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Prince Edward Island has suffered from hundreds of years of neglect and often outright abuse. Though this is slowly changing, at one time people thought nothing of ploughing right up to the edge of a waterway, allowing silt and pesticides to freely move into the water, or to drive harvesting machines right across a brook. The provincial government has brought in minimal buffer zone legislation, but in many cases the riparian zones do not adequately protect the waterways. This project will expand and/or create 20 new buffer zones along Island waterways in thirty different areas across the province. Once grown, these plantings will have the ability to reduce the infiltration of pollutants into the water.
Nitrate levels are increasing in groundwater as well, which is of particular concern as PEI is 100% dependant upon groundwater for drinking. Based on data collected at groundwater nitrate testing clinics, over 70% of the Island’s groundwater shows artificially elevated levels of nitrate, some of which exceed Canadian guidelines for safe drinking water. Increasing forest cover in headwater and riparian areas helps to alleviate this problem.
Sedimentation of waterways has been an ongoing problem for many years. PEI has highly erodible soil and this combined with intensive agricultural land use, development and road maintenance results in significant amounts of sediment entering watercourses. This damages and destroys fish habitat, reduces water depth and affects fisheries. Riparian areas play key roles in preventing sedimentation from entering watercourses. Increased unsustainable forestry operations are reducing the amount of recharge areas in headwaters and riparian areas and reducing biodiversity to such an extent that native seed sources are no longer available. Restoring native species to these areas will help re-establish protective forest cover. Although watershed groups across PEI are becoming increasingly active in protecting and preserving our water resources, there is a need for stable support to help each group achieve its goals. By providing accessible hands-on training we would be equipping groups with the knowledge needed to continue riparian and headwater protection efforts.