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Introduction to Biinaagami - A shared responsibility for the Great Lakes
Mark Mattson, Founder and President
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper/Swim Drink Fish
In the past century, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed has been disrespected, exploited, developed and polluted, despite the fact that the Great Lakes hold approximately one-quarter of the planet’s freshwater and sustain life for countless species, Indigenous Nations and communities. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence watershed is the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, and we have an incredible responsibility to protect and restore this global treasure. Biinaagami is a shared responsibility. We celebrate the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence — and advocate for their cultural and ecological sustainability. To share the stories of the watershed. To bring people together. To help communities, organizations, and people help each other take collective action to ensure the health of this incredible resource. Currently, there are divided jurisdictions over the Great Lakes with different politics, pollution like nuclear waste, sewage, and various toxins, and water diversions between the US and Canada. We need to work together, not apart.
Coastal Resilience & Climate Change
Allison Devereaux - Moderator
Broadcaster & Podcast Host/Instructor
Unsalted, Western University
Concurrent Session Speakers
Beach Naturalization Extending From Habitat Protection
Dr. Mary-Louise Byrne, P.Geo.
Professor and Chair - Geography and Environmental Studies (Wilfrid Laurier University)
The Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) are an endangered species that was once abundant at Wasaga Beach and throughout the Great Lakes. Their numbers declined because of increased recreational and development pressures along the beaches - their nesting sites. At the lowest, they were down to just around 16 nesting pairs and had disappeared from Wasaga Beach. With habitat protection, the numbers have rebounded and in 2007 they returned to the area. Each year, the Provincial Park takes steps to protect the habitat and a peripheral change has been the naturalization of the beach in the area. This preliminary report will present information about the changes to the geomorphology of the beach/dune system that extend from the habitat protection work carried out annually by park staff.
Influence of Beachgrass Morphology and Genetic Markers on Foredune Geomorphology
Pete Zuzek, P.Geo, President
In Phase 1 of our Building Beach Resilience Program, Zuzek Inc. in association with Albert Garofalo and Dr. Mary-Louise Byrne from Wilfrid Laurier University collaborated with staff from Wasaga Beach Provincial Park and Burlington Beach to develop and implement projects to increase resilience to high lake levels, coastal storms, and visitor impacts. Management recommendations included limited or ceasing beach raking, returning aeolian transported sand from parking lots to the waters edge, and constructing controlled access walkways through the dunes to connect parking lots to the dry beach. Fall and spring beachgrass transplanting was also completed to restore foredunes. Phase 2 has commenced and will continue work to increase the resilience of high-use urban beaches. The focus of the presentation, however, will be new morphological and genetic testing of beachgrass colonies throughout the lower lakes as significant differences in the American beachgrass and sub-species Champlain beachgrass have been observed. These morphological traits (e.g., size, root structure) in turn appear to be responsible for dramatically different geomorphic responses in the dunes. For example, the shorter Champlain Beachgrass maintains smaller propagules, spread by rhizomes, and feature significantly lower overall plant density, which allows other species to survive in the foredunes. The low plant density also allows aeolian processes to transport new sand into the foredunes during the fall, winter, and spring storm season which inflates the dunes and builds resilience naturally. The taller American Beachgrass propagules grow into progressively larger patches and quickly blanket restoration sites with such density that aeolian processes are not able to delivery new sand and inflate the foredune. They also out-compete other native grasses and shrubs found in more diverse foredune environments that feature Champlain beachgrass. There is also evidence that nurseries are propagating and selling ocean varieties of beachgrass for dune restoration projects in the Great Lakes, which feature similar morphological characteristics as American beachgrass. With the growing focus on nature-based solutions, better understanding on the linkages between beachgrass morphology and genetics on the corresponding geomorphic evolution of foredunes is needed. The presentation will highlight lessons learned and the planned summer 2023 testing program to develop field protocols to differentiate between the Champlain and American beachgrass. All funding has been provided by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks.
No bluffing! Will our coastal bluffs survive climate change?
Patrick Donnelly, M.Sc., RPP, Coastal Science & Stewardship Advisor
Lake Huron Coastal Centre
Using local examples, Pat will describe how our past focus on managing vegetation, drainage and development pressure may not be enough to maintain bluff stability. Climate change will add further challenges for landowners, municipalities, and coastal resource managers to consider in land use planning and decision-making.
Coastal Conservation in Action: Experiential Learning for Youth
Kerry Kennedy, B.Ed, Coastal Education Technician
Lake Huron Coastal Centre
Leveraging High School volunteer hours to build tomorrow's coastal conservationists, the Lake Huron Coastal Centre established a youth engagement program in 2020. This presentation highlights the impact, the journey and the joy of supporting participants in the Coastal Conservation Youth Corps.
