HEART RIVER WATERSHED RESTORATION PROJECTCategory: 2016, Current, Grant, Major Project, Water
The Heart River is located in northern Alberta and enters the Peace River at the Town of Peace River. Changes within the watershed in the last few decades have resulted in issues and concerns related to aquatic health, particularly fish and fish habitat. Over time, development, land use activities in the watershed and recreational fishing have impacted fish and their habitat in the Heart River.
Current land use and development practices have resulted in incremental loss and damage of the riparian areas which are critical to fish for shade and food as well as filtering and buffering for quality water. The results of water quality monitoring indicate that agricultural activities are one of the actions contributing to the deterioration of source water quality within the Heart River watershed. Clearing of land, altering wetlands and removing the riparian areas affects the filtering and buffering functions of the watershed. These alterations decrease the ability of the watershed to handle spring run-off or high flow events and result in excessive nutrients, sediments, bacteria and other pollutants entering the river or tributaries. Degraded water quality plus augmented sediment loads and oxygen deficits reduce fish production.
The goal of the Heart River Watershed Restoration Project is to restore fish habitat by improving water quality and quantity because there has been significant loss of the native fish populations, resulting from both extensive habitat alteration and poor water quality. The Project Team, which includes Cows and Fish, Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance, Northern Sunrise County, Peace Country Beef and Forage, SARDA Ag Research (formerly the Smoky Applied Research and Demonstration Association), and the Village of Nampa have been working on numerous aspects to address this.
First, the Project Team wrote a Watershed Restoration Plan for the Heart River to provide guidance and to focus actions required to conserve and restore fish habitat in the watershed including identifying and prioritizing the main levers in this system. The Restoration Plan outlines six restoration activities and performance measures, identified collaboratively by the Project Team. Now preparation is beginning for the 2016 field season when this work will begin. This project includes development of the Life and Times of the Heart River Watershed (video above) as a key education and outreach presentation to engage and inform landowners and residents about the issues and promote change. Implementation of restoration projects, working with landowners, will help influence riparian habitat benefiting water quality and fish habitat at each site, and cumulatively downstream.