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Nanticoke wetland is a gift that keeps on giving

At the former site of North America’s largest coal generating station, a five-acre wetland continues to play a vital role for the environment and biodiversity in southwestern Ontario.

The five-acre Nanticoke wetland plays a vital role for the environment and biodiversity in southwestern Ontario.
The five-acre Nanticoke wetland plays a vital role for the environment and biodiversity in southwestern Ontario.

Back in 2010, OPG partnered with the Long Point Region Conservation Authority to build a new wetland near the Nanticoke Generating Station, located on the shores of Lake Erie in Haldimand County.

Nine years later, the beautiful site is teeming with wildlife and plant species. The Nanticoke wetland improves water quality through nutrient retention, water filtration, flood control, ground water recharge and erosion control. The area also provides habitat for wildlife, including local and migratory species of waterfowl, shorebirds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

“As wetlands across Ontario continue to disappear due to residential and commercial development, it’s important to continue to support the creation of new wetlands like this one to help improve the province’s environmental health,” said Gerry McKenna, Section Manager of OPG’s Corporate Environment Programs.

More than 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s wetlands have already disappeared, part of a global trend that has seen more than 64 per cent of the world’s wetlands vanish since 1900, according to the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Losing wetlands means losing vital ecological services as well as unique wildlife habitats and feeding grounds for many animals and insects.

A baby snapping turtle spotted near the Nanticoke wetland.
A baby snapping turtle spotted near the Nanticoke wetland.

The Nanticoke wetland was created as part of OPG’s Corporate Biodiversity Program and the former coal plant’s commitment to the Wildlife Habitat Council’s (WHC) Conservation Certification program, with Long Point Conservation Authority providing the construction plan.

As a natural watercourse flows through the wetland location, drainage culverts had to be raised to retain water at the site. Clay from the wetland was then used to construct berms along its perimeter, creating a natural reservoir. Wetland plant species emerged through plantings and naturalization of the site.

Today, the site remains one of the shining examples of OPG’s biodiversity program. The wetland was a finalist for the “Wings over Wetlands” award by the WHC in its 2013 site recertification, which recognizes actions to improve biodiversity and conservation on corporate lands.

Virginia rail, a small waterbird, like the one pictured here are making use of the Nanticoke wetland.
Virginia rail, a small waterbird, like the one pictured here are making use of the Nanticoke wetland.

In 2012, a snapping turtle nest area was added with the assistance of the Stewardship Youth Rangers. Since 2013, a snapping turtle has used the area annually and OPG staff are quick to place a protective screen over the eggs to protect them from predators.

“We’re really proud of the work that went into creating this wetland and are very happy with how healthy it continues to be,” said McKenna. In his surveys of the area, he continues to see new species of birds and other wildlife. He has observed six species of amphibians using the wetland along with painted turtles, snapping turtles, waterfowl, and marsh birds, such as the green heron. “It is playing a very valuable role in the area.”