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Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Impact of COVID-19 on Public Consultation

April 28, 2020

In a previous post, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) provided an update about the Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan (CCWP) 90-day public review and comment period.

This post included the announcement of the decision to postpone the Public Open House due to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the April 8, 2020 Special Meeting of the Regional Council of Durham, the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Update, Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Public Consultation (2020-INFO-28) was received for information.

In addition, it was further recommended that:

  • The public comment period for the CCWP be paused until the COVID-19 emergency state is lifted by all levels of government, at which time the public comment period would restart
  • An in-person Public Open House be rescheduled once the emergency state is lifted by all levels of government to ensure proper due process and meaningful consultation
  • The public be provided a minimum of three weeks notification of an in-person Public Open House, and a minimum of six weeks after the Public Open House meeting to provide written comments, consistent with the pre-COVID-19 timing

Additional details can be found in the Minutes for the April 8, 2020 Special Meeting of the Regional Council of Durham. The minutes pertaining to the motion are also available as a PDF in our Document Library.

TRCA will continue to work with Durham Region, as well with as our partners at the Town of Ajax and City of Pickering, to plan an in-person Public Open House once the emergency states have been lifted by all levels of government.

In the meantime, the Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan is still available for public review and comment. Please use the online comment form to submit your comments.

Do you have a question about the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan? Would you like to subscribe to the project to stay informed and learn more? Just submit your question or request HERE and a project team member will be happy to help!

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Public Open House Postponement

April 6, 2020

In a previous post, TRCA provided an update about the Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan 90-day public review and comment period, and announced a Public Open House scheduled for April 30, 2020.

Due to the unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19, a decision has been made to postpone the Public Open House.

Additional details can be found in the Durham Region Council Information Package released on April 3, 2020. The report is also available as a PDF in our Document Library.

Over the coming weeks, TRCA will work with Durham Region, as well with as our partners at the Town of Ajax and City of Pickering, to develop an alternative to conducting an in-person public consultation. As always, notification will be provided to our project subscribers, and through appropriate social media and online channels, once a decision has been made.

In the meantime, the Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan is still available for public review. Please use the online comment form to submit your comments by Tuesday June 16, 2020.

Do you have a question about the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan? Would you like to subscribe to the project to stay informed and learn more? Just submit your question or request HERE and a project team member will be happy to help!

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Update: Winter 2020

March 31, 2020

As part of the commitments in the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Communications and Consultation Strategy, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) staff are required to provide an update to municipal councils and/or committees at key milestones identified throughout the CCWP project.

TRCA staff provided an update that was included in Durham Region’s Council Information Package released on March 13, 2020. The report is also available as a PDF in the Document Library.

The update provided an overview on the status of the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan. Specifically, the update focused on advising that the draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan was available for a 90-day public review and comment period.

To learn more about the public review and how you can provide your feedback, please read our previous post.

Do you have a question about the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan? Would you like to subscribe to the project to stay informed and learn more? Just submit your question or request HERE and a project team member will be happy to help!

 


 

Review the Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan

March 13, 2020

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is pleased to release the draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan for a 90-day public review period.

The development of this watershed plan has been a collaborative effort between TRCA, the Region of Durham, Town of Ajax, and City of Pickering. This new watershed plan will help to guide future decision-making in the watershed.


cover page of Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan

The Draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan is now available for review.

Please use the online comment form to submit your comments by Tuesday June 16, 2020.

For technical analysis completed in support of this watershed planning process, see the Watershed Characterization Reports and Scenario Analysis Technical Reports.


If you have any questions about the draft plan or this process, please email carruthers@trca.ca and a project team member will respond.

TRCA will be hosting a drop-in public open house regarding the draft Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan. Come learn about the plan, provide in-person feedback, and chat with project staff.

Date + Time: Thursday April 30, 2020
6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Location: Audley Recreation Centre
1955 Audley Road, Ajax
Hall 3C
MAP + DIRECTIONS

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Update – Winter 2019

December 6, 2019
As part of the commitments in the CCWP Communications and Consultation Strategy, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) staff are required to provide an update to municipal councils and/or committees at key milestones identified throughout the project.

