The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and the District of Central Saanich have joined forces on a project that will see wetland restored and storm water management increased on a large property in the municipality.
The project, dubbed The Maber Flats Wetlands Restoration Initiative, will fulfill a number of goals including enhancing the ecological and recreational opportunities of the area (off Wallace Drive near the back of Stelly’s School and the Polo fields) and enhancing drainage for agricultural properties surrounding it, say proponents.
Maber Flats was originally a bog before it was drained for agricultural use years ago and is now home to over 50 species of birds including some endangered species.
It has also become a popular bird watching location.
“The restoration initiative is more than just a conservation project,” said Tim Ennis, West Coast Program Manager for the NCC.
“This is an incredible opportunity to meet a wide range of community goals such as reversing some of the habitat loss we have seen in the region, providing community recreation and education and working with local government to improve storm water management.”
The NCC will manage the southern portion of the property with the objective of maximizing the benefits to ducks, shorebirds and other wildlife and ecosystems.
The northern section of the wetland will be engineered by the District as a storm water retention facility to help alleviate seasonal flooding issues in the area and generate other agricultural and water quality benefits for surrounding lands.
Early engineering studies from the District indicate that an engineered wetland will fully alleviate spring and fall inundation of neighbouring farm land and reduce peak flows on Graham and Hagan Creeks.
When completed, the restoration initiative will create a wetland and nature reserve on the 68-acre property similar to other local nature sanctuary projects like Swan Lake and Rithet’s Bog.
“This collaborative project is an opportunity for the municipality and the NCC to showcase best practices for managing wet soils to enhance both farm productivity and habitat values,” said Central Saanich Mayor Alastair Bryson.
“Council is working toward achieving one of the municipality’s highest storm water management priorities and seeing significant improvement in the agricultural values of neighbouring farm properties.”
The NCC and the District of Central Saanich have had positive preliminary discussions with the provincial Agricultural Land Commission about the project but approval for the engineered wetland component hinges on the ALC giving the final thumbs-up.
The NCC has begun fundraising to purchase the property and Central Saanich will contribute to the purchase, although it is not clear yet how much will be spent by the municipality.
The NCC estimates the total costs of completing the restoration and managing the property for conservation over the long term at $5.7 million.
This project will be the first significant engineered wetland undertaken by the municipality.
— With files from The NCC