Community Science for Improved Coastal Monitoring
Alyssa Bourassa, Coastal Stewardship Technician (Lake Huron Coastal Centre)
Kiersten McCutcheon, BSc, CERPIT, Coastal Science Coordinator (Niagara Coastal)
Community involvement through citizen science fosters a deeper connection to the coast and improves coastal literacy by engaging participants in routine monitoring. This joint presentation will feature the LHCC's Coast Watchers program and Niagara Coastal's VAST project as local initiatives which empower community members to take action to protect the Great Lakes coast.
Huron Pines: Taking a holistic approach to Lake Huron watershed conservation
Samantha Nellis, Water Program Director
Huron Pines is celebrating our 50th year working to protect and enhance Northern Michigan's natural resources. This presentation will provide an overview of how we strive to protect the vitality of Lake Huron by protecting the entire watershed from the headwaters to the lakeshore and all the forests, wetlands and prairies in between. We take a holistic approach to safeguard our resources, working with partners, communities, experts, and landowners to educate, steward, conserve and sustain the health of Lake Huron.
Lake Huron Forever: Two Shores, One Water
Abigail Ertel, Community Program Director
The Lake Huron Forever initiative was started in 2019 by shoreline community foundations and conservation partners from the United States and Canada. Their goal is to advance water quality protection and sustainable communities on both sides of the lake. The initiative supports design and implementation of on-the-ground projects that strengthen the health of communities and their natural resources. By leveraging shared resources and expertise Lake Huron Forever is inspiring Lake Huron communities to put common waters first as they plan and implement projects for the benefit of their residents. In this session, attendees will learn about how Lake Huron Forever is motivating collective action at the community level using a unique partnership model that aligns community philanthropy with technical watershed protection approaches. Participants will also have a chance to share their ideas, interests and connections to this work as the initiative prepares to launch their next 5 year Action Agenda.
Swimmable, Drinkable, Fishable - Community Water Monitoring Hubs throughout the Great Lakes
Gregary Ford, Director of Water Programs
Swim Drink Fish
Swim Drink Fish has been monitoring recreational water quality in the Great Lakes basin since 2001. Originally, we monitored water quality on an “as-needed” basis to support our investigations into water bodies of concern. For example, in 2005 we undertook a study of recreational water quality at Bluffer’s Beach in Toronto, where we observed an elevated level of e.coli bacteria in the water. E.coli is used as an indicator bacteria that suggests the presence of fecal contamination present in the water. This monitoring eventually led to corrective actions being undertaken which resulted in a restoration of water quality to the site. Eventually, this approach is what led Swim Drink Fish to develop our monitoring process and theory of change: Connect, Collect, Share, and Restore. We Connect people to their waters. Train them to Collect water quality samples and environmental observations. We develop tools to Share this information with the public. And we use this data and information to Restore these areas. Since 2016, Swim Drink Fish has adopted a community-based water monitoring (CBWM) approach to sampling recreational water quality on a routine basis to establish a baseline inventory of conditions for areas that are historically unmonitored or underserved by existing monitoring programs. This CBWM approach sees the formation of “Swim Drink Fish Water Hubs” in communities where there is a need for water quality monitoring. These “Hubs” serve their communities by routinely sampling recreational waters for e.coli and total coliform bacteria, general water quality parameters, and environmental observations. Each hub also routinely collects Environmental Health and Safety Surveys, which are an important way to begin to assess and address the level of risk present in our waters. Most importantly, however, is that the Hubs perform an outreach and education function in the community through the promotion of “Water Literacy”. Being water literate means you know how your water affects you and how your actions affect the waters around you. Through the Hubs, communities are encouraged not only to connect with their waters, but also with each other, and to solve a problem larger than themselves.
Live Staking Along the Lake Huron Shoreline
Becky Adams, Environmental Research Assistant
B.M. Ross and Associates Limited
In 2022, BMROSS was involved with multiple projects along the Lake Huron shoreline in Port Elgin. Live staking, a bioengineering technique, was incorporated into the projects to restore sections of the shoreline. In her presentation, Becky will discuss the process of sourcing, harvesting and installing live stakes and the benefits of bioengineering techniques compared to shoreline hardening techniques.