In December 2019, TRCA staff provided an update that was included in the Council Information Package released on December 6, 2019.

The update, and associated attachments, provided an overview on the status of the CCWP. Specifically, the update focused on Phase 2, Stage 2 communication and consultation activities, the Draft Management Framework presented at Public Open Houses in October 2019, and next steps.

A PDF copy of the Information Report and associated attachments has been uploaded to the Document Library.

Stay tuned to learn more about the results of the consultation with the public and all stakeholders to gather feedback on the Draft Management Framework in a future post.

 


 

Thank You!

October 17, 2019
We would like to give our sincere gratitude to everyone who took the time and effort to become involved in the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan by attending one of our Public Open Houses and/or submitting their feedback.

All of your efforts and passion will help develop a new Watershed Plan that will protect, restore, enhance, and manage the Carruthers Creek watershed now and in the future.

As a reminder, if you have not submitted your Comment Form yet, you have until October 18, 2019.

You can continue to be involved as the Watershed Plan progresses by visiting the project homepage to stay up to date and submit any questions/comments you may have.

Thank you!

Carruthers Creek watershed plan open house
The Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Project Team hosted Public Open Houses to present the Draft Management Framework for public input.

 


 

Feedback on the Draft Management Framework

October 3, 2019
The Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan will aim to protect the ecological health of Carruthers Creek for present and future generations. Community input on the plan’s Management Framework will help TRCA and the Region of Durham create a healthier future for Carruthers Creek.

By attending one of the two upcoming Public Open House events, on October 8 in Ajax or October 10 in Pickering, community members can speak with technical experts and give feedback on the plan’s draft Management Framework, which will address proposed urban canopy enhancements, aquatic species protection, flooding and erosion management, water quality management and more.

If you are unable to make one of the Public Open House events, don’t worry! All of the Open House Information Panels have been uploaded in Reports and Resources.

Once you have had a chance to review the information don’t forget to submit your feedback. You can submit your feedback by completing the Comment Form by Friday, October 18, 2019.

As always, you can Ask a Question via the project homepage, or send an e-mail to carruthers@trca.ca.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan – Upcoming Public Open Houses

August 28, 2019
As part of the consultation process for the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan (CCWP) the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), in partnership with the Region of Durham, is hosting two Public Open Houses to solicit feedback on the plan’s draft Management Framework.

These Open Houses will be drop-in style where you can learn about the Carruthers Creek watershed, speak with technical experts, and learn about the management recommendations drafted as part of the watershed plan.

Public Open House #1:
Date: Tuesday, October 8, 2019
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Carruthers Marsh Pavilion (55 Ashbury Boulevard West, Ajax, ON, L1Z 0E1)

Public Open House #2:
Date: Thursday, October 10, 2019
Time: 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Mt. Zion Community Hall (4230 Salem Road, Pickering, ON, L0C 1A0)

While it may be a small watershed in Durham Region, Carruthers Creek is certainly an important one. Connecting Pickering and Ajax, this unique watershed, home to several rare plants and fish, drains into the north shore of Lake Ontario.

A new Watershed Plan will aim to protect the ecological health of Carruthers Creek now and in the future. Community input on the Management Framework will help TRCA and the Region of Durham create a healthier future for Carruthers Creek.

Carruthers Creek watershed plan postcard

The final plan will not result in a decision on future land use designations. Rather, it will recommend management actions focused on the protection, restoration, enhancement, and long-term management of the watershed. The recommendations will apply to existing land uses, and potential changes throughout the entire watershed.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Update – Summer 2019

August 7, 2019
As part of the commitments in the CCWP Communications and Consultation Strategy, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) staff are required to provide an update to municipal councils and/or committees at key milestones identified throughout the project.

In Spring 2019, TRCA staff provided an update to:

The update and associated Staff Reports provided an overview to municipal council members on the status of the CCWP. Specifically, the update focused on Phase 2 communication and consultation, the updated Vision Statement for the CCWP, the development process of the Management Framework, and next steps.

A PDF copy of the CCWP Update Presentation – Spring 2019 has been uploaded to the Document Library.

