The Recreation Bay was created as a by-product of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s. Fill material from the excavated canal was used to create Tekakwitha Island, forming a bay with an outlet into the Seaway. This bay serves as the last remaining public access to the St. Lawrence River and for many years was a popular swimming and gathering spot in the summer. The Onà:ke Paddling Club used the bay for practices and regattas, owing to the perfect 1000-metre run available.
Over the years, this has changed as the low flow in the bay led to an accumulation of sediment, which then caused an overgrowth of aquatic plants, reducing the enjoyment of swimming and preventing paddling in many areas when the plants get too thick or the bottom too shallow.
The Kahnawà:ke Environment Protection Office (KEPO) has been studying this problem for a number of years in an effort to understand why it is happening and develop a strategy to fix it. KEPO now understands that the majority of the sediment likely comes from the Chateauguay River. Flows from this river do not have enough time to fully mix with the St. Lawrence before reaching the bay inlet and so the sediment from this highly agricultural watershed tends to end up in the bay when the water slows down. The sediment from this watershed is high in nutrients because of the farming and this helps explain the excessive plant growth. These plants in turn capture more sediment, aggravating the problem.
KEPO created a model of the existing system to determine what measures could be taken to improve the flow. This study concluded that three strategies should be used:
- Removing aquatic plants on a regular basis;
- Increasing flows at the downstream lock system; and
- Targeted excavation of sediment in a location just downstream from Turtle Bay.
KEPO has been working on the detailed design for these flow improvements including how to carry out the excavation, a strategy for plant harvesting and holding discussions with the Seaway Management Corporation on increasing flows. In conjunction with these plans, KEPO is incorporating strategies to naturalize the rocky, artificial shoreline along the island, enhance the soil quality on the island and improve the wetlands at Turtle Bay. The goal of all of this work is to increase accessibility and usability for Kahnawa’kehró:non while also enhancing the environment. KEPO encourages your feedback on the plans and your ideas for improving the Recreation Bay.
The plans should be finalized in the fall of 2017 and KEPO is now working with various partners to secure the funding necessary to undertake this work. A pilot project to remove a portion of the aquatic plants using various techniques and observe their rate of regrowth was carried out in September 2017. For questions or comments, please contact Patrick Ragaz, Environmental Advisor/Projects Coordinator, with KEPO at (450) 635-0600.