contain a greater diversity of plant and animal species and communities than smaller woodlands and have a greater relative importance for mobile animal species such as forest birds.

Bigger forests often provide a different type of habitat. Many forest birds breed far more successfully in larger forests than they do in smaller woodlots and some rely heavily on forest interior conditions. Populations are often healthier in regions with more forest cover and where forest fragments are grouped closely together or connected by corridors of natural habitat. Small forests support small numbers of wildlife. Some species are “area-sensitive” and tend not to inhabit small woodlands, regardless of forest interior conditions. Fragmented habitat also isolates local populations, especially small mammals, amphibians and reptiles with limited mobility. This reduces the healthy mixing of genetic traits that helps populations survive over the long run (Conserving the Forest Interior. Ontario Extension Notes, 2000).

The Environment Canada Guideline also notes that for forest plants that do not disperse broadly or quickly, preservation of some relatively undisturbed large forest patches is needed to sustain them because of their restricted dispersal abilities and specialized habitat requirements and to ensure continued seed or propagation sources for restored or regenerating areas nearby.

The Natural Heritage Reference Manual continues by stating that a larger size also allows woodlands to support more resilient nutrient cycles and food webs and to be big enough to permit different and important successional stages to co-exist. Small, isolated woodlands are more susceptible to the effects of blowdown, drought, disease, insect infestations, and invasions by predators and non-indigenous plants. It is also known that the viability of woodland wildlife depends not only on the characteristics of the woodland in which they reside, but also on the characteristics of the surrounding landscape where the woodland is situated. Additionally, the percentage of forest cover in the surrounding landscape, the presence of ecological barriers such as roads, the ability of various species to cross the matrix surrounding the woodland and the proximity of adjacent habitats interact with woodland size in influencing the species assemblage within a woodland.

In the Blueberry Creek catchment (in 2014), sixty-four (49 percent) of the 130 woodland patches are very small, being less than one hectare in size. Another 54 (42 percent) of the woodland patches ranging from one to less than 20 hectares in size tend to be dominated by edge-tolerant bird species. The remaining 12 (nine percent of) woodland patches range between 21 and 125 hectares in size. Ten of these patches contain woodland between 20 and 100 hectares and may support a few area-sensitive species and some edge intolerant species, but will be dominated by edge tolerant species.

Conversely, two (two percent) of the 273 woodland patches in the drainage area exceed the 100 plus hectare size needed to support most forest dependent, area sensitive birds and are large enough to support approximately 60 percent of edge-intolerant species. No patch tops 200 hectares, which according to the Environment Canada Guideline will support 80 percent of edge-intolerant forest bird species (including most area sensitive species) that prefer interior forest habitat conditions.

Table 10 presents a comparison of woodland patch size in 2008 and 2014 along with any changes that have occurred over that time. A decrease (of 5 hectares) has been observed in the overall woodland patch area between the two reporting periods with most change occurring in the one to 10 woodland patch size class range.

Table 10 Woodland patches in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2008 and 2014)
Woodland Patch Size Range (ha)Woodland* PatchesPatch Change
200820142008 to 2014
NumberAreaNumberAreaNumberArea
Count% Ha%Count% Ha%CountHa
Less than 1 6449232644923200
1 to 20564228629544228229-2-4
20 to 50752332475232240-1
50 to 1003221021322102100
100 to 2002223124222312400
Totals132100983100130100978100-2-5
*Includes treed swamps

4.2.2 Woodland (Forest) Interior Habitat

The forest interior is habitat deep within woodlands. It is a sheltered, secluded environment away from the influence of forest edges and open habitats. Some people call it the “core” or the “heart” of a woodland. The presence of forest interior is a good sign of woodland health, and is directly related to the woodland’s size and shape. Large woodlands with round or square outlines have the greatest amount of forest interior. Small, narrow woodlands may have no forest interior conditions at all. Forest interior habitat is a remnant natural environment, reminiscent of the extensive, continuous forests of the past. This increasingly rare forest habitat is now a refuge for certain forest-dependent wildlife; they simply must have it to survive and thrive in a fragmented forest landscape (Conserving the Forest Interior. Ontario Extension Notes, 2000).