Stay tuned to learn more about the Public Information Centres (PICs) being hosted in October 2019. These PICs will consult the public and all stakeholders to gather feedback on the Draft Management Framework for the CCWP.

 


 

A New Vision

June 4, 2019
As discussed in an earlier blog post, one of the main objectives of consultation during Phase 2, Stage 1 was to create a new vision statement for the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan by gathering feedback on the vision statement from the 2003 Watershed Plan for Carruthers Creek.

Generally, the feedback received on the 2003 Watershed Vision is that it is a good statement and remains relevant. When asked about what the public would like the New Vision to say, some responses were: “The essence of the (2003) Vision is on the mark. Enhance and protect the Carruthers Creek Watershed to ensure that it continues to provide valuable environmental and societal benefits to the community.”

Watershed Resident: “The Vision needs to emphasize sustainability, climate change and biodiversity and retrofitting existing areas. The importance of continued research and science are important to acknowledge.”

Environmental Stakeholder: There is a desire to update the Vision with current language and to incorporate new concepts and approaches. It was also noted that a succinct statement would make it easier to be understood and recalled by residents and stakeholders.

The following ideas were frequently suggested for inclusion in the New Vision:

  • Incorporate resiliency and adaptation to climate change.
  • Have more focus on biodiversity and improving ecological health and integrity through a systems management approach.
  • Incorporate more emphasis on sustainability, restoration and retrofitting existing urban areas.
  • Highlight the importance of continued research and science.
  • More focus on health benefits of nature not just the risk versus benefit.
  • Encourage all stakeholders to participate in the stewardship of the watershed.

After incorporating all feedback from various stakeholders, the New Vision now reads:
Carruthers Creek watershed is a healthy and resilient natural system that is managed through partnerships to balance resource protection with human activity. Sound science and best management practices will protect and restore ecosystem functions, protect watershed residents from natural hazards like flooding, and maintain our natural heritage and water resources for present and future generations.

TRCA and Region of Durham would like to sincerely thank all of the community members, stakeholders, and municipal staff who have dedicated their time to provide feedback to develop this New Vision for the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Communications and Consultation Summary (Phase 2, Stage 1)

May 21, 2019
As part of Phase 2 of the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan (CCWP), TRCA is undertaking extensive stakeholder and public consultation.

Consultation will occur in three (3) stages throughout Phase 2 of the CCWP and will follow the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan Communications and Consultation Strategy. The Communications and Consultation Strategy was received by Durham Regional Council in May 2018, and time lines were refined at Council’s request in June 2018.

Phase 2, Stage 1 began in December 2017 and was completed in October 2018. The Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Communications and Consultation Summary (Phase 2, Stage 1) was created to outline the objectives which guided the communications and consultation and describes the methods and activities used to inform and consult the public and stakeholders. It also describes what was heard and how public input is reflected in the new Vision Statement and ongoing Phase 2 work.

The summary report is now available in our Reports and Resources library.

Carruthers Creek watershed plan pop-up event
Over 600 residents were engaged at seven pop-Up events across Pickering and Ajax. The pop-up events were interactive and designed to gather feedback about the CCWP process and Vision statement.

The consultation for Phase 2, Stage 1 had three (3) main objectives:

  1. Raise awareness about the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan.
  2. Inform partners, stakeholders, and the general public about the process for updating the Watershed Plan.
  3. Gather feedback on the Vision developed for the 2003 Watershed Plan and preliminary issues and ideas to be considered in all the Phase 2 work.
whiteboard with sticky notes at Carruthers Creek watershed plan pop-up event
Thousands of public comments were received at pop-up events, presentations, stakeholder workshops, through the CCWP Website, and as part of an online survey.

During this initial stage, consultation was undertaken to seek input on a new Vision Statement for the Watershed Plan. The new Vision Statement will be highlighted in a future blog post. Consultation will also be undertaken in subsequent stages to solicit feedback on the draft Management Recommendations (Stage 2) and draft Watershed Plan (Stage 3).

