St.Mary’s River Improved by Model Stormwater Wetland

St.Mary’s River Improved by Model Stormwater Wetland

By Carol Martin, Lake Superior Conservancy and Watershed Council

Sault Ste.Marie’swaterfront will soon be home to a demonstration pond and wetland with secondary benefit to the St. Mary’s River. Clergue Park is the location of a development that will include a paving-stone walkway along the shoreline, a separated bike path, and two viewing platforms, as well as an entrance plaza along Russ Ramsey Way. The centerpiece of this development is a created wetland that serve as a demonstration, says city planner Steve Turco.

The demonstration wetland area is one technique for managing stormwater and will provide city engineering and planning staff with information on which to base stormwater management standards for new subdivision developments.

The City Council plans to commission a stormwater management study in 2008. City Director of Engineering Don Elliot is looking for funding for the study, expected to cost about $200,000. Among other things, the study will investigate the feasibility of incorporating a combination of wet ponds and dry ponds to achieve standard of removing 70% of particulate matter before the stormwater hits the river.

In his report to Council Elliot said,“It is becoming evident that the city needs to formalize a plan for addressing storm water quality as well as quantity. One of our own interpretations of the early results of the St. Mary’s River bacteriological sampling program this summer appears to indicate that the stormwater outfalls are a significant source of bacteria in the river, as elevated bacteria counts are experienced near the outfalls, especially after rain events.”

The demonstration wetland part of the Clergue Park development was funded by a grant from Brookfield Power, and its installation is being overseen by projectmanager Doug Leask ofWm. R.Walker Engineering Inc. Leask says the wetland will include plantings of both submergent and emergent species such as cattails that naturally remove toxins and metals through their metabolism. Water in thewetland,whichwill be located behind the boat slip on St. Mary’s River, will flow through these plantings directly into St. Mary’s River. The physical design of the area will promote a self-sustaining, fully functioning wetland.

Jennifer Hallett, a fish habitat biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said the process will take some time and a lot of work but designers of the wetland hope to establish plants such as cattails, bulrushes and lily pads.The plants and wildlife are interdependent and promote each other’s establishment, said Hallett, who is hopeful that the people managing the wetland will be able to nurture it to self-sustenance.

Part of the demonstration wetland will be established over a large stormwater sewer outflow pipe that Hallett said is being re-engineered so that significant and sudden increases in water volume through the pipe will not threaten the wetland. She also says that the plantings above the pipe should help to clean some of the water that would have flowed directly into the river around the pipe.

“Some municipalities and mines are using wetlands as a final polishing pond to treat effluent,” said Hallett. “The mix of all the plants and wildlife work together to clean the water of a variety of contaminates. Some contaminates are food for some plants while other plants sequester contaminates in their tissues or put it into the soil.”

The demonstration wetland shaping up in Clergue Park and behind the boat slip on St.Marys River will be closelymonitored as it develops andmany valuable lessons about howbest to establish a working wetland will be learned. Lake Superior Conservancy and Watershed Council, Clean North, Sault Field Naturalists and the local Conservation Authority are among the groups maintaining an interest in how the demonstration wetland is managed and how well it performs.

Contact Carol Martin, Lake Superior Conservancy and Watershed Council for more info:
(705) 946-0044 or



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.