Working with landowners to reduce runoff from farming operations: Detroit River Watershed

2012-2013 Funding: $293,300 total, including $90,000 provided by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

Other Project Contributors: private landowners and the Essex Region Conservation Authority.

Private landowners in rural Ontario are working to reduce runoff from their farming operations, with the support of the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, as part of a wider campaign to address pollution in the Detroit River.

The Detroit River Area of Concern is one of five Areas shared between Canada and the United States. The river’s watershed, which covers more than 200,000 hectares, is home to about three million people. For decades, the watershed has been subject to extensive industrial activity and agricultural and urban development. As a result, the river is the single largest source of contaminants to Lake Erie - from combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows, municipal and industrial discharges, and runoff and discharges from rural areas.

The Project is focusing on smaller rivers and streams on the Ontario side of the watershed. Project partners are contacting landowners and working with them to undertake actions to reduce runoff of sediment and phosphorus from fertilizers and pesticides. These actions, in turn, will help improve fish and wildlife habitat and water quality in the Detroit River.

In 2012, the Project worked with landowners at 18 locations along tributaries in the Amherstburg, Essex, LaSalle, and Tecumseh areas. Initiatives included:

  • planting buffer strips along streams to reduce the amount of sediment and phosphorus entering the streams;
  • building “rock chutes” that help reduce erosion and hold back sediment from entering agricultural drains; and,
  • supporting the upgrade of six septic systems.

As well, five small parcels of farmland that were particularly at risk of erosion were naturalized rather than farmed to provide greater protection for the waterways.

For more information on the Detroit River Area of Concern, please visit: Detroit River Canadian Cleanup.

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