 


 

Recreational Trails in Carruthers Creek Watershed

March 25, 2019
Now that spring weather has finally arrived, it is time to get your bicycle and running shoes out of storage and get outdoors! The Town of Ajax and City of Pickering have an abundance of parks, playgrounds, trails and conservation areas for you to enjoy. You can explore safe, connected, trails that are perfect for hiking, cycling, walking or simply just to take advantage of the beauty of nature.

Lake Ontario waterfront trail
The Town of Ajax and City of Pickering have a beautiful Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario (Photo courtesy Town of Ajax.)

In 2016, a 5km section of the Carruthers Creek Trail was completed between Taunton Road and Kingston Road in Ajax. This trail is off-road and safe for all levels of trail users.

new section of Carruthers Creek trail in Ajax
A photo from the newest section of the Carruthers Creek Trail in Ajax (Photo courtest Town of Ajax).
new section of Carruthers Creek trail in Ajax
A photo from the newest section of the Carruthers Creek Trail in Ajax (Photo courtesy Town of Ajax).

To plan your next outing, you can view a map of the Carruthers Creek Trail, and other trails, on the Town of Ajax Trail Map.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Fluvial Geomorphology Assessment

March 5, 2019
This week’s post will highlight the results of the Fluvial Geomorphology Assessment completed for the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan.

What is Fluvial Geomorphology?
Fluvial geomorphology is the study of the form and function of streams and the interaction between streams and the landscape around them. ‘Fluvial’ refers to the processes associated with running waters, ‘geo’ refers to earth and ‘morphology’ refers to channel shape. Stream morphology is dynamic and constantly changing in both space and time. A stable stream channel is in a state of equilibrium and responds physically to the streamflow and sediment it receives from upstream.

Fluvial Geomorphology of Carruthers Creek
This report characterized the channel morphology (the rate and locations of the movement of stream channels) in Carruthers Creek since the 2003 watershed plan was completed. Characterizing the channel morphology of a watershed is important because the physical form and function of a watercourse are key elements of aquatic habitat. Furthermore, establishing baseline conditions enables watershed managers to assess potential impacts from changes to the watershed.

shallow stream

Methodology
Following the completion of the 2003 watershed plan for Carruthers Creek, TRCA established the Regional Watershed Monitoring Program (RWMP). Under this program, Matrix Solutions Inc. established ten (10) monitoring stations along Carruthers Creek which were updated every three (3) years from 2003-2012. For this assessment, Matrix Solutions Inc. completed an updated desktop assessment (using aerial imagery) and data collected from the RWMP during detailed site visits in 2016 at all ten (10) monitoring stations. The report contains an anlysis of the full monitoring datasets from 2003, 2006, 2009, 2012, and 2016.

Results
Overall, the 13-year monitoring period provided a unique opportunity to document changes in channel morphology for the purposes of understanding channel processes. The assessment indicates that Carruthers Creek is an active channel, whether the cross-section is enlarging, aggrading, or continually adjusting while maintaining a similar size. Sites on the smaller tributaries of the creek suggest that channel dimensions are increasing. Comparatively, while the main branch sites exhibit active channel processes, overall change was minimal. This indicates the larger channel’s resilience to changes in the surrounding area.

Carruthers Creek

Conclusion
The information collected as part of this assessment will be used during Phase 2 of the watershed planning process to make recommendations for management of the natural heritage system and watercourses. To read the full Fluvial Geomorphology Assessment, please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Terrestrial Biological Inventory and Assessment

February 7, 2019
This week’s post will highlight the results of the Terrestrial Biological Inventory and Assessment completed for the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan.

In 2015, TRCA staff conducted an in-depth ecological inventory of the Carruthers Creek watershed that covered 970 hectares (92%) of the watershed‘s entire natural cover. Inventories were conducted at the levels of habitat patch (landscape analysis), vegetation community, and species (both flora and fauna).

Land Classification
The inventories found 173 different ELC vegetation community types including 47 different natural forest communities, 22 plantations, 23 successional communities, 15 wetlands, 13 aquatic communities, 14 dynamic communities (e.g. savannah, beaches, bluffs), and 3 meadow types.

