Penetangore River gets poor rating from SVCA

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The Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority’s (SVCA) watershed report cards are out, and the news isn’t good for Kincardine.

Martha Nicol of the SVCA presented reports to council Nov. 12 on the two watersheds within the municipality’s borders – the Penetangore River watershed and the Lake Fringe watershed, which runs along the shore of Lake Huron.

The report cards were completed several months ago and contain letter grades for each watershed in a series of categories. The results were calculated over a five-year period, from 2002-2006.

“No water systems got an A (overall),” said Nicol. “That kind of surprised me.”

The Lake Fringe watershed’s report had both positives and negatives. Nicol said the area’s forest cover is close to the 30 per cent total expected by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. (MoE) However, the wetland cover is far below the MOE requirements, at just 2.7 per cent. Overall, the watershed earned average grades of B in forest conditions, C in wetland conditions, C in surface water quality and an A in groundwater quality.

Nichol said both watersheds registered high e-coli counts. She recommended allowing low-lying areas not suitable for agriculture to naturalize back into wetlands.

The Penetangore River watershed also had a poor report card. The system received a D in forest cover and wetland conditions and a C in surface water quality.

“These two watersheds are at the bottom of the list (of systems included in the report cards),” Nicol said.

The Penetangore system encompasses a lot of farm land. Nicol recommended planting trees along the riverbanks as well as on property lines. She also recommended farmers try to keep cattle away from water sources and use best practices in storing manure and spraying crops.

The SVCA is also offering a pair of subsidy programs to encourage land owners to plant forest cover on their property at lower costs.

“We need to change our way of thinking and work towards improving these watersheds,” Nicol said.

Councillor Ron Hewitt said the biggest problem in convincing farmers to plant trees and grow wetlands is the lack of compensation for the agricultural land they lose.

Councillor Guy Anderson said the provincial government needs to make it easier for groups to plant trees and protect environmental areas.

“You need to protect the land that provides our food,” said the SVCA’s Jim Coffey. “The wise management of rural Ontario is wise for urban Ontario.”