At the east end of Lake Ontario, where the lake flows into the St. Lawrence River, lies Wolfe Island. It is the first and the largest of the Thousand Islands, and it is home to some of the most important aquatic habitat on Lake Ontario.
Since 2002, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has been working with the Wolfe Island Wildlife Association, council, and local residents to explore opportunities for improving fish habitat on Wolfe Island. This summer, Waterkeeper hired a marine biologist to examine ways to restore and enhance fish habitat.
The Wolfe Island Wetland Corridor is expected to improve one of the largest coastal marshes on Lake Ontario. It would restore free-flowing water between bays on either side of the island, improving water quality of human and aquatic life. It would provide spawning and nursery areas for fish species - particularly important on Lake Ontario, where 86% of fish species use marshes for nursery habitat. The Wetland Corridor will also provide important habitat for other aquatic creatures and for migratory birds.
The Corridor would be located in place of a closed 19th Century shipping canal. The canal never created the economic boom that its supporters envisioned largely due to improved railway service and the construction of international bridges later in the century. It was abandoned commercially in the early 1890's. Smaller motor craft and fishing boats continued to use the Canal until the Department of Highways filled in the north end for a road in 1937. In-filling was followed by the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which greatly reduced the number and quality of wetland areas of eastern Lake Ontario.
According to Environment Canada, the importance of marshes to the fish of the Great Lakes "cannot be overemphasized." For the Wolfe Island community, the wetland corridor is an opportunity to capitalize on the region's rich natural heritage and cultivate its local resources.
Doug Howell, who has thirty years' experience at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, will present his report to Waterkeeper later this summer. We will release the report for public comment and host an open house on Wolfe Island this fall.
If you are interested in being notified when the report is released, please send us your email address along with the message "Wetland Corridor List".
This newsletter was prepared with the assistance of Kim Hulton.