Planning Somenos Marsh: Major Proposal Developed by Wetlands Institute Participant

One great thing about the 2012 Sea-to-Sky Wetlands Institute workshop, hosted on July 9 to 15,  is that  it was made more accessible due to the generous support of our  financial partners (listed at the end of the article). This meant that those unable to attend in previous years, due to financial barriers (ex. Students, recent graduates, and non-profit organizations), could access the Institute and expand their capacity to be wetland stewards. We were happy to have one rather passionate and dedicated Vancouver Island University student join us for this Institute, who was able to provide support to a fellow non-profit conservation organization.

Senior Geography student, Kyle Rasmussen was hired by the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society as an Environment Sustainability Researcher to explore restoration options for the Nature Trust of B.C. regarding the Somenos Marsh. The marsh, located in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, British Columbia abuts the Somenos Lake, home to nine species at-risk and a population of anadromous salmonids. Unfortunately, stresses such as polluted stormwater have taken their toll on the marsh and the surrounding area.   Furthermore, significant segments of the marsh were historically modified largely through the introduction of reed canary grass to support agricultural needs.  Reed Canary Grass can spread aggressively, and, as in the case  of Somenos marsh, dominate the vegetation in wetland environments.   Harvesting the grass at this site is becoming less feasible due to humic soil decomposition,  inundation of water over a larger portion of the season, nutrient loss, and depreciating economic feasibility. Kyle’s tasks included preparing a report with recommendations on how to shift some of the fields of reed canary grass  to that of a retention/filtration pond, for the benefit of Somenos Lake and the surrounding marsh habitat.

Kyle attended the 2012 Wetland Institute to further his knowledge on what kinds of wetlands are possible in different areas adjacent to Somenos Lake and what the prerequisites are for each type.  Kyle expressed that direct hands on experiences cannot be emulated in a classroom, such as using a rod and level, conducting soil tests, and assessing wetland restoration/creation potential. “After attending the [workshop], I felt confident in drafting my own wetland restoration project.”

Armed with a phone full of connections, a list of new ideas,  and 5 restored/constructed wetlands under his belt (due to his participation in the Institute) Kyle was ready to tackle his project head on. In a few short months, and with further support from co-workers and project partners, he was able to complete a report (click the image below to view) full of recommendations encompassing suggested phases, remediation options, and alternatives (with risks and benefits). Wetland construction and design criteria include suggested vegetation for planting, erosion control, woody debris incorporation, water depth, and much more. Clearly, Kyle was fully dedicated to this project and spent innumerable hours professionally plugging away at it.

If the project is approved, it could decrease flooding, increase green space; provide habitat for birds, salmon, and listed species. It is also Kyle’s wish that this project will perpetuate further conservation and eventually lead to a region-wide rainwater management initiative.

The Wetlands Institute would not have been possible without the financial support of: Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Government of British Columbia, Shell, and the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

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