Introduction to Healthy Lake Huron
Emily Febrey, Stewardship Communications Technician
St. Clair Region Conservation Authority
Healthy Lake Huron is a concerted effort to address shoreline water quality concerns such as nuisance algae and bacterial issues and to promote safe and clean beaches from Sarnia to Tobermory. Water quality concerns along the Lake Huron shoreline have been ongoing for many years. This situation is caused by a combination of nutrient and bacterial pollution from sources such as poorly functioning private septic systems, municipal wastewater, runoff from farm fields and other rural and urban properties, and natural sources such as waterfowl. Discussion will include how partners coordinate actions aimed at lowering phosphorus entering the Lake and reducing the incidences of high levels of bacteria.
State of the Bay Ecosystem Health Report
Erika Kolli, Aquatic Conservation Programs Technician
Georgian Bay Mnidoo Gamii Biosphere
GBB's first State of the Bay ecosystem health report was released in 2013 with the goal of summarizing available research about water, wetlands, fisheries, and habitats in this unique landscape, and sharing it with people who care about Georgian Bay. In 2018, the second report was published with new information on climate change, landscape biodiversity, and a recognition of the work of conservation groups and Indigenous communities. The 2023 report will build on past reports by incorporating Indigenous knowledges to compliment scientific analyses and deepen our collective understanding of environmental change.
Lake Huron Coastal Engineering Projects: A Review
Pat Prodanovic, Coastal Engineer
The intent of this talk is to present typical coastal engineering projects undertaken within the shoreline reaches of Lake Huron. These projects may include preparation of design drawings for repair or construction of new shoreline protection system, along with impact assessments that speak to how the proposed shoreline alternation affects natural coastal processes. Other projects examples will include those that develop building setbacks and assist homeowners in obtaining permits for homes and cottages proposed near the shoreline. Such projects are required to complete detailed impact assessments of natural hazards and quantify impacts on coastal processes (flooding, erosion, and dynamic beach assessments). To carry out such assessment requires understanding of shoreline characterization (such studies along Lake Huron shoreline are over 40 years old and are still very relevant), site inspections (observing on site consequences of coastal processes at play), numerical coastal modeling (using computer simulations to quantify waves, lake currents, beach profile evolution, storm surges), along with professional judgment. Examples of several such projects will be presented, along with main findings and eventual project outcomes.
St. Clair "The Big" River Story
Kristina Lee, Director
Ontario Friends of St. Clair River
Ontario Friends of St. Clair River (FOSCR) have been working to protect and preserve the St. Clair River for over 20 years in support of the federal and provincial government’s St Clair River Remedial Action Plan. Huge strides have been made to address pollutants and other stressors on the River ecosystem. This presentation will address current and historical environmental conditions and the unique social aspects of the watershed. In close proximity to the US and two First Nation territories, work to engage and restore the River have been complex and required cooperation and extensive inter-agency, First Nation, industry and community engagement. The journey has been long and challenging but the results are most encouraging. We hope that the strategies used on the “Big River” will provide valuable examples that can be utilized for other areas.
Maitland Conservation's Shoreline Hazard Mapping Update: understanding risk and working towards a climate-resilient future
Anna Soleski, Environmental Planner/Regulations Officer
Maitland Valley Conservation Authority
Since 2019 Lake Huron’s water levels have been close to record highs set in 1986, and in 2020 all previous records were exceeded for 8 of 12 months. These high-water levels have resulted in extensive erosion and inland flooding along Maitland Conservation’s (MC) shoreline. Current shoreline hazard mapping within MC’s jurisdiction was prepared in 2012 during low water levels and did not account for climate change impacts. The most severe climate change impacts on the shoreline are the increase in the range of high and low lake levels and the number of ice-free days under 1.5° C in global mean temperature (GMT). In the 2020 Ontario Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act, planning officials must prepare for climate change impacts on natural hazards. These climate risks can be incorporated into natural hazard mapping by modelling changes in wave energy resulting from changes to lake level and ice conditions. MC’s 2023 DRAFT Shoreline Hazard Mapping Update includes a high-resolution remapping of the Shoreline Erosion Hazard, Shoreline Flood Hazard, and Dynamic Beach Hazard. This mapping intends to identify and inform the public of natural hazards on the shoreline and advise on how individuals and planning agencies can work towards a more climate-resilient future.
For more information about MC's Shoreline Hazard Mapping Update, please visit us at https://www.mvca.on.ca/lake-huron-shoreline/.
Regulations: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Jennifer Stephens, General Manager/Secretary - Treasurer
Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority
Legislation and regulations are in-depth, creative tools necessary for protecting our environment. This presentation will explore the regulatory framework in place to protect shorelines. It will introduce conservation authorities as regulatory agencies and their design on a watershed scale. Recent changes to the Conservation Authorities Act and the new More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 will be discussed.