Flora
A total of 935 species of vascular plants were recorded including 845 naturally-occurring species. Of the naturally-occurring plants, 484 (57%) are native and 361 (43%) are non-native. Four (4) of the 153 flora species of regional conservation concern have not been found anywhere else in TRCA’s jurisdiction. All four species are associated with wetlands and include sessile-fruited arrowhead, few-flowered spike rush, swamp rose, and shore horsetail. Carruthers Creek watershed has significant infestations of invasive exotic plants such as dog-strangling vine, garlic mustard, and common buckthorn.

swamp rose
Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) was found in the Carruthers Creek watershed in 2015.
sessile fruited arrow head
Sessile-fruited arrow-head (Sagittaria rigida) was found in Carruthers Marsh at the mouth of Carruthers Creek.

Fauna
Inventories documented a total of 133 possible breeding vertebrate fauna species over the past decade. This total is composed of 106 breeding birds, 18 mammals, and 9 herpetofauna. Of note is a small colony of great blue herons located in “Ajax Warbler Swamp” (east side of Shoal Point Road, south of Bayly), grasshopper sparrow (listed as Special Concern under COSSARO), ermine, and grey treefrog. For a complete list of recorded fauna, please read the full technical report.

great blue heron
A small colony of great blue herons (Ardea herodias) was recorded in the Carruthers Creek watershed.
grasshopper sparrow
Rare within the region, a single grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) territory was located in the agricultural upper reaches of the watershed.

Conclusion
This report characterizes the vegetation and wildlife found within the Carruthers Creek watershed in the context of the quantity and quality of the available habitat patches. The amount of natural cover, along with the quality and distribution throughout the watershed, is not only important habitat for wildlife, but it also performs many ecosystem services for people. Natural cover improves air quality, reduces the risk of flooding and provides opportunities for pollination of food crops. The data collected will be used in later phases of the watershed plan to determine recommendations for management and protection of terrestrial wildlife.

To read the full Terrestrial Biological Inventory and Assessment , and to see complete records of observed fauna and flora species, please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Hydrogeology Report

January 23, 2019
This week’s post will highlight the results from the technical report on the Hydrogeology of Carruthers Creek completed by the Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program.

The purpose of this technical report was to document the current understanding of the groundwater conditions within the Carruthers Creek watershed. Carruthers Creek drains an area of 3,840 hectares and occurs within two (2) physiogeographic regions which include:

  • The South Slope – occurring to the south of the Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) and largely consisting of till deposits at surface with a localized lacustrine veneer.
  • The Glacial Lake Iroquois Plain – occurring immediately north of Lake Ontario and consisting of sand, silt, and clay deposits.
map of physiogeographic regions within Carruthers Creek watershed study area
Physiogeographic regions within the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan study area.

The groundwater conditions within Carruthers Creek watershed were documented utilizing high-quality data that exists within adjacent, directly-applicable watersheds. These data were augmented with relatively lower quality data (e.g. MOECC water well records) and streamflow gauging records that exist within the watershed.

Three (3) aquifer systems are present within the watershed:

  • The Oak Ridges Moraine/Mackinaw Interstadial aquifer complex – a shallow aquifer complex that occurs beneath the surficial till deposits within the northern part of the watershed and locally to the Lake Iroquois shoreline at Whitevale Road.
  • The Thorncliffe aquifer complex – a deep aquifer complex located throughout the watershed and occur at a shallower depth south of the Lake Iroquois shoreline.
  • The Scarborough aquifer complex – a deep aquifer complex located throughout the watershed and occur at a shallower depth south of the Lake Iroquois shoreline.

No municipal supplies from groundwater exist within the watershed. The southern part of the watershed (Lake Ontario to Taunton Road) is serviced by municipal water supplies from Lake Ontario. Water supply in rural areas (north of Taunton Road) is obtained from groundwater from wells for private homes and farms.

Some data gaps exist relative to hydrogeology in the watershed and will be addressed in Phase 2 of the Watershed Plan process through the installation of groundwater monitoring wells in Pickering. These monitoring wells allow for measurement of groundwater level changes and groundwater quality.