The Natural Heritage Reference Manual states that woodland interior habitat is usually defined as habitat more than 100 metres from the edge of the woodland and provides for relative seclusion from outside influences along with a moister, more sheltered and productive forest habitat for certain area sensitive species. Woodlands with interior habitat have centres that are more clearly buffered against the edge effects of agricultural activities or more harmful urban activities than those without.

In the Blueberry Creek catchment (in 2014), the 273 woodland patches contain 18 forest interior patches (Figure 53) that occupy three percent (136 ha.) of the catchment land area (which is less than the five percent of interior forest in the Tay River subwatershed). This is below the ten percent figure referred to in the Environment Canada Guideline that is considered to be the minimum threshold for supporting edge intolerant bird species and other forest dwelling species in the landscape.

Most patches (14) have less than 10 hectares of interior forest, nine of which have small areas of interior forest habitat less than one hectare in size. The remaining four patches contain interior forest between 11 and 57 hectares in area. Between 2008 and 2014, there was no change in the number of woodland patches containing interior habitat in the catchment over the six year period (Table 11).

Table 11 Woodland interior in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2008 and 2014)
Woodland Interior Habitat Size Range (ha)Woodland InteriorInterior Change
200820142008 to 2014
NumberAreaNumberAreaNumberArea
CountPercentHaPercentCountPercent HaPercentCountHa
Less than 1 950329503200
1 to 105281612528161200
10 to 302112317211231700
30 to 5015.5372715.5372700
50 to 10015.5574215.5574200
Totals181001361001810013610000

4.3 Wetland Cover

Wetlands are habitats forming the interface between aquatic and terrestrial systems. They are among the most productive and biologically diverse habitats on the planet. By the 1980s, according to the Natural Heritage Reference Manual, 68 percent of the original wetlands south of the Precambrian Shield in Ontario had been lost through encroachment, land clearance, drainage and filling.

Wetlands perform a number of important ecological and hydrological functions and provide an array of social and economic benefits that society values. Maintaining wetland cover in a watershed provides many ecological, economic, hydrological and social benefits that are listed in the Reference Manual and which may include:

  • contributing to the stabilization of shorelines and to the reduction of erosion damage through the mitigation of water flow and soil binding by plant roots
  • mitigating surface water flow by storing water during periods of peak flow (such as spring snowmelt and heavy rainfall events) and releasing water during periods of low flow (this mitigation of water flow also contributes to a reduction of flood damage)
  • contributing to an improved water quality through the trapping of sediments, the removal and/or retention of excess nutrients, the immobilization and/or degradation of contaminants and the removal of bacteria
  • providing renewable harvesting of timber, fuel wood, fish, wildlife and wild rice
  • contributing to a stable, long-term water supply in areas of groundwater recharge and discharge
  • providing a high diversity of habitats that support a wide variety of plants and animals
  • acting as “carbon sinks” making a significant contribution to carbon storage
  • providing opportunities for recreation, education, research and tourism

Historically, the overall wetland coverage within the Great Lakes basin exceeded 10 percent, but there was significant variability among watersheds and jurisdictions, as stated in the Environment Canada Guideline. In the Rideau Valley Watershed, it has been estimated that pre-settlement wetland cover averaged 35 percent using information provided by Ducks Unlimited Canada (2010) versus the 21 percent of wetland cover existing in 2014 derived from DRAPE imagery analysis.

WetlandChangeTay-RiverBlueberry-Creek-001-001
Figure 54 Wetland cover in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2014)
 

This decline in wetland cover is also evident in the Blueberry Creek catchment (as seen in Figure 54 and summarized in Table 12), where wetland was reported to cover 65 percent of the area prior to settlement, as compared to 39 percent in 2014. This represents a 38 percent loss of historic wetland cover. To maintain critical hydrological, ecological functions along with related recreational and economic benefits provided by these wetland habitats in the catchment, a “no net loss” of currently existing wetlands should be employed to ensure the continued provision of tangible benefits accruing from them to landowners and surrounding communities.

