250 Thorold Rd., Welland, Ontario L3C 3W2 Phone: 905.788.3135 Fax: 905.788.1121 info@npca.ca

Niagara River Remedial Action Plan

Niagara River Remedial Action Plan
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 Update Report – December, 2009 

Please send comments after reviewing document to:

Valerie Cromie, Coordinator
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan
Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority
(905) 634-0503
vcromie@npca.ca

Featuring one of the major natural attractions in the world, the Niagara River is viewed by millions each year, making tourism a major industry in the Niagara Peninsula. Not only is it a source of water for residents, municipalities, industry and agriculture, the Niagara River is a valuable resource for a variety of recreational activities such as fishing, boating, swimming and bird-watching.

In 1987 the Niagara River was designated as one of 43 Areas of Concern (AOCs) around the Great Lakes Basin by the International Joint Commission (IJC). This designation is due to degraded water quality which impairs complete use of the river’s resources. A Remedial Action Plan (RAP) has been developed for each of these severely degraded areas. The purpose of RAPs is to identify major water quality concerns and take actions to resolve them. When the issues have been addressed, the AOC will be considered remediated or “delisted”. Although the Niagara River AOC encompasses the Niagara watershed on both sides of the border, RAPs are being developed independently in Ontario and New York State and in partnership with the respective local communities. Achieving a healthy environment and restoring degraded water quality in the Niagara (and Welland River) watershed have been, and continue to be, important issues to all communities in the AOC.

Since the RAP Stage 2 (or action plan) Report was completed in 1995, many implementation activities have been undertaken in the AOC. In 2004 the lead government agencies for the Niagara River RAP initiated a ten-year review of the water quality issues and progress in taking action. What emerged from the review is a current and more detailed picture of the state of the aquatic environment in the Ontario portion of the Niagara River AOC, as well as further actions required to delist the AOC. Details of the review are included in the Niagara River Remedial Action Plant Stage 2 Update Report, December 2009 .

Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Map

The Niagara River (Ontario) AOC extends along the entire length of the Canadian side of the Niagara River (including Niagara Falls) and also includes the Welland River Watershed (which makes up 80% of its area).

 

Status of the AOC

The 14 possible beneficial use impairments as outlined in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement are evaluated against the delisting criteria. This analysis of the most current data against performance measures is as follows:

 

rap-notimpaired NO LONGER “IMPAIRED”

  • Bird or animal deformities or reproduction problems
  • Fish tumours & deformities
  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption (just the wildlife component – the fish component continues to be impaired)
rap-impaired CONTINUES TO BE “IMPAIRED”

  • Degradation of benthos (worms and insects that live at the bottom of the river)
  • Beach closings
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat
  • Restrictions on fish consumption
rap-furtherassessment “REQUIRES FURTHER ASSESSMENT” TO “IMPAIRED”

  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations (just the degradation of wildlife populations component – resulting in the entire beneficial use impairment now being listed as impaired)
  • Eutrophication (excessive input of nutrient) or undesirable algae (just the undesirable algae component – resulting in the entire beneficial use impairment now being listed as impaired)
rap-furtherassessment CONTINUES TO “REQUIRE FURTHER ASSESSMENT”

  • Degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations

 

What Remains to be Done?

Some of the remaining key actions include:

  1.  Completing assessment of BUI: Eutrophication or Undesirable Algae and identifying scope of further RAP actions.
  2. Restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat, including unique habitats found rarely in other parts of the Great Lakes basin.
  3. Completing assessment for the beneficial use impairment status for “degradation of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations”.
  4. Completing assessment of Queens Royal Beach and implementing required actions.
  5. Developing and implementing an updated monitoring plan which will help track progress of the Beneficial Use Impairments and ensure that they don’t backslide.

 

Progress Highlights

 

Restoring and Protecting Fish and Wildlife Habitat

Restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat, including unique habitats rarely found in other parts of the Great Lakes basin, has been a long standing priority of the Niagara River RAP.

