Watershed group looking out for Upper Cornwallis improvements
BY SARA KEDDY
Kings County Register Along the edge of both a farmer’s field and wetland is the perfect spot to launch a watershed protection society’s program.
That’s exactly what residents and researchers did June 5 in Somerset, launching the Cornwallis Headwaters Society’s work to protect and improve conditions on the land and waters feeding the upper stretches of the Valley river. “This group is unique: it didn’t form out of ‘Oh my, we’ve had a spill’,” society chairman Kevin Spicer. “We’ve been proactive and we hope to scale up and do more.”
The society, since its first general meeting in September, has become a community sounding board for multiple research projects taking place over 3,260 hectares north of Berwick, from Weston and Viewmount east to Grafton and the Black Rock mountain. It’s also spearheaded a number of projects of its own, including a new website, an awareness pamphlet and, the object of this day’s get-together, a stream monitoring station on the Rand Brook to fit in with a half-dozen other monitoring stations.
Project coordinator Angie Garnett reviewed some of the science going on in the upper watershed area, including her own grad work on adding compost to crop fields. Farmers have made great efforts working on stream fencing and animal crossings and watering stations to protect waterways. Partners in agriculture, natural resources, environment and non-profit conservation groups have all pitched in with funding, assessments, manpower and expertise. “As more people join the society, we’ll be able to do more projects,” she said.
Ag Canada researcher Dale Hebb has been working on projects started in the Upper Cornwallis in 2001, specifically on the Thomas Brook watershed. This brook is one of just seven across Canada in a three-year study of best management practices. “Overall, some of the recent numbers, we’re having some impacts,” he said, describing changes to watershed farm run-off and manure management plans and some stream fencing.
Through 2008, the Thomas Brook project and its federal counterparts are reviewing strategies for the next few years: what works, what should be funded and whether there are more “aggressive” practices that can be started.
Dr. Soren Bondrup-Nielson of Acadia University says even just a year between a fencing project on one farm and a check-up this spring indicates a “noticeable difference. “This year- there are spring peepers, frogs, there appears to be more birds. There has been a short-term impact right there.”
Garnett summarized a stream health assessment done in 2007 – 438 11-question assessments over 147 kilometres - which found 60 per cent of the waterways are “healthy”: good places for wildlife with undisturbed riparian zones to provide habitat and protect against erosion and human intrusion. Seventeen per cent had problems, while 23 per cent were unhealthy. “We’re no worse than anywhere else, but there are places for improvement,” she said.