Table 12 Wetland cover in the Blueberry Creek catchment (Historic to 2014)
Wetland Cover Pre-settlement20082014Change - Historic to 2014
Area  Area  Area  Area  
Ha Percent Ha Percent Ha Percent Ha Percent 
Blueberry Creek253465156039156139-973-38
Tay Rivern/an/a15280191533019n/an/a
Rideau Valley13411535n/an/a8207621-52039-39

4.4 Shoreline Cover

The riparian or shoreline zone is that special area where the land meets the water. Well-vegetated shorelines are critically important in protecting water quality and creating healthy aquatic habitats, lakes and rivers. Natural shorelines intercept sediments and contaminants that could impact water quality conditions and harm fish habitat in streams. Well established buffers protect the banks against erosion, improve habitat for fish by shading and cooling the water and provide protection for birds and other wildlife that feed and rear young near water. A recommended target (from the Environment Canada Guideline) is to maintain a minimum 30 metre wide vegetated buffer along at least 75 percent of the length of both sides of rivers, creeks and streams.

Figure 55 shows the extent of the ‘Natural’ vegetated riparian zone (predominantly wetland/woodland features) and ‘Other’ anthropogenic cover (crop/pastureland, roads/railways, settlements) along a 30-metre-wide area of land along both sides of the shoreline of the many unnamed watercourses (including headwater streams) found in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

Figure 55 Natural and other riparian land cover in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2014)
 
 

This analysis shows that the riparian zone in the Blueberry Creek catchment is composed of wetland (55 percent), woodland (19 percent), crop and pastureland (19 percent), settlement (four percent), transportation (two percent), meadow-thicket and aggregate (less than one percent). Along the many watercourses (including headwater streams) flowing into Blueberry Creek, the riparian buffer is composed of wetland (47 percent), crop and pastureland (25 percent), woodland (24 percent), settlement areas (three percent) and roads (one percent). Along Blueberry Creek itself, the riparian zone is composed of wetland (82 percent), woodland (six percent), settlement (six percent), crop and pastureland (three percent), transportation (two percent) and meadow-thicket (less than one percent).

Additional statistics for the Blueberry Creek catchment are presented in Tables 13, 14 and 15 and show that there has been very little to no change in shoreline cover from 2008 to 2014.

Table 13 Riparian land cover in the Blueberry Creek catchment (2008 vs. 2014)
Riparian Land Cover20082014Change - 2008 to 2014
AreaAreaArea
Ha.Percent Ha.PercentHa.Percent
Wetland150.1555.38150.1555.380.000.00
> Unevaluated(65.85)(24.29)(65.85)(24.29)(0.00)(0.00)
>Evaluated(84.30)(31.09)(84.30)(31.09)(0.00)(0.00)
Woodland53.2419.6453.0719.57-0.17-0.07
Crop & Pasture53.0819.5853.0819.580.180.00
Settlement10.013.6910.193.760.180.07
Transportation4.261.574.261.570.000.00
Meadow-Thicket0.320.120.320.120.000.00
Aggregates0.090.030.090.030.000.00
Table 14 Riparian land cover along Blueberry Creek (2008 vs. 2014)
Riparian Land Cover20082014Change - 2008 to 2014
AreaAreaArea
Ha.Percent Ha.PercentHa.Percent
Wetland56.1182.3156.1182.310.000.00
> Unevaluated21.0130.8221.0130.820.000.00
>Evaluated35.151.4935.151.490.000.00
Woodland4.386.434.386.430.000.00
Settlement3.895.73.895.70.000.00
Crop & Pasture2.123.122.123.120.000.00
Transportation1.442.111.442.110.000.00
Meadow-Thicket0.230.340.230.340.000.00
 
Table 15 Riparian land cover along streams in the Blueberry Creek Catchment (2008 vs. 2014)
Riparian Land Cover20082014Change - 2008 to 2014
AreaAreaArea
Ha.Percent Ha.PercentHa.Percent
Wetland94.4746.8894.4746.880.000.00
> Unevaluated(45.28)(22.47)(45.28)(22.47)(0.00)(0.00)
>Evaluated(49.19)(24.41)(49.19)(24.41)(0.00)(0.00)
Crop & Pasture50.0524.8350.0524.830.000.00
Woodland47.6323.6347.4523.54-0.18-0.09
Settlement6.123.046.33.130.180.09
Transportation2.871.432.871.430.000.00
Meadow-Thicket0.310.150.310.150.000.00
Aggregates0.080.040.080.040.000.00

5.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Stewardship and Water Resources Protection

The RVCA and its partners are working to protect and enhance environmental conditions in the Tay River Watershed. Figure 56 shows the location of all stewardship projects completed in the Blueberry Creek catchment.

