More than 60 acres of previously drained wetlands have been restored in southeast Saskatchewan, thanks to a partnership between the Upper Souris Watershed Association, Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Lake Winnipeg Basin Stewardship Fund.
USWA coordinator David Pattyson said that the organization started a wetland restoration demonstration project last spring. It offered $1,000 per acre or per plug to landowners who would allow the USWA to restore wetlands in the Upper Souris region.
“The Upper Souris ended up having more producers interested in the program than what we had funding for,” said Pattyson.
Plugs were installed last fall. Landowner incentives were paid out at the end of last year.
Ducks Unlimited Canada supplied funding and technical support, while the Lake Winnipeg Storage Fund supplied money, too. About $90,000 was paid out in landowner incentives, Pattyson said.
Pattyson said the USWA embarked on the program because drainage, if it doesn't happen properly, can have a negative impact on the watershed.
“We felt that it was important to have a program in place that could restore at least some of the wetlands, that are drained, back to their native state,” said Pattyson.
The USWA wanted to restore the landscape back to the way it was, as much as possible, before the drainage was installed.
“We look at historical photos to try to determine what the footprint of that wetland was originally, and then install a plug-in drainage ditch to raise the water level to what it once was,” said Pattyson.
In the southeast region, wetlands naturally fill and spill, so they are designed to spill back into the original channel, he said.
The big benefit, according to Pattyson, is there will be a reduction in the amount of nutrients that leaves the wetlands and enters the runoff water for the various rivers and reservoirs in the Upper Souris region. It should also reduce the quantity of water entering the Souris system.
“When we get the snow melt this spring, we should have some nice-looking wetlands that will be doing their job,” said Pattyson.
One of the wetlands to benefit from the demonstration project was located in close vicinity to Estevan. Two more were east of the city. Three were in the Radville area, and two were north of Weyburn.
Pattyson said the project will be officially wrapped up at the end of March, when the USWA issues its final report. But programming of this nature is probably going to be offered again by the USWA, thanks to the success of the first wetlands venture.