Rocky Ramp Improves Local Fish Passage

The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA), in partnership with the County of Northumberland and Floatfishing.net Conservation Group, and through funding provided by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, completed a project to improve fish passage over perched culvert on the west branch of Cobourg Creek at Dale Road. The project involved mitigating a 20” drop that was a partial barrier to upstream fish passage, particularly to non-jumping fish species. “This project will help improve fish passage, resulting in an improvement to the health of the fish community within Cobourg Creek,” states Brian Morrison, GRCA Fisheries Biologist.

In the summer of 2014, the GRCA and the County of Northumberland completed the construction of a rocky ramp fishway at the dam. A rocky ramp fishway is a layer of rock placed over the obstruction in a manner that resembles natural riffle and pool features. The project allows for unimpeded upstream fish access to approximately 40km2 km of additional high quality stream habitat. Shortly after completing the project, several different species of fish were observed using the rocky ramp to access upstream habitats.  This project supports the 2010 rocky ramp that was constructed downstream to enhance fish access within the west branch of Cobourg Creek.


Union Gas and GRCA partner to protect Ganaraska River

With a $2,000.00 grant generously donated by Union Gas and the help of Union Gas employees, the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority planted approximately 250 Spruce and Tamarack trees along the east shore of the Ganaraska River just North of Port Hope yesterday. The river runs under Dale Road, a highway with fairly heavy traffic and the trees will contribute to the filtering of water runoff from the urban environment, including Dale Road, before it gets discharged into the river. The planting will also provide shade and habitat to critical cold water fish species.

The Ganaraska River drains a total area of 278 square kilometers (km2). The main branch of the Ganaraska River is joined by 10 other tributaries; the largest being the North Ganaraska Branch. Protection of the Ganaraska River watershed has been influenced by surface water studies such as floodplain mapping and hydraulic studies. Regulations are also in place to protect people and property from flood waters, such as the flood that occurred in 1980, and to protect the natural features of the watershed. Flows in the Ganaraska River are generally resilient to stresses such as drought and water use, and adequately provide for aquatic habitat and human use. However, currently the river is at risk of erosion due to the lack of trees and planting the trees along the shore will help stabilize the bank and reduce erosion.

“We care about the environment. The nature of Union Gas is reflected in our company culture, whether we are building a pipeline or erecting an energy-efficient office building,” said Ed Gouweloos, Union Gas Utility Services Construction Manager, Cobourg. “That’s why we support important environmental programs in the communities we serve. Planting trees along the Ganaraska River will make a difference, and that is important to us at Union Gas.”

For more information on the Ganaraska River, as well as other important projects the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority is undertaking in our watershed, please contact the Conservation Authority at 905-885-8173 or visit www.grca.on.ca.

 Ed Gouweloos (Union Gas Utility Services Construction Manager, Cobourg), Linda Laliberte (CAO-Secretary-Treasurer, GRCA) and Forrest Rowden (Chair, GRCA Full Authority)

Birds of Prey in the Ganaraska Forest

The Ganaraska Forest and surrounding area is home to many species of birds of prey. The Barred Owl is the most commonly seen owl but Great Horned Owls, Screech Owls and the diminutive Saw Whet Owl can all be found here.
The large soaring hawks, also known as Buteos, are what most people relate to when it comes to these raptors. The Red-tailed Hawk is the most commonly seen species. Other Buteos found in the area include the Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk.
Accipiters are smaller woodland hawks known for their agile darting flight through dense forest cover. Cooper’s Hawks can be frequently seen in the Ganaraska Forest, but usually only for an instant, as this secretive bird swiftly maneuvers its way through the trees. The Sharp-shinned Hawk and Northern Goshawk are less commonly seen Accipiters.
On Saturday, November 15th, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm, the Ganaraska Forest Centre is hosting a new event, Ontario’s Birds of Prey. Staff from the Ontario Specialized Species Centre will give an interactive and educational discussion about these amazing animals that we call raptors. Headlining the event are a variety of live hawks, owls and a falcon.

Why is it important to increase awareness of these amazing creatures? Raptors are “specialized species” meaning they are highly adapted to their particular habitat, food source, climate conditions, etc. If any of these specific requirements change, then that species is particularly vulnerable to population decline. These, and other mainly human-related interferences, have resulted in many of these beautiful birds finding their way onto the threatened or endangered list. 

Take advantage of this unique opportunity to get up close to these highly refined and localized birds of prey. Call the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority at 905-885-8173 to register.


Ganaraska and Trent Source Protection Plans Approved

The Source Protection Plans for the Trent Conservation Coalition Source Protection Region have been approved by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. These plans, effective on January 1, 2015, set out policies that will protect the water sources that supply 53 municipal drinking water systems within a planning region stretching from Algonquin Park to Lake Ontario and the Bay of Quinte; including the 6 drinking water systems within the Ganaraska Region Watershed. The plans are a requirement of Ontario’s Clean Water Act, which was passed as a response to the Province’s inquiry into the Walkerton drinking water tragedy.