StewardshipTay-RiverBlueberry-Creek-001-001
Figure 56 Stewardship site locations in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

5.1 Rural Clean Water

The Rural Clean Water Program provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and other rural landowners, to aid in the implementation of projects that protect water quality. Funding is granted to those projects that support best management practices for application in the protection and improvement of surface and ground water resources.  The program also supports climate change adaptation and low impact development projects as well as educating rural landowners about environmental stewardship of private property. Examples of supported projects include livestock exclusion fencing, controlled tile drainage, cover crops, erosion control, well related projects, and many more. For a list of eligible projects and to apply for funding, see Rural Clean Water.

In the Blueberry Creek catchment from 2011 to 2016, one septic system repair, one well decommissioning, one well replacement, one well upgrade and one education initiative were completed; prior to this, three septic system repairs, three well upgrades, one well decommissioning, one livestock fencing project, one windbreak/buffer project and one education initiative had been completed. When combined, these projects are keeping 2.4 kilograms of Phosphorus out of our lakes, rivers and streams every year. Total value of all 15 projects is $72,414 with $18,661 of that amount funded through grant dollars from the RVCA.

5.2 Private Land Forestry

Forest cover and tree planting continues to be one of the most widely supported strategies to improve our environment. The many benefits of forest cover include carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and water quality improvement as well as providing wildlife habitat.

Through the RVCA's Trees for Tomorrow Program (and its predecessors), 2,000 trees were planted at one site from 2011 to 2016; prior to this, 1,800 trees were planted at four sites. In total, 3,800 trees have been planted resulting in the reforestation of two hectares. Total value of all five projects in the Blueberry Creek catchment is $9,532 with $7,354 of that amount coming from fundraising sources. For more information about the Program and landowner eligibility, please see the following: Tree Planting in the Rideau Valley Watershed and Trees for Tomorrow.

5.3 Shoreline Naturalization

Though the RVCA’s Shoreline Naturalization Program , landowners (private and public property owners) have naturalized more than 2.3 km of shoreline in the Tay Watershed by planting over 10,563 native trees and shrubs at 96 sites since 2008. In the Blueberry Creek Catchment, 73 native trees and shrubs have been planted along shoreline with a total project value of $1,168. In 2013, new trees, shrubs and wildflowers were added to the naturalization demonstration garden at the Tay Valley Township municipal office on Harper Road.

5.4 Valley, Stream, Wetland and Hazard Lands

The Blueberry Creek catchment covers 39.1 square kilometres with 17.4 square kilometres (or 44.4 percent) of the drainage area being within the regulation limit of Ontario Regulation 174/06 (Figure 57), giving protection to wetland areas and river or stream valleys that are affected by flooding and erosion hazards.

Wetlands occupy 15.6 square kilometres (or 39.8 percent) of the catchment. Of these wetlands, 13.2 square kilometres (or 84.6 percent) are designated as provincially significant and included within the RVCA regulation limit. This leaves the remaining 2.4 square kilometres (or 15.4 percent) of wetlands in the catchment outside the regulated area limit.

Of the 45.9 kilometres of stream in the catchment, regulation limit mapping has been plotted along 19.6 kilometers of streams (representing 42.7 percent of all streams in the catchment). Some of these regulated streams (14.6 km) flow through regulated wetlands; the remaining five kilometres of regulated streams are located outside of those wetlands. Plotting of the regulation limit on the remaining 26.3 kilometres (or 57.3 percent) of streams requires identification of flood and erosion hazards and valley systems.