To read the detailed results of the Hydrogeology Report please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Surface Water Quality Characterization

January 9, 2019
Thank you for continuing to follow along as we summarize the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan technical reports. This week’s post will highlight the results from the technical report on the Characterization of Surface Water Quality

Surface water quality is variable in all watersheds and reflects the local sources, contributions, and land use in the watershed. It can negatively impact the health of a watershed by causing eutrophication, toxicity to aquatic life, poor water clarity, and poor aesthetics.

The purpose of the Surface Water Quality Characterization report was to determine benchmark water quality conditions, determine the variability between sites within the watershed, and identify some of the factors influencing water quality in Carruthers Creek. To do this, a number of key water quality parameters were the focus of this report including phosphorus, nitrogen compounds, suspended solids, chlorides, E. coli, dissolved oxygen, and metals. These parameters were measured during both low flow (dry conditions) and high flows (storm runoff/snow melt conditions).

TRCA staff member conducts water sampling
A TRCA staff member sampling water for quality assessment.

Carruthers Creek watershed has diverse land use that ranges from rural and agricultural to intense urbanization. Therefore, as part of this report, a total of three (3) sampling sites were located across the Carruthers Creek watershed. These sampling locations represented: rural lands with predominantly natural and agricultural influences (headwaters at Highway 7); conditions upstream of urban influences (at Squires Rd.); and conditions downstream of urban influences (at the mouth of Carruthers Creek).

Carruthers Creek winds through golf course
Land use has an impact on surface water quality throughout the watershed. Golf courses, as seen here, can have specific influences on water quality parameters.

Surface Water Quality in the Headwaters
The headwaters (at Highway 7) contain elevated concentrations of total phosphorus, phosphate, total ammonia, E. coli, total suspended solids, turbidity, and some trace metals. These elevated concentrations were likely influenced by agricultural practices and the construction of a major highway. Additionally, elevated soluble and particulate components during runoff events indicates that over-land transport and erosion are important to the water quality in Carruthers Creek.

Surface Water Quality Upstream of Urban Development
Below the Lake Iroquois shoreline, upstream of urban development (at Squires Rd.), concentrations were reduced for the majority of parameters except chloride which increased. The increase in chloride concentrations may be due to the influences of the residential estate subdivision in the eastern branch of Carruthers Creek.

Surface Water Quality Downstream of Urban Development
Chloride levels regularly exceeded the threshold for the protection of aquatic life in the reaches of Carruthers Creek with urban influences. Additionally, increased concentrations of total ammonia, nitrite, phosphate, turbidity, and trace metals are often observed downstream of the urban area. As expected, the concentrations of many water quality parameters were elevated during high flow conditions that occur during storm runoff and wet weather.

Conclusion
Exceedances of water quality objectives were often highest in the rural headwaters, lowest above the urban sampling location, and second highest below the urban area. Understanding of watershed delivery of nutrients, pollutants, and materials that affect water quality in the near shore of Lake Ontario is fundamental to inform management of both the lake and the watersheds that drain in to it.

To read the detailed Surface Water Quality Characterization report please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Headwater Drainage Features Characterizations

January 7, 2019
This week’s post will highlight the results from the technical report on the Characterization of Headwater Drainage Features.

Headwater drainage features (HDF) are small zero-order and first-order intermittent and ephemeral streams, swales, and connected headwater wetlands. HDF can have many hydrological and ecological functions which help to maintain watershed health. These functions include: flow attenuation; water quality improvement; provision of in situ habitat for fish, insects, and amphibians; sediment regulation; and transportation of organic material as sources of food to downstream fish communities.

example of a headwater drainage feature
Example of a headwater drainage feature (HDF). Photo courtesy CVC and TRCA.

Land use activities associated with urbanization and agriculture such as tile drainage, piping, and channelization may result in impacts to HDF that reduce their ability to perform natural functions. This can have detrimental effects on the entire watershed. The Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan is unique in that it is one of the first watershed plans to extensively apply the HDF Guidelines (adopted by TRCA and CVC in 2014) for the purposes of understanding HDF functions to inform the development of a watershed plan.

