Restoration Pilot Project
August and September have been a very busy time for the project and the partnership.
We are very excited to share what we have completed
on the first phase of the Netley Marsh Renewal.
The Netley Marsh is a crucial piece in keeping Lake Winnipeg healthy.
We must all do our part!
Before we get into our update we would like to share with you a brief history on the journey
we took to get here. Our desire to help restore the Netley Libau Marsh started prior to 2018.
We began to work with our First Nations, the Metis and other leading non-for-profit organizations
who believe that saving the Netley Libau Marsh is crucial to health of Lake Winnipeg.
We have since been honoured to receive additional support from our municipalities and Manitoba Hydro.
In 2018, we partnered with the Southern Chiefs Organization to bring awareness to water management and water quality issues for the basin. At that meeting, called the "Spirit of Water",
we had First Nations leaders, along with Federal, Provincial, City, Municipal and business leaders all sitting at one table.
It was a first for Manitoba to have all levels of governance sitting at one table and discussing this crucial need of working together to protect the waters of Lake Winnipeg.
The success of that meeting, created direction to engage all First Nations and Leaders across the Lake Winnipeg Basin and in 2019 we hosted the "One Basin One Governance" Conference in Winnipeg.
It was these events that helped lead us to taking action to Save Netley Marsh.
We are truly grateful to the outstanding organizations that now participate collectively to make this project a success. We give thanks to; University of Manitoba, International Institute for Sustainable Development, Ducks Unlimited, Peguis First Nation, Brokenhead Ojibway Nation, Sagkeeng First Nation, Southern Chiefs Organization and South Basin Mayors and Reeves for sharing the same compassion of saving and protecting the largest coastal wetland in North America.
In the Spring of 2021, the federal and provincial licensing for this project was finalized. The license allows a specific area of the Red River, with an abundance of natural siltation buildup, to be dredged and deposited into the designated area of the Marsh. These project activities recently occurred during August and September of 2021.
This simple process, proven successful in other parts of the world, is to elevate the bottom to allow the return of the hemi-marsh that once existed.
To date, this project has presented us with many challenges which we have met and overcome. The techniques of transferring siltation buildup and depositing it to another location a great distance away sounds simple, but as stated, there was much
to learn in executing this process.
It is our plan to apply for a slight extension within our license. The hopes of the project,
with our amazing partnership, is to further develop a strong case for a 5 year program.
This extension will allow us the opportunity to collect further valuable information
to strengthen the justification for funding this important work.
Our goal is to show how the new vegetation growth can occur and its value
of taking phosphorus out of the system. This will reduce the nutrient rich waters of the
Red River and Lake Winnipeg and will help in improving habitat
allowing the fauna and the flora to once again return to the Marsh.
A healthy marsh will improve water quality: it will remove harmful
phosphorus, nitrogen, and other sediments present in dangerous quantities.
Studies have shown that a healthy Netley-Libau Marsh could have the potential to remove
up to 6% or more of the phosphorus from the Red River and Lake Winnipeg each year.
This exceeds the amount of phosphorus that is contributed by the cities of Winnipeg,
Selkirk and Brandon to Lake Winnipeg on an annual basis.
We will continue to share updates
as the project progresses.
Please remember we can all play a role
in protecting Lake Winnipeg.
The Netley-Libau Marsh has been deteriorating for a number of reasons, to the point it is no longer a healthy functioning marsh.
We can still save the marsh, but the time to act is NOW!
To maintain a channel between the Red River and Lake Winnipeg, the river has been regularly dredged from 1883 until 1999. But since its interruption, sediment has been building up at the mouth of the river and started diverting a significant portion of the river flow into the marsh. Today, this marsh resembles more to a shallow-water lake. Other factors that play a role in this include manipulation of water levels on Lake Winnipeg, ice-jamming, climate change, upstream drainage, and the effect of invasive species like the common carp.
The Netley Marsh now has had extreme changes areas of vegetation used by fish, wildlife, Indigenous’ cultural traditions, recreation. It also reduces the marsh’s capacity to absorb nutrients off the water. Altered water levels are maintaining periods of high water, with short low water levels period needed for plants to sprout and grow in new areas.
The Netley Cut
The Netley Cut was originally created in 1913 to drain hayland within the marsh and to provide easier access to the marsh to harvest the hayland. Recent studies have shown that up to 50% of the flow of the Red River can move through the main channel to Lake Winnipeg. The Netley Cut has grown wider over recent decades and is one of the major causes of sustained high-water levels in the marsh.
After 1999, residents living near the Red River noticed changes in the water levels and an increased occurrence of ice jams. They believe that the lack of dredging could be contributing to flooding in Selkirk, St. Andrews, St. Clements and Netley-Libau Marsh areas as well as an increase in ice jams at the lower portion of the Red River. In response to increased ice jams, an ice breaking program was implemented with the expectation that it would alleviate flooding due to ice jams along the Red River, but it may have in turn, contributed to the increase in the width of the Netley Cut.
The widening of the Netley Cut increases the water flow moving into the Netley Marsh in spring by forcing the ice jams and moving water into the marsh through the cut.
The Restoration Project
Numerous studies suggest that resuming dredging could improve the water flow on the Red River and reduce the water moving into the marsh via the Netley Cut. In addition to this, the dredged material can be used to create sediment islands within the marsh. This form of sediment management would create a suitable habitat for the growth of vegetation and could help restore the Netley-Libau Marsh.
A group of organizations took these concerns and are now working on a pilot project to explore the feasibility of this concept and the benefits that marsh restoration could have on hydrology, sediment, fisheries, and wildlife. The pilot project plans to dredge on specific areas of the Red River and use the material to construct sediment “shelves” within the Marsh.
These organizations formed a steering committee to oversee and provide governance to the project. The committee is currently proposing to use the Amphibex ice-breaking machines currently operated by the North Red Community Water Maintenance Inc. to perform precision dredging where required. These machines are originally designed as suction dredgers and can move dredged materials up to several kilometers (with addition of booster pumps). These sediment shelves created with the dredged material will provide the locations with lower water levels that plants require for growing.
We already mentioned that a healthy marsh can improve water quality: it could remove harmful phosphorus, nitrogen, and other sediments present in dangerous quantities. Studies have also shown that a healthy Netley-Libau Marsh could have the potential to remove up to 6% of the phosphorus from the Red River before it enters Lake Winnipeg each year. This exceeds the amount of phosphorus that the city of Winnipeg, Selkirk, and Brandon combined contribute to Lake Winnipeg on an annual basis.
But this is not a novel project. A similar concept has been used successfully for marsh restoration by Ducks Unlimited in Louisiana and other parts of the world. If it worked in other parts of the world, it can work to save the Netley-Libau Marsh.
Many Manitoban families have enjoyed and benefited from the Netley-Libau Marsh in the past.
It is our duty to preserve it for future generations, but also for the multiple benefits
that a thriving marsh can contribute to the health of Lake Winnipeg and our shared waters.
A Successful Project of
Marsh Restoration at the
Paul J Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary
The Amphibex 400
The Amphibex 400 has been used for the provincial ice breaking program, it was originally meant to be a dredger.
Amphibex is a Canadian company located in Quebec. These versatile dredgers are also friendly to the environment: they are equipped with a residential silencer that reduces noise emissions and disturbances. Their hydraulic system also uses biodegradable vegetable oil that is safe for the environment
These machines have been used in Manitoba mainly for the ice breaking program.