The RAP Coordinating Team hosted a Fish and Wildlife Habitat Workshop in March 2011. The purpose of the workshop was to determine what issues remain and what actions need to be completed to address habitat issues associated with poor water quality in the AOC. The goal of RAPs is to restore degraded conditions in an AOC to a comparable level with its surroundings.

Representatives from local environmental agencies and organizations, including some from New York State were invited.  Participants were engaged in a Geographic Information System (GIS) exercise, using data collected through the NPCA’s Natural Areas Inventory.  Landscape analyses for wetland, woodland, and riparian habitats were generated and compared to reference areas outside the AOC.  The result of this analysis confirmed that habitat conditions outside of the AOC were comparable to that within the AOC.  Habitat degradation and fragmentation is still an issue, but the situation in the AOC is not any worse than outside the AOC.  Restoration work will continue through the various agencies and programs but the habitat work of the RAP is nearing completion.

 

Welland River Eutrophication Study – Investigating Nutrient Issues

Determining sources of nutrients causing eutrophication (high nutrients – low oxygen) in the Niagara River and its tributaries has been a priority of the RAP. In order to address this issue as it affects the Welland River, the NPCA coordinated the 3-year Welland River Eutrophication Study (2008-2010) in partnership with the City of Welland, Environment Canada (EC), Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), and the Regional Municipality of Niagara (RMN).

The study involved extensive water quality monitoring to identify sources of nutrients and nutrient loads (amounts). It makes several observations and recommendations that will be considered in an effort to develop a nutrient/phosphorus reduction strategy for the Welland River watershed.

There are already projects and programs in place dealing with high nutrient levels in the Welland River watershed, including:

  • The NPCA’s Water Quality and Habitat Improvement Program, which supports the private landowner through cost share grants, to improve water quality.  Typical projects include fencing to keep livestock out of creeks, manure storages to prevent runoff, windbreaks to prevent soil loss from fields, wetland restoration, and woodland restoration;
  • Regional and municipal infrastructure capital programs that include ongoing sanitary/storm sewer separation in the City of Welland to reduce bypasses at the Water Pollution Control Plant;
  • The City of Welland’s new Official Plan incorporates RAP supported policies for urban stormwater runoff, reduction of combined sewer overflows, etc.

 

The Niagara River Mussel Biomonitoring Program: 1983- 2009

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment has monitored the concentrations of contaminants in mussel (Elliptio complanata) tissue and bottom sediments at sites in the Niagara River since 1983.  This monitoring program documents the improving water quality conditions in the Niagara River with respect to concentrations of organic contaminants, including chlorinated benzenes, pesticides, Mirex, and industrial chemicals.  The length of the data set (26 years) and consistency of approach used over time have made the program an instrumental contributor to documenting the effectiveness of remedial actions to address sources of toxic chemicals to the Niagara River.  Results from Canadian sites and 5 U.S. sites published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research show that remedial actions have reduced the magnitude of the contaminant inputs to the river.  The data is supported by contaminant data generated by Ontario and the State of New York that shows decreasing trends for juvenile fish and sport fish, between the 1980s to the present.  The mussel biomonitoring program will continue to be a critical component of the Niagara River Toxics Management Plan.  For further information: http://www.npca.ca or Journal of Great Lakes Research 37. 2011. p.213-225.

 

Queen’s Royal Beach: New Research

There are three public swimming beaches within the Niagara River AOC. The Queen’s Royal Beach in Niagara-on-the-Lake, at the mouth of the Niagara River, is the only one where water quality problems result in frequent beach postings.  It is one of the 26 beaches that Niagara Region Public Health routinely tests for bacterial contamination.  At an all-day technical workshop held during the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative 2011 Annual Meeting and Conference (June 15-17 in Niagara Falls, Ontario), Dr. Tom Edge (Environment Canada) reported that Queen’s Royal Beach has one of the highest levels of water quality impairment in the Niagara Region. Further work is underway to determine the source of the problem, and identify a solution.