This report characterized the HDF present in the Carruthers Creek watershed north of Highway 7. The results of this report will be used to inform decisions related to HDF management to protect, enhance, or restore their functions in later phases of the watershed plan.

As part of the report, flow condition and riparian vegetation were assessed for each HDF at three site visit that coincide with the spring freshet (early- to mid-April), late spring (late April to May), and late summer (July to August) as per the recommendations of the HDF Guidelines.

A total of 443 individual sites were assessed during the three site visits in order to characterize the HDF of Carruthers Creek watershed. The most common feature type encountered was tile drains (41%) followed by defined natural channels (22%) and roadside ditches (21%). The results suggest that 67% of the HDF have been altered in some way by human activities and only 33% of the HDF sampled qualify as natural/un-altered feature types such as defined channels, wetlands, swales, and multi-thread channels.

Of the HDF assessed, the most common riparian zone vegetation encountered was meadow (38%) followed by agricultural crop land (22%). Other vegetation communities observed include forest (17%), wetland (14%), and scrubland (6%).

Using results from some of the other technical reports and TRCA’s Regional Watershed Monitoring Program, amphibian species were recorded at 55 locations at or near identified HDF. This included green frog, wood frog, spring peeper and grey tree frog.

wood frog
Wood frogs were found across several locations of headwater drainage features (HDF) in the Carruthers Creek watershed, north of Highway 7.

While tile drains appear to have a major influence on the ecological and hydrological functioning of HDF within the watershed, it is recognized that tile drainage is a long established and accepted agricultural practice that is important to the economic sustainability of the agricultural industry. Local food production has many environmental benefits that need to be considered, and the farming community are important environmental stewards of their land. TRCA will continue to work with the farming community to better understand and develop the innovative practices needed to ensure that the health and sustainability of the watershed is protected, enhanced, and restored now and in the future.

To read the detailed Headwaters Drainage Features Characterization report, please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Aquatic Crossings and Barrier Assessment

January 4, 2019
In keeping with the aquatic theme of last week, this post will highlight the findings of the technical report on an Aquatic Crossing and Barrier Assessment.

Aquatic barriers are natural and artificial structures that may restrict the movement and passage of fish species during certain flow conditions or permanently depending on the type and size of the structure. Barriers may also alter the hydrology of a stream and, in turn, influence sedimentation, increase erosion, and affect water quality. The purpose of this report was to undertake an active assessment of all existing structures in Carruthers Creek, including the type of structures and crossings in existence, and identify those that present barriers to fish passage.

A total of 139 structures were assessed as part of this report including stream crossings (ie road and pedestrian), natural barriers (ie beaver dams, log jams, and debris jams), weirs, and others . 72% of these assessed structures posed no barriers to fish passage.

The highest proportion of barriers found to physically impede fish passage were natural barriers like debris jams (total of 5) and beaver dams (total of 11). These barriers are typically viewed as temporary and may be removed naturally through spring flows or storm flows. Natural barriers can be mitigated relatively easily by municipal agencies or through stewardship activities.

TRCA staff member assesses a natural barrier beaver dam
TRCA staff member assesses a natural barrier beaver dam

Major anthropogenic barriers are those associated with major infrastructure and often represent the most challenging and expensive barriers to mitigate. Due to this, anthropogenic barrier mitigation is often done at the same time as major infrastructure improvement projects like road widening or bridge replacement. This assessment identified a total of 77 structures, including roadway and railway crossings. Of these, seven (7) were determined to be barriers to fish species.

TRCA staff member assesses an anthropogenic barrier
A TRCA staff member assesses an anthropogenic barrier.

In conclusion, the assessment identified a number of structures and crossings throughout the Carruthers Creek Watershed however, the majority of these structures do not present a physical barrier to fish passage. This study can be used in combination with other data to make decisions regarding barrier management and mitigation for multiple objectives in Carruthers Creek watershed including enhancement of fish habitat, improved habitat connectivity, restriction of invasive species, and identification of stewardship opportunities.

To read the detailed Aquatic Crossing and Barrier Assessment Report, please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Aquatic Habitat and Community Characterization

January 4, 2019
This post will highlight the findings of the technical report on Aquatic Habitat and Community Characterization.

