Showcasing natural options to restoring the St. Clair River Shoreline

Natural shoreline stabilization on St. Clair River.

Photo: St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.

2012-2013 Funding: $510,000, including $135,000 provided by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

Other Project Contributors: the Ontario Ministry of the Environment; the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; St. Clair Township; and the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority.

Habitat managers are hoping to encourage the use of natural shoreline stabilization techniques by private and municipal landowners along the St. Clair River, through a demonstration project at a popular Sarnia riverside park supported by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund.

The St. Clair River Area of Concern extends 64 kilometres from Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair. Over the years, the river has been changed dramatically by industrial activity and urban development along its shores. For example, the river’s natural shoreline was altered when seawalls and bulkheads were installed along about one-third of the total shoreline on the Canadian side, primarily to support Great Lakes shipping. This “hardening” of the river’s shoreline eliminated or altered shallow water areas, resulting in the loss and degradation of valuable spawning, rearing and feeding sites for many fish species. Creating and improving shallow areas near the shoreline is vital to maintaining a healthy, diverse fish community in the river - and a key objective of the Area’s Remedial Action Plan. 

Approaches to “natural shoreline stabilization” vary, depending on the location.  In the case of the St. Clair River, the river’s high velocity necessitated the installation of large rocks to establish a series of steps sloping along the shoreline into the shallow waters. Trees and native vegetation were also planted. The rocks and vegetation provide ideal spawning habitat for fish, as well as easier access to the river for small mammals and reptiles.

So far, nine shoreline restoration projects have been completed on public and privately-owned properties, converting about two kilometres of shoreline back to a more natural state. In 2012, the Project focused on 300 metres of shoreline at Cathcart Park, just south of Sarnia. The park attracts many visitors every year who take advantage of opportunities for camping and boating. Longer term, Project partners hope that highly visible demonstration projects such as this one, will encourage private landowners to carry out similar “fish-friendly” shoreline protection measures elsewhere in the St. Clair River Area of Concern.

For more information on the St. Clair River Area of Concern, please visit: Friends of the St. Clair River.

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