Conserving and Capturing the Beauty of Lake Huron
Esme Batten, Program Director - Midwestern Ontario
Nature Conservancy of Canada
For generations people have been drawn to the shores of Lake Huron. From the dramatic cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment to sandy beaches, rock and cobble shorelines, and spectacular coastal wetlands full of life, we can all find beauty and peace along the water’s edge. However, increasing development pressures, habitat fragmentation, and a rise in invasive species are threatening this important landscape. We need to work together to protect our shorelines to ensure they continue to support the species and people living along them, as well as our health for future generations. Join Esme Batten and explore the beauty of Lake Huron through her photography and learn about what the Nature Conservancy of Canada is doing to protect this globally significant area.
Two-Eyed Seeing and Fisheries Governance: The Saugeen Ojibway Nation Perspective
Ryan Lauzon (Fisheries Biologist), Breanna Redford (Fisheries Research Coordinator), and Naomi Jones (Program Coordinator)
Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation
The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation and the Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation, collectively the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), are First Nations in Ontario with an exclusive commercial fishery from Point Clarke in Lake Huron, around the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula, and over to Craigleith in Georgian Bay. These two Nations have relied on fishing for ceremony, commerce, and sustenance since time immemorial. This presentation will explore the SON fishery through a contemporary lens, showcasing how SON has created their own unique path to achieve self-governance and reconciliation via research, Nation-to-Nation negotiations, consultation, collaboration, and when necessary, litigation. There are many lessons to be learned from SON’s experiences and the purpose of this session is to share these lessons with a broader audience.
Managing Public Beaches – Dune Grass and Towel Space
Frank Burrows, Parks Manager
Town of Saugeen Shores
The Town of Saugeen Shores encompasses 18km of spectacular Lake Huron Shoreline. It’s a mixture of cottage properties, public sandy beaches, and natural rocky and wetland ecosystems all much loved and cherished by residents and its many visitors. The shoreline allowance is a ribbon of public lands that is managed by the Town. This presentation will discuss beach maintenance practices and share the various approaches the Town takes to manage this special place. To groom or not groom; to leave natural or to landscape; leave those logs, take those logs away; what is the purpose of sand dunes anyway; are some of the more common topics that will be discussed.
Climate Change Actions in Huron County
Derry Wallis, Climate Change & Energy Specialist
County of Huron
Huron County initiated its Corporate Climate Change Adaptation Plan in 2020 with the goal to become a leader in taking action to reduce, respond to, and recover from the impacts of climate change on the corporation and local communities. Since its conception, the County has been implementing strategies to improve the resiliency of the County’s services, operations, and assets to the impacts of climate change including a single-use plastic reduction strategy, high performance building standard and green fleet strategy. This presentation will provide an overview of the County's Corporate Climate Change Adaptation Plan and highlight some of the upcoming projects related to natural infrastructure.
GLFC: Binationally Supporting the Great Lakes Resource
Christina Carter, Communications Program Manager
Great Lakes Fishery Commission
An overview of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, it's role in the preservation and conservation of the fishery, and how the Sea Lamprey Control Program is managing the parasitic invader.
Whitefish and Climate Change
Natahsa Akiwenzie, Manager
Bagida'waad Alliance's discussion will be around how climate change has impacted the lake whitefish in Georgian Bay. My family were fishers from Neyaashiinigmiing for many years. We decided 5 years ago to leave the business because we were worried about the decline of the whitefish. Bagida'waad was formed in March 2018 and we are now in our 5th year. We spend a large amount of time talking about climate change and it's effect on the Great Lakes and the inhabitants that call it home. We also talk about solutions. What we can do ourselves and how we can hopefully make a change for the future generations.
Winning the battle: Phragmites control on Lake Huron
Dr. Janice Gilbert, Executive Director
Invasive Phragmites Control Centre
There have been a number of invasive Phragmites control projects taking place along the Lake Huron shoreline over the past decade. As a result of this work, the Phragmites population has been substantially reduced and, at many of these sites, minimal effort is now required to maintain a ‘Phrag Phree’ status. This presentation provides an overview of some of these projects, considerations for control options during the high and low lake level cycles, and maintaining long-term control.
Nothing About Us Without Us: Community-Led Research for Equitable Climate Resilience
Hannah Mico, Resilient Communities Manager
In 2020, River Network invested in authoring a two-part toolkit focused on strategies for equitable climate resilience at the local level. The second of that two-part series is titled "Fostering Community-Led Research and Knowledge," and outlines the process of embarking on a community-led research (CLR) project that promotes local knowledge & experience in decision-making spaces. This session will work through the steps of the toolkit and help attendees understand how to tap into the power and expertise within their communities with CLR, with a special focus on the final stage of CLR projects with "data to action" recommendations to actually advance data-driven change. River Network has supported over 10 organizations with CLR projects with this toolkit throughout the US and Puerto Rico, including two projects in the Great Lakes basin.