Aquatic ecosystems that support a diverse biological community are considered to be healthier and more resilient to both natural and anthropogenic stressors such as chemical spills, floods, invasive species, and climate change.

The aquatic ecology of Carruthers Creek watershed was previously characterized in the Carruthers Creek State of the Watershed Report (TRCA, 2002) and the Fisheries Management Plan for Duffins Creek and Carruthers Creek (TRCA, 2004). Data from these previous reports, historical datasets, TRCA’s Regional Watershed Monitoring Program (RWMP), and specific field work were used to prepare this current and updated report. As part of this report, stream dwelling fish, stream dwelling benthic macroinvertebrates (BMI), and stream habitat were considered in order to characterize the aquatic ecology of Carruthers Creek’s riverine habitat and serve as a background document for subsequent watershed planning exercises.

Fish Communities
The results show that fish communities in the watershed are dominated by native species primarily belonging to the cool water thermal guild. One of the fish species captured, Redside Dace, is listed as endangered and protected under the Endangered Species Act. Round Goby was the one invasive species present in the riverine habitat and can have negative impacts to native fish due to aggressive eating habitats and ability to spawn several times a year and spread quickly. Overall, the riverine habitat in Carruthers Creek received a score of “fair”.

redside dace
Redside Dace, an endangered species, were observed in the Carruthers Creek watershed.
round goby
Round Goby, an invasive species, was observed in the Carruthers Creek watershed.

Benthic Macroinvertebrates (BMI)
BMI are bottom-dwelling organisms that include aquatic insects, crustaceans, molluscs, and worms. They are often used in studies to determine water quality because of their abundance, known environmental tolerances, limited mobility, and dependence on the surrounding environment of the stream they live in. A high abundance of sensitive taxa, such as Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), and Trichoptera (caddisflies) typically indicates higher water quality, while a high abundance of Chironomidae (midges) and Oligochaeta (worms), considered pollution-tolerant, indicates impaired habitat.

More than 81 taxa were identified in Carruthers Creek with the family Chironomidae (pollution-tolerant midges) being the most abundant group and showing a trend of increasing abundance overtime since.

TRCA staff sampling for benthic macroinvertebrates
TRCA staff monitoring for BMI.

Stream Habitat
The riverine habitat in Carruthers Creek watershed is comprised mainly of pools (deeper, calmer areas of the waterway). Algae were the predominant vegetation type documented at most sampling sites since 2003. The headwater reaches exhibit cooler and more stable water temperatures and habitat, while sites closer to the mouth and downtream of developed areas are warmer and less stable.

Conclusion
Measuring and reporting on the state of aquatic habitats and the communities they support in our rivers and streams is an important step towards effective decision making and planning for these essential resources. This technical report, together with the other six (6) technical reports, will provide the knowledge base necessary to develop management recommendations during Phase 2 of the Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan.

To download the full Aquatic Habitat and Community Characterization report, please click here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan: Technical Report Summaries

January 4, 2019
In 2015, the Region of Durham retained Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to update the watershed plan for Carruthers Creek. This four year study will build upon the goals, objectives, and management recommendations established in the 2003 Watershed Plan for Duffins Creek and Carruthers Creek.

aerial view of the Carruthers Creek shoreline

A series of technical reports were prepared at the end of the first phase of the watershed plan development process to characterize the existing conditions of the watershed. The information contained in these reports will provide the knowledge base necessary to develop management recommendations during Phase 2 of the watershed plan.

Please continue to visit this Newsfeed over the following weeks to learn more about the seven (7) peer-reviewed technical reports. In the meantime, you can download and read the Phase 1 Technical Report Summaries by clicking here.

 


 

Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan to Get Update

April 16, 2018
DurhamRegion.com — A new watershed plan is underway to protect the ecological health of Carruthers Creek now and for years to come. READ MORE.

 


 

MEDIA RELEASE – Carruthers Creek Watershed Plan

April 5, 2018
Development of Updated Watershed Plan for Carruthers Creek by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Durham Region. READ MORE.