The Source Protection Plans were developed over several years and are based on technical studies, collaborative policy development, and extensive public consultation. The process was guided by a Source Protection Committee made up representatives from municipalities, business, industry, First Nations, landowners, and other stakeholders.

“We are proud of the work of our team of twenty-eight members of the Source Protection Committee and our regional Source Protection Staff in achieving this goal,” said Jim Hunt, Chair of the Source Protection Committee. “Our work with our municipal partners and the province has enabled us to produce these comprehensive living documents which will serve to reduce risk to municipal drinking water systems through the introduction of policies designed to protect sources of municipal water supply. The process is collaborative and science-based and will provide ongoing protection for municipal source water by emphasizing minimizing the risk to water supplies from land use activities. We look forward to continuing with our partners into the future in our efforts to protect existing and future sources of Drinking Water.”

Policies in the Source Protection Plans include a variety of approaches to manage and prevent risks to municipal drinking water. These approaches include education and outreach, the development of risk management plans, prohibitions of future instances of certain high-risk activities, land use planning, and monitoring. These policies will help to keep contaminants out of rivers, lakes, and groundwater aquifers that are sources of municipal drinking water.

The source protection planning process is directed and funded by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change in conjunction with municipalities. Local Conservation Authorities provide technical, communications and administrative support for the source protection planning process. For more information please visit our website:


Sampling fish from the watercourses within the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority are: A Shocking Story

Biologists at the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) regularly use electricity to stun fish so they can be caught.  Electrofishing is a common scientific survey method used to sample fish populations to determine abundance, density, species composition, contaminant load, life history and genetic diversity, presence of invasive species, and ecological health of the area being sampled. When performed correctly, electrofishing results in no permanent harm to fish, which often return to their natural state in as little as several minutes after being captured.

Electrofishing relies on two electrodes that are connected to a backpack unit that deliver pulsed direct current (DC) into the water to temporarily stun fish. The current runs from an anode to the cathode creating a high-voltage potential (and closed electrical circuit).  When a fish encounters a large enough electrical gradient, it becomes affected by the electricity.  The size of the fish dictate where this electrical gradient will lie (a large fish has more surface area, so is affected sooner).  This causes uncontrolled muscular convulsion that result in the fish swimming toward the anode.  At this time the fish is captured in a net so that GRCA biologists can sample the fish.  At least two people are required for an effective electrofishing crew: one to operate the anode, and the other to catch the stunned fish with a dip net.

The GRCA regularly electrofishes many watercourses within its area of jurisdiction to examine the ecological health of where the sampling is taking place.  This is done by looking at the number of species that are considered sensitive to habitat alteration and pollution (like juvenile salmon and trout) relative to the number of species that are tolerant to these stressors (certain minnow species).  This ratio can give biologists an idea of how healthy the watercourse is, or if considered unhealthy, a window into why it may be unhealthy. 

For further information on electrofishing or any other fisheries service, please contact Brian Morrison, GRCA Fisheries Biologist at 905.885.8173 or


Planning on Building on the Oak Ridges Moraine? What You Need to Know.

The Oak Ridges Moraine (ORM) is an irregularly shaped geologic feature, formed from glacial sand and gravel deposition. It stretches from the Trent River in the east to the Niagara Escarpment in the west and reaches up to 150 metres in depth. Due to the extensive recharge and discharge capabilities, 64 rivers originate on the moraine, which forms a watershed divide between lands draining south to Lake Ontario, and those draining north to Lake Simcoe, Scugog and Georgian Bay.

In 2001, the Province released the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP) in an effort to protect both the hydrologic and ecological integrity of the ORM. The plan identifies hydrologicaly sensitive features such as streams, lakes and seepage areas, as well as key natural heritage features including wetlands, woodland and prairies. The plan requires that minimum vegetation protection zones be maintained between these features and any development or site alteration in addition to minimum areas of influence where it must be demonstrated that the ecological and hydrologic integrity of the plan area is being maintained, in order for development or site alteration to proceed.

The ORMCP divides the moraine into four land use categories, those being Natural Core, Natural Linkage, Countryside and Settlement Areas, with differing land use policies for each. The most restrictive policies exist within the core and linkage areas, with development being primarily directed toward settlement areas. The Countryside land use designation serves as an agricultural and rural transition and buffer between core/ linkage areas and settlements, with typical rural and agricultural uses permitted.

While primarily a land use planning policy document, the ORMCP defines development as, ‘The creation of a lot, change in land use or construction requiring a Planning Act Approval’. In cases where this type of development is contemplated, the policies of the ORMCP are rigidly applied. Where existing lots of record are vacant, the ORMCP states that nothing in the plan applies to prevent the use, erection or location of a single dwelling if, the use, erection and location would have been permitted by the applicable zoning by-law in November 2001 and it demonstrates, to the extent possible, that the use, erection and location will not adversely affect the ecological integrity of the Plan Area.

The ORMCP requires that all Municipalities with watersheds originating on the ORM prepare watershed plans, in addition to incorporating the policies of the ORMCP into their municipal planning documents (i.e. Official Plans, Zoning By-Laws). For additional information on the ORMCP visit http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/Page322.aspx or contact the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) at info@grca.on.ca.


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