Within those areas of the Blueberry Creek catchment subject to the regulation (limit), efforts (have been made and) continue through RVCA planning and regulations input and review to manage the impact of development (and other land management practices) in areas where “natural hazards” are associated with rivers, streams, valley lands and wetlands. For areas beyond the regulation limit, protection of the catchment’s watercourses is only provided through the “alteration to waterways” provision of the regulation.

RegulatedFeatureswIPZTay-RiverBlueberry-Creek-001-001
Figure 57 Regulated natural features/hazards and Intake Protection Zones in the Blueberry Creek catchment
 

5.5 Vulnerable Drinking Water Areas

The Town of Perth’s municipal drinking water Intake Protection Zone (IPZ), specifically IPZ-2 with a vulnerability score of 8 and 9 is found within the Blueberry Creek catchment (Figure 57). As per the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan, policies may affect future development within these areas. Under Section 59 of the Clean Water Act, 2006, future applications under the Building Code and the Planning Act may be screened by the Mississippi-Rideau Risk Management Office. Depending on the proposed activity, additional requirements or restrictions may apply. For more information, please contact the Mississippi-Rideau Risk Management Office at (613) 692-3571.

In addition, the Mississippi-Rideau Source Protection Plan has mapped the central part of the Blueberry Creek catchment as within a Significant Groundwater Recharge Area and identified all of the catchment as a Highly Vulnerable Aquifer. This means that the nature of the overburden (thin soils, fractured bedrock) does not provide a high level of protection for the underlying groundwater making the aquifer more vulnerable to contaminants released on the surface. Highly Vulnerable Aquifers characterise 89% of the Region and are considered moderate to low drinking water threats with certain policies that apply; mainly policies regarding waste disposal. All property owners are encouraged to use best management practices to protect sources of municipal drinking water. For more information on source protection best management practices, please visit Protecting Your Drinking Water.

6.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Accomplishments/Activities

Achievements noted by the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association (FoTW) are indicated by an asterisk.

Development

The Town of Perth Official Plan Amendment (2009) has generally changed the land use designation in the northwest quadrant of the Town of Perth (area of the Town that is north of Highway 7, east of Highway 511 and south of the Blueberry Marsh) from Commercial Highway to Residential. This has required the annexation of approximately 30 hectares of land from Drummond/North Elmsley Township and the need to undertake an infrastructure master plan (initiated in 2010) to provide direction for the servicing of these lands for water, wastewater, stormwater and transportation. The Environmental Assessment for the area was competed in 2016 with input from the RVCA being incorporated into the overall master design.

In-stream/Fish Habitat

1.5 kilometres of Blueberry Creek have been surveyed and 11 headwaters are sampled once every six years by the RVCA using the Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol.

Shoreline Naturalization

Seventy-three native trees and shrubs have been planted along shoreline in the Blueberry Creek catchment with services provided by the RVCA Shoreline Naturalization Program.

Tree Planting

3,800 trees have been planted at five sites in the Blueberry Creek catchment by the RVCA Private Land Forestry Program, resulting in the reforestation of two hectares.

Water Quality

Since 2012, one monitoring site on Blueberry Creek is sampled yearly by the RVCA for 22 parameters, six times a year, to assess surface chemistry water quality conditions.

Since 2011, one Ontario Benthic Biomonitoring Network site on Blueberry Creek is sampled by the RVCA in the spring and fall of each year with three replicates, to assess instream biological water quality conditions. 

Fifteen Rural Clean Water Program projects were completed by the RVCA Rural Clean Water Program.

 

Waterway Planning and Management

The Tay Watershed Management Plan (2002) brought together a diverse group of watershed stakeholders to exchange information and opinions on the challenges facing the watershed. This forum focused the community on the need for managing the Tay Watershed, requiring positive cooperation amongst a range of stakeholders and helped develop a foundation of data and information on the watershed and resources against which later developments and trends are being measured and decisions are being made. 

The Plan also led to the formation of the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association, who have been instrumental in implementing 20 of 24 management plan recommendations. In the opinion of the Association, one of the most significant measures of success for the water protection activities carried out in the Tay watershed is that there has never been a serious environmental pollution incident that threatened the area’s drinking water or its recreational waterbodies. To this day, the Friends of the Tay Watershed remain committed to preserving and enhancing the health of the Tay River watershed through their work.*

7.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Challenges/Issues

Issues noted by the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association (FoTW) are indicated by an asterisk.