For further information: http://www.niagararegion.ca/living/water/beaches/default.aspx

 

Beyond the Niagara River AOC’s Remedial Action Plan

The goal of RAPs is to restore degraded conditions in an Area of Concern to a comparable level with its surroundings. It is important to note that there are other programs in place that will continue to improve and protect water quality and fish and wildlife habitat once the work of a RAP is completed and an AOC has been delisted. In Niagara these programs include:

  • The Lake Ontario and Lake Erie Lakewide Management Plans
  • The Niagara Natural Heritage System project
  • Land use planning under the Provincial Policy Statement, Places to Grow, and Greenbelt Species at Risk legislation
  • Habitat restoration programs supported by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Niagara Restoration Council, Land Care Niagara, Ontario Power Generation, and other private, government, and community organizations

 

Niagara River Repository

A collection of reports and documents about pollution in the Niagara River and the Niagara River Remedial Action Plan was established at the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Public Library in 1991, and is available to the public as reference material.

Canada-United States Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol of 2012

Approved Niagara RAP Reports

The following reports are provided in PDF format.

Niagara River (Ontario) AOC Update 2012
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Stage 2 Update – September 2011
Welland Eutrophication Study Final Report – March 2011
Welland River Eutrophication Study Final Report Appendices
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan – Stage 2 Update Report – December 2010
Remedial Action Plan Implementation Annex
NPCA Niagara River Remedial Action Plan
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan – Stage 1 Update – Environmental Conditions and Problem Definition
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan – Stage 1 – Environmental Conditions and Problem Definition
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan – Stage 2 Report (1995)
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan – Fact Sheet (English)
Niagara River Remedial Action Plan – Fact Sheet (Français)

Other Studies of Interest

Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Niagara River Remedial Action Plan Coordinating Committee. The following documents are provided in PDF format unless otherwise noted.

Niagara River AOC Aquatic Wildlife Status Report -November 24, 2010 (final)
Monitoring metal and persistent organic contaminant trends through time using quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis) collected from the Niagara River (Richman & Somers, 2010)
Niagara River Upstream Downstream Annual Report 2001-02-2004-05
Fish Tumor Assessment Canadian Lower Lakes – March 2010
Fish Tumor study site locations (ms excel)
Monitoring & Assessing Marsh Habitat Health
NRC Fish Population Data Analysis Report
NR Biomonitoring 1983-2009 (Richman et al JGLR, 2011)
The Niagara River Upstream/Downstream Program 1986/87 – 2004/05. Concentrations, Loads and Trends
Niagara River Watershed Fish Community Report 2012

Presentations

The Niagara River Remedial Action Plan: 25 Years of Environmental Restoration (powepoint)
Niagara Community Observatory Policy Brief #14: The Niagara River Remedial Action Plan: 25 Years of Environmental Restoration

Presentations from the RAP Implementation Committee Workshop, Nov. 10, 2010

The following documents are provided in PDF format unless otherwise noted.

NR – Implementation update (McDonnell)
Niagara Heritage – November 2010
Niagara Water Strategy – Update – November 2010
Welland River Eutrophication Study – November 2010
Status of the U.S. Niagara River RAP
Sustainable Niagara
Toxics Management in the Ontario AOC
2011 Combined Sewer Separation Update
Welland Regulator Monitoring Project
State of the Niagara River (powerpoint)
Niagara River Watershed Fish Community Report 2010 (powerpoint)

 

Presentations from the RAP Implementers’ session on February 15, 2012

The following documents are provided in PDF format unless otherwise noted.

AOC Sport Fish Contaminant Update
Status of US AOC 2012
Niagara River Upstream Downstream Annual Report 2001-02-2004-05
Fish Tumor Assessment Canadian Lower Lakes – March 2010

Presentations from the RAP Implementation Committee Workshop, April 10, 2013

The following documents are provided in PDF format unless otherwise noted.

Welland River Walleye
Status of US AOC
RAP Policy Brief and RAP Implementers
NR Biomonitoring
Keeping Course to Delisting
GLWQA Presentation NR
Colonial WaterBirds Niagara
NR AOC larval fish
NPCA WQHIP April 2013  
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