Farmland owners can restore wetlands, shut in unused wells

Upper Souris Watershed Association programs

By Greg Nikkel
Southeast-area agricultural land-owners have the opportunity to restore land back to wetlands and receive some payment for it, through the Upper Souris Watershed Association.
Producers who qualify for the program can receive a one-time payment of $2,000 an acre to allow the association to install a ditch block which would bring the wetland back to its natural level, said David Pattyson, watershed coordinator for the association, noting the producer has to agree to a 10-year contract to be a part of the program.
“It’s been popular program in the past. We’ve offered it now for three seasons,” he said. “We’ve restored about 170 acres of wetlands in the southeast.”
The majority of wetlands that they restore tie in to one of the major tributaries in the Upper Souris Watershed area, such as Long Creek, Moose Creek or the Souris River.
The funding is made available through a three-way agreement between the Upper Souris Watershed Association, the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Fund and Ducks Unlimited Canada.
When a producer wants to be a part of the program, Upper Souris staff will come out and do an assessment of the site to make sure there are no potential problems either upstream or downstream.
“One of the major concerns in installing a ditch block is if the wetland lies outside of the property line. In that case, if we can we’ll try to reach an agreement with the adjacent land owners — otherwise, we would not be able to go ahead with the restoration,” said Pattyson.
Another situation they might run into is another land owner downstream who wants to continue to access the water, and in that case, again they would not be able to restore the wetland in that location.
One of the reasons the association wishes to restore wetlands is a concern for water quality, and because wetlands perform an ecological function, such as serving as a natural filter for water.
“They can remove dissolved nutrients or suspended sediments, and provide a little bit of filtration of pretty much any chemical entering the water stream,” said Pattyson. “That’s one of the reasons we feel wetland restoration is important. They act as a natural recharging of ground water supplies. Those wetlands may actually help recharge the water supply.”
In addition, having the wetland restored provides a natural habitat for water birds, as well as for upland game birds and wildlife that live in the area.
The best way for a producer to become involved in the program is to call the Upper Souris association office at 306-634-7074, or contact Pattyson directly, emailing him at d.pattyson@sasktel.net.
Other programs offered by the association include the promotion of converting cropland to forage.
For those who qualify, there is 50 per cent funding up to a maximum of $10,000 through the Farm Stewardship Program, which is supported through the Ministry of Agriculture.
The association will also assist farmers to properly deal with old unused water wells, and funding up to 90 per cent of the cost of doing this is available, noted Pattyson.
“We’re quite pleased to offer this funding. There are a number of reasons a producer would want to deal with an unused or abandoned water well. Usually when they’re unused, they’re also not maintained, which can contaminate the aquifers in the area,” said Pattyson.
“Unfortunately, old water wells, if it’s not dealt with, can actually impact the water quality in the area. With aquifers, you never know how far they can travel, so water quality can be affected in neighbouring wells. It’s a pretty big issue across the province,” he added.
With large-diameter wells, they can be health and safety risks for animals, livestock and people.
The association can provide technical support in addition to funding of up to 90 per cent of the costs.

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