Headwaters/In-stream Habitat/Shorelines

Blueberry Creek catchment watercourses (including Blueberry Creek) have 74 percent of the total length of their shoreline composed of natural vegetation). This is below the recommended 30 metre wide, naturally vegetated shoreline buffer target to be aimed for along 75 percent of the length of the catchment’s watercourses (see Section 4.4 of this report).

Blueberry Creek catchment headwater and tributary streams (excluding Blueberry Creek) have 71 percent of the total length of their shoreline composed of natural vegetation. This is below the recommended 30 metre wide, naturally vegetated shoreline buffer target to be aimed for along 75 percent of the length of the catchment’s watercourses (see Section 4.4 of this report). 

Five of eleven sampled headwater stream sites have been modified (two are channelized; three are ditched)(see Section 3.4.2 of this report).

Land Cover

Land cover has changed across the catchment (2008 to 2014) largely as a result of an increase in the area of settlement (9 ha.) and aggregate extraction (3 ha.) and loss of woodland (6 ha.) and crop and pastureland (6 ha.)(see Section 4.1 of this report).

Wetlands have declined by 38 percent since European pre-settlement and now cover 39 percent (1561 ha.) of the catchment (in 2014). Fifteen percent (246 ha.) of these wetlands remain unevaluated/unregulated and are vulnerable to drainage and land clearing activities in the absence of any regulatory and planning controls that would otherwise protect them for the many important hydrological, social, biological and ecological functions/services/values they provide to landowners and the surrounding community (see Section 4.3 of this report).

Woodlands cover 25 percent of the catchment, which is less than the 30 percent of forest cover that is identified as the minimum threshold for sustaining forest birds and other woodland dependent species (see Section 4.2 of this report).

Water Levels

Stream flows (high, low and base) and water levels are unrecorded along Blueberry Creek.

Water Quality

Blueberry Creek surface chemistry water quality rating is Fair to Good at the Christie Lake Road crossing. The score at this site is largely influenced by continuous, high nutrient concentrations for TKN and occassional, elevated TP concentrations along with occassional metal (Aluminium) exceedances (see Section 2.1 of this report).

Blueberry Creek instream biological water quality conditions range from Poor to Fair at the Christie Lake Road crossing. Samples are dominated with benthic invertebrate species that are moderately tolerant and tolerant to high organic pollution levels (see Section 3.3.1 of this report).

8.0 Blueberry Creek Catchment: Actions/Opportunities

Aquatic Habitat/Fisheries

Educate waterfront property owners about fish habitat requirements, spawning timing and near-shore and in-water activities that can disturb or destroy fish habitat and spawning sites.

Work with various partners, including Drummond/North Elmsley Township, landowners, the Friends of the Tay Watershed Association, Tay Valley Township and the Town of Perth on fish habitat enhancement projects in the Tay River watershed, building off of new knowledge and the recommendations as described in the report "Fish Habitat of the Tay River Watershed: Existing Conditions and Opportunities for Enhancement" (2002) prepared by MNR, RVCA, Parks Canada, and DFO.

Development

Ensure that the final recommendations of the Perth Infrastructure Master Plan are implemented such that the natural hazard and natural heritage issues within the planning area are addressed through site specific planning approvals and infrastructure servicing.

Work with approval authorities (Drummond/North Elmsley Township, Lanark County, Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, Mississippi Rideau Septic System Office, RVCA, Tay Valley Township and Town of Perth) and landowners to consistently implement current land use planning and development policies for water quality and shoreline protection adjacent to Blueberry Creek and headwater streams in the catchment (i.e., a minimum 30 metre development setback from water).

Explore ways and means to more effectively implement and enforce conditions of land-use planning and development approval to achieve net environmental gains (particularly with respect to rehabilitating or protecting naturally vegetated shorelines and water quality).

Encourage Committees of Adjustment to take advantage of technical and environmental information and recommendations forthcoming from planning and environmental professionals.