An Introduction to the Georgian Bay Geopark & Research Projects in the Aspiring Georgian Bay Geopark: Glacial History, Geocultural Landscapes and a vision for the future
Tony Pigott (Executive Director) and Dr. Kirsten Kennedy (Research Fellow)
Georgian Bay Geopark, University of Toronto Scarborough
Georgian Bay is an under-recognized Global Treasure whose future holds both wonderful opportunities and daunting risks: its extraordinary and unique geology, history and sacred/spiritual character lie just a few hours from an urban megaregion that will hold over 10 million people by 2045. We believe a UNESCO Global Geopark for all of Georgian Bay including the North Channel has the potential to inspire and engage the many local communities of the Bay, the people of the megaregion, people across Canada and around the world to understand and revere Georgian Bay’s deep natural and human history while helping create a more resilient and sustainable future.
Geoparks are designated areas with significant geological, cultural, ecological, and scenic value. As such, they have a responsibility to promote research, education, and conservation efforts related to their unique heritage. The geologically contrasting shorelines of Georgian Bay form the foundation for the region's rich ecological and cultural diversity, making it an exceptional natural laboratory for innovative research initiatives of both local and global significance. Currently, the Georgian Bay Geopark is supporting several novel research projects using drone-mounted LiDAR technology to visualise the land surface in ways that were never before possible. The first project utilises high-resolution topographic datasets to identify and map the landforms left by the last Laurentide Ice Sheet approximately 18,000 years ago. The project aims to better understand the morphology and origin of subglacial bedforms, including drumlins, moraines, and megascale glacial lineations, which relate to ice sheet dynamics, specifically the onset of fast-flowing "ice streams" at the edge of the Canadian Shield. Studying ancient ice streams is critical in predicting how modern ice sheets may respond to climate and oceanographic changes today. The second ongoing research project embraces the concept of "two-eyed seeing" by reconciling indigenous perspectives and history with state-of-the-art mapping technologies to describe the changing environments of the Bay over the past 11,000 years and the associated cultural response. Finally, we will outline our research vision for the future, including incorporating water quality monitoring of outlets of rivers to Georgian Bay.
First Nation Treaty History in Southwestern Ontario & Beyond
Jordan George, Communications Specialist
Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation
This presentation will focus on the foundation of First Nation Treaties in Southwest Ontario and the "penumbra" of Aboriginal/Indigenous Law as it relates to the Waters of the Great Lakes. The importance of Lake Huron in particular and the Wiiwkwedong-Aazhoodenaang region as a meeting place and significant spiritual site for Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) people will all be discussed. Questions are welcome and appreciated. Miigwetch-Thank you.
Protecting property from erosion and creating living shorelines with Geotube geotextile containers
Kevin Bossy, CEO
Shorelines along the Great Lakes are experiencing unprecedented erosion caused by rising water levels, higher waves and more frequent, intense storms. Some areas have lost as much as 10 metres of land during a single event. The severe scouring is increasingly threatening property, infrastructure, public recreational areas and environmentally sensitive zones. This presentation will explain how Geotube Shoreline Protection Systems can provide reliable, cost-effective alternatives to conventional hard armouring approaches. Whether installed permanently or temporarily, Geotubes offer a softer, more versatile method to withstand erosion and restore storm-damaged areas. Geotube containers have been used for more than 60 years and are installed along hundreds of kilometres of coastal areas and inland waterways to stabilize vulnerable slopes, protect erosion zones, reduce wave energy and storm surges, renourish beaches with sand, and more. Design considerations and case studies will be presented for Geotube shoreline applications in Ontario and Michigan, including a recent local project in Port Franks to restore and protect a property that suffered heavy storm-related erosion damage. Other applications profiled may include breakwalls, breakwaters, sand dune cores, groynes and more. Insights will also be provided on the advantages of Geotubes for developing hybrid systems that incorporate native plants and cover materials with the structural geotextile tube as part of a living shoreline solution.
An overview of the Geotube materials, container configurations, durability and lifecycle testing, installation process, will also be presented along with complementary reinforcement and stabilization technologies, such as sand-filled mattresses.
Lake Huron 101
Elizabeth LaPlante, Lake Huron & Superior Lake Manager
US Environmental Protection Agency
Overview of the binational Lake Huron partnership, the Lake Huron Lakewide Action and Management Plan (LAMP), the critical projects and actions included in the LAMP and how the public can become involved.