2017 Long Point Phragmites Pilot Project Update
The initial phase of the Long Point Phragmites Pilot Project has wrapped up for the 2017 season. This year’s program saw an expansion in geography locally, including treatment in coastal wetlands in Long Point, Turkey Point and the lower Big Creek watershed. Approval was received for up to 1000 hectares of treatment however with limited time to complete this work within the appropriate biological windows, achieving this total was not possible. GIS staff are working on the final treatment maps and hope these will ready for posting on the LPPAA website soon. NCC and MNRF partnered again this year to deliver the program, with NCC leading the private land involvement and MNRF focusing on Crown lands. Fortunately, ideal weather conditions prevailed for the project timeline allowing for long days and significant accomplishments. A big thanks to the contractors who put in incredible amounts of overtime to make the project successful. Lastly, some new technology was employed to improve tracking of our treatment areas and improve accuracy of our reporting.
Extremely tall Phragmites on Courtright Ridge (Photo credit: Giles Restoration Services Inc.)
Lands treated include the Long Point Crown Marsh, Long Point Provincial Park, Long Point Company marsh, BSC lands, Crown lands at the Tip of Long Point, most of the Turkey Point wetland complex and several private properties in the lower Big Creek region. This work was contracted to Eric Giles/Giles Restoration Services Inc. The ground program expanded this year to include the use of two Marsh Masters, one owned by NCC and a second machine owned by Giles, as well as NCC’s 20’ jon boat equipped with a punt motor and spray system. The combination of two Marsh Masters and the boat proved to be necessary to complete work on time in areas where waterfowl hunting was scheduled to begin on Sept 23rd. Fortunately we completed these areas late in the evening of Sept. 22nd.
Aerial program – Sept 11-16
The aerial treatment contract was awarded by MNRF to Expedition Helicopters of Cochrane, the same contractor as was used in 2016. This year the helicopter treated the Long Point Crown Marsh and numerous private properties in the Turkey Point wetland complex. MNRF and NCC staff attended the calibration day held on the morning of Sept 11 at the Tillsonburg airport. The purpose of this exercise is to verify that the nozzles on the aircraft are producing droplets that are in the ASAE Coarse size category prior to treatment; this is a requirement of the Emergency Use Registration approval and results in a droplet size near that of an average rain drop. This measure is undertaken to prevent drift of herbicides to non-target areas and appears to be very effective. The afternoon of the 11th saw the Crown Marsh treated and the Turkey Point wetland complex was completed between Sept 12-16. There was one ‘weather day’ where wind conditions were just over our prescribed limits however overall the job was completed in record time due to general cooperation from mother nature.
The Pilot project had a significant monitoring component involved this year. NCC and MNRF worked closely with the Dr. Rebecca Rooney at the University of Waterloo to monitor a variety of parameters relating to the spray program. Results will be available in 2018 as lab work is currently underway and analysis is still to be completed. The monitoring program included:
• Efficacy of the treatment program
• Effects on sensitive coastal marsh communities (incl. benthic invertebrates)
• Fate of the herbicide (glyphosate), AMPA and the adjuvant in the environment
• Assessment of risks to biofilms and the wetland foodwebs (incl. amphibians)
• Monitoring of impacts to fish and fish habitat
• Use of UAV and aerial imagery to assess accuracy and spray drift from 2016 pilot project
NCC and MNRF also undertook a rigorous Drinking Water Quality sampling program at locations in Long Point Crown Marsh, Long Point Causeway, Lower Big Creek and Turkey Point. This effort was to ensure no impact to drinking water sources for residents in these communities and to inform the re-instatement of water system operation in areas where a shutdown was recommending during the spray application. Levels at all sample locations did not come close to the Ontario Drinking Water Standard at any point during the project. Great news for the future of this program!
Next steps for the program include identifying timelines for cutting, rolling and potential prescribed burning of treated areas over the winter months. It is expected that the Marsh Masters will be operating soon using the roller/chopper or cutting attachment in most treated areas. NCC is looking at potential for prescribed burning some key areas however this can be difficult to achieve without good frozen conditions. MNRF is considering the same type of treatment for the Crown Marsh. Future updates on these activities to come over the winter months.