Ongoing education and dialogue regarding the regulatory floodplain, its implementation and the effect it has on development continues to represent an opportunity to assist the public in understanding the importance of planning, which respects this natural hazard.

Municipalities in the Tay Watershed are encouraged to strengthen natural heritage and water resources official plan policies and zoning provisions (pertaining to water setbacks, frontage and naturalized shorelines and wetland protection) where deemed appropriate.

Work with Drummond/North Elmsley Township, Lanark County, Tay Valley Township, Town of Perth and agencies to ensure that development approvals around lakes and along watercourses take into consideration the protection of fish habitat (including the near-shore nursery and spawning habitat).

Utilize RVCA subwatershed and catchment reports to help develop, revise and implement official plan policies to protect surface water resources and the natural environment (including woodlands, wetlands and shoreline cover).

Land Cover

Consider reforestation of the Blueberry Creek catchment to raise the current level of forest cover (at 25 percent) above the recommended 30 percent minimum threshold that is needed to sustain woodland dependent species and woodland biodiversity on the landscape. Reaching this target will also help to improve the capacity of the forests in the catchment to reduce flooding and water-borne soil erosion, store more carbon and dampen the effects of the changing climate. Take advantage of the RVCA Trees for Tomorrow Program to achieve this on idle and/or marginal land.

Establish RVCA regulation limits around the 15 percent (246 ha.) of wetlands in the catchment that are unevaluated. Doing this will help protect landowners from natural hazards including  mitigating surface water flow by storing water during periods of peak flow (such as spring snowmelt and heavy rainfall events) and releasing water during periods of low flow (this mitigation of water flow reduces flood damage), as well as contributing to the stabilization of shorelines and to the reduction of soil erosion damage through water flow mitigation and plant soil binding/retention.

Shorelines

Take advantage of the RVCA Shoreline Naturalization Program to re-naturalize altered creek and stream shoreline identified in this report as “Unnatural Riparian Land Cover". Target shoreline restoration at sites shown in orange on the Riparian Land Cover map (see Figure 55 in Section 4.4 of this report). Concentrate stewardship efforts along the headwater and tributary streams of Blueberry Creek in the catchment, which have 71 percent of the total length of their shoreline composed of natural vegetation (this is below the recommended 30 metre wide, naturally vegetated shoreline buffer target to be aimed for along 75 percent of the length of the catchment’s watercourses). Other stewardship opportunities in the catchment may be determined based on septic system inspections and surface water quality monitoring results.

Promote the use of bioengineering methods (using native shrub/tree planting, fascines, live stakes) as a shoreline erosion mitigation measure as well as a cost effective alternative to shoreline hardening (with rip rap, armour stone, gabion baskets, walls).

Educate landowners about the value and importance of natural shorelines and property best management practices with respect to shoreline use and development, septic system installation and maintenance and shoreline vegetation retention and enhancement (Drummond/North Elmsley Township, Leeds Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit, Mississippi Rideau Septic System Office, RVCA, Tay Valley Township and Town of Perth).

Water Quality

Consider further investigation of the Fair to Good surface chemistry water quality rating and Poor to Fair instream biological water quality rating on Blueberry Creek as part of a review of RVCA's Baseline and Benthic Invertebrate surface water quality monitoring.

Offer funding provided by the RVCA Rural Clean Water Program to landowners with potential projects that could improve water quality on Blueberry Creek and its tributaries (e.g., livestock fencing, septic system repair/replacement and streambank erosion control/stabilisation).

Educate waterfront property owners about septic system care by providing information about sewage system maintenance (i.e., when to pump out septic systems and holding talks) through initiatives such as the Septic Savvy Workshop and services provided by the Mississippi Rideau Septic System Office.

Reduce pollutant loading to Blueberry Creek through education about the application of shoreline, stormwater and agricultural best management practices; also consider using low impact development (LID) methods to improve the quality and reduce the amount of stormwater runoff directly reaching the river ecosystem. This will be particularly beneficial in areas with extensive impervious surfaces (i.e., asphalt, concrete, buildings, and severely compacted soils) or on sensitive shoreline properties (with steep slopes/banks, shallow/impermeable soils).