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Wetlands: More than Meets the Eye

Wetlands are, as the name suggests, areas which are permanently or seasonally wet. They may be forested swamps, like the swamp along Ben Gill Road. Some wetlands are flooded meadows. Others are simply fields, flooded in the spring.

Wetlands are some of the most productive habitats on earth. They’re often full of plants and wildlife; water-loving reeds, shrubs and flowering plants thrive in these habitats. The unique conditions of wetlands make them an important home for songbirds, fish, reptiles and amphibians. Wood ducks prefer the shallow water of wetlands, particularly those surrounded by trees. Frogs, salamanders, fish and dragonflies raise their young in these areas. Migrating ducks find refuge and food in wetlands. Many endangered species depend on wetlands for their survival.

A Vital Resource for Us, Too

Just as trees help clean the air, wetlands help purify water. Some municipalities, like Brighton, have created wetlands specifically to give treated wastewater a final cleaning before it’s discharged into Lake Ontario. Wetlands also help replenish groundwater, stabilize shorelines and reduce flooding.

People who hunt and fish understand the value of wetlands for recreation.

In fact, wetlands are so important that organizations are now putting a value on their “services” to human beings.
The annual economic value of the Danube River’s flood plains in Europe, including its role in flood prevention, was considered to be 650 million Euro ($845 million Canadian) in 1995.
In 1997, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment gave American wetlands a value of US$15 trillion.
Instead of spending US$3.8 billion on water purification facilities, New York City bought land for US$1.5 billion. The land is purifying water for free.

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have long recognized the importance of wetlands. The group successfully campaigned against the use of the dust suppressant, Dombind, which contained dioxins, on County roads, where it had the potential to pollute County wetlands.
Under Threat in Ontario for Centuries

Once, wetlands were seen as barriers to progress, to be drained, paved or filled in. Today, we recognize the value of their habitats, yet we’re still losing them at an alarming rate. Ontario has already lost 90% of its wetlands and what’s left is under threat. Pressing problems include:
drainage for agriculture;
filling in for development;
damage from artificial changes to the water level;
invasion by alien invasive species; and
pollution from toxic run-off.

Provincially Significant Wetlands

The government of Ontario recognizes the importance of wetlands and has identified many as provincially significant wetland on the basis of:
human use, such as harvesting wild rice, commercial fishing, recreation and education;
use by birds, animals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.
benefits to water quality and importance in flood control and recharging groundwater
special features such as endangered species, rare habitat and the quality of the habitat for many species, including fish.

Ostrander Point Wetlands

The South Bay Coastal Wetland, which extends into the proposed Ostrander Point industrial wind turbine area, is recognized as a Provincially Significant Wetland.

Another 23 ha wetland in the proposed industrial area is home to Blanding’s turtle (provincially and nationally threatened). According to the Stantec report, this wetland meets the criteria for Provincially Significant Wetlands. The wetland is described by Stantec as undisturbed and its report says, “Similar undisturbed marshes are increasingly rare along the Great Lakes.”

Other breeding amphibians and migrating birds can also be found in the wetland. The Ministry of Natural Resources’ Significant Wildlife Habitat Technical Guide says migratory bird stopovers should be preserved in their entirety.

The Ostrander Point industrial wind turbine development will come within 120 m of both the Provincially Significant Wetland and the wetland which is home to the Blanding’s turtle.
Road kill is a significant contributor to the death of female turtles seeking nesting sites. There will be an access road within 25 m of the Provincially Significant Wetland. While there will be a speed limit on the access roads, they will be on Crown land and thus open to the public – with no enforcement of speed limits.
The Stantec study says that during the operation of the industrial wind turbines, spills of lubricating oils and other maintenance fluids could pollute both surface and ground water. The Stantec study also says that during construction, there will be an increased danger of accidental spills.
Another Risk at Ostrander Point
Frogs in and around the proposed industrial wind turbine area at Ostrander Point face a new risk: noise from the turbines. Frogs need to hear the calls of other frogs to breed successfully. A study has shown that industrial wind turbines may not allow frogs to hear other frogs and thus find them to breed. So far, it is the only study to examine the effect of noise from wind turbines on breeding frogs.
Todd Smith’s excellent initiative
Our MPP, Todd Smith, will be holding a town hall meeting on the Ostrander Point industrial wind turbines at St. Andrew’s Church on February 2nd (National Wetlands Day) at 6:00 pm. Come out and show your opposition to industrial wind turbines in a sensitive wildlife habitat.

Live discussion on wind Wednesday night reporter Nicole Kleinsteuber, of Prince Edward County Voice, invites the public to join a live, online discussion Wednesday Jan. 25, beginning at 7 p.m. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and to discuss how the community can open methods of communication, build bridges and most importantly, move forward. Log on to
Confirmed panelists include MPP Todd Smith, PEC Mayor Peter Mertens, Treat Hull and PEC Federation of Agriculture’s John Thompson. Also invited are Kevin Surette, Manager of Communications WPD and Kate Jordan Communications representative Ministry of Environment.
* * *

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, founded in 1997, is an affiliate of Ontario Nature. It provides an educational forum dedicated to the study, promotion, appreciation and conservation of the flora and fauna within Prince Edward County. The public is welcome at the meetings held on the last Tuesday of the month from September to May, except December, at Bloomfield Town Hall. Guest speakers introduce a variety of nature related topics. All members are encouraged to participate at meetings by sharing their experiences and observations. Regularly scheduled field trips in the vicinity offer members the opportunity to experience various habitats. Membership in PECFN is open to all. Contact: Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, P.O. Box 477, Bloomfield, Ontario K0K 1G0 Or Cheryl Anderson 613-471-1096

NEXT MEETING: Tues. Jan. 31 7pm Bloomfield Town Hall: Members’ Night presentations. Everybody welcome.

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