Category: 2016, Completed, Grant, Major Project, Water


Cows and Fish


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Heart River Watershed Restoration Project

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Heart River Watershed Restoration Project 55.592329, -116.509461 Heart River Watershed Restoration ProjectThe Heart River Watershed Restoration Project is one of a few on-the-ground restoration projects with localized and dedicated planning by numerous diverse partners, particularly in the northern part of Alberta. We know that multiple years of efforts to get to this point will only bear fruit by seeing changes on the ground to benefit fish habitat, water quality and quantity. Quantifying riparian health will create a necessary baseline to monitor our success. Engaging the community will lead to more effective communication about the project and the work being undertaken, encouraging more similar work in the future.Learn more. Heart River, AB, Canada (Directions)


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.

In September of 2017, the project partners hosted an Agricultural Stewardship Tour. You can view the different restoration sites showcased on the tour in this presentation.