“Physically, the culverts impede fish movement,” said Gerry McKenna, Section Manager of Environment (Corporate Programs) with OPG. “The ultimate goal is to restore the whole watershed for the betterment of fish species in the area.”
Last year, OPG, in a biodiversity partnership with the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA), worked to remove, bypass or repair three derelict culverts in Wesleyville Creek, located just west of Port Hope, to help native coldwater fish species like brook trout.
This fall, work began once again to remove another damaged and blocked culvert. The channel was not only obstructing tributary access to the northeast, it was also causing local flooding to the Wesleyville site, a big headache for OPG’s firefighters and emergency training staff stationed at the facility.
With the culvert now removed, the conservation agency is working to revegetate the affected stream bank with native trees and shrubs.
“The removal of this culvert enables us to restore the connection of the lower part of Wesleyville Creek to the northeast,” McKenna said. “Native brook trout will now be able to migrate down to Lake Ontario to feed and spawn and then move back upstream. We’re hoping to see a positive impact on their numbers.”
Other native fish species that will benefit from this work include the white sucker as well as non-native species like the rainbow trout.
As part of this unique biodiversity project, the GRCA has tagged several brook trout and rainbow trout in an effort to gauge the health of the fish population in the creek, compare the size and age of the fish, and track their movements.
“We’re actually getting good fisheries science and data out of this program,” McKenna said.
This initiative is all part of OPG’s corporate biodiversity program, which aims to protect and nurture species and their habitats wherever the company operates. In addition to the creek restoration in Wesleyville, OPG has installed nesting boxes for birds in the area and also monitors a turtle nesting habitat.
Wesleyville Creek may be small, but it’s one of the highest quality cold water streams on the north shore of Lake Ontario. As such, it is important to foster the watershed’s health and improve its biodiversity, McKenna said.
“We want to help these species stay healthy. There are lots of threats, but we’re helping them maintain access to different parts of the stream and to Lake Ontario,” he said.