Approximately 30 community members came together for the 100 Sand Bags Event to kickstart the Hanlon Creek Weir Removal Project.
The initiative led by urban planner Dave Penny on Sept. 7 saw participants fill three tons of sand brought by the City of Guelph to prepare for construction which will commence on Sept. 10 to remove the weir which blocks the water flow and serves as a barrier to the fish passageways.
Removing the weir will lower the upstream level and narrow the channel which will result in cooler stream temperatures, improved sediment transport and the ability for fish to freely pass for an overall healthier and expanded brook trout habitat by 3.2 km.
The Hanlon Creek crowdfunding campaign which was initiated in March 2019 raised enough funds along with contributions from the Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters and the Grand River Fisheries Management Plan Implementation Committee to complete the weir removal within the last two weeks of September 2019.
Ontario Provincial Biologist Alex Meeker from Trout Unlimited Canada said the process of weir removal must be done gradually.
"There is a lot of fine material upstream, fine sediment and organic matter and if we just pull the plug, it will just go downstream at once," said Meeker.
“In order to prepare the site, the sandbags needed to be in place so that when they're doing the work, they're working in the dry instead of wet conditions,” said Meeker.
Meeker said preparing the site prior to construction makes the project less expensive overall.
“As a not for profit organization, it's important for us to be agile with our funding when we can,” said Meeker.
Meeker said the sandbags essentially provide a barrier and allow the water to be redirected around the weir through a pipe. The sandbags also block water from the weir to allow it to dry so they can prevent construction materials from flowing downstream.
As soon as the weir is extracted, the sandbags will be removed and the construction will be complete and stones will be placed in the space of the current weir to fill any large holes.
Meeker said the community played a large role in supporting this project by offering free labour and financial support.
“We've been working on this project for approximately nine months and we had funding from many different sources which is really what makes this a community project,” said Meeker.
Meeker says Penny came up with the idea to get local businesses on board to support this initiative of supporting brook trout habitat by taking $100 donations in exchange for representing the businesses' logo on the sandbag.
“As you can see this is a very high traffic area and were hoping to eventually - once this project is done - to have informal signage to let people know about the community that has invested in the wellbeing of Hanlon Creek," said Meeker.
The partners in this project are the Ontario Rivers Alliance, Trout Unlimited Canada, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry, the Grand River Conservation Authority, City of Guelph, Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters, and the Grand River Fisheries Management Plan Implementation Committee.
“Many thanks to the local organizations and volunteers who led this effort to restore access to important Brook Trout habitat! This success can inspire similar community actions across Canada”, said senior conservation biologist of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Nick Lapointe in a press release.