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Morinville students rally for creek

NAIT project aims to improve water quality

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 06:00 am

MANY HANDS – Morinville students will be planting trees and shrubs along the banks of Little Egg Creek on Thursday. The effort is aimed at improving the water quality in the Sturgeon River tributary.
MANY HANDS – Morinville students will be planting trees and shrubs along the banks of Little Egg Creek on Thursday. The effort is aimed at improving the water quality in the Sturgeon River tributary.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Little Egg Creek will get a lot tastier this week after hundreds of Morinville students cover its shores with native edible plants.

About 140 students from Morinville Community High School (MCHS) and Georges H. Primeau Middle School will team up with town officials this Thursday to add about 120 native shrubs, trees and plants to the banks of Little Egg Creek.

The project is part of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (NAIT’s) ongoing effort to study and enhance the Sturgeon River, said Laurie Hunt, biologist with NAIT’s Sturgeon River Research Project.

“The goal, as it is in St. Albert, is to establish a riparian corridor to promote terrestrial biodiversity and also improve water quality for fish,” Hunt said, referring to that community’s River Edge Enhancement Project (REEP) plantings.

This is a part of a new phase of the Sturgeon research project that started last year, she continues. Instead of just gathering baseline data on the river, project members are now working with watershed residents to improve the state of the river.

“We’re doing a lot of work with Lac Ste. Anne (County) right now,” Hunt noted.

This includes working with landowners around Matchayaw (Devil’s) Lake and Kilini Creek to fence off shorelines from livestock and plant vegetation. The NAIT team plans to do three similar plantings in St. Albert this year with the help of local schools.

Little Egg Creek runs along the north edge of Morinville and flows into the Sturgeon River. Like the Sturgeon, the creek suffers from low flows and heavy nutrient loads caused in part by the mowing of shoreline vegetation, Hunt said.

“In a lot of areas, there’s very little riparian buffer.”

That gives fertilizer runoff a clear run into the creek, promoting algal blooms and infilling through eutrophication.

Establishing plants along the shore will help intercept pollutants before they reach the water, stabilize the creek’s banks and provide shade for fish, Hunt said.

Many of these plants will provide edible fruits as part of the town’s Incredible Edibles initiative, said town community development co-ordinator Allen Jacobson. Town crews plan to drill holes for the plants this Wednesday.

MCHS teacher Neil Korotash said he plans to have his urban agriculture students help with the planting to teach them about how people can both harm and help the environment.

“It’s fun to be out doing hands-on things,” he said.

Please don’t pluck plants

This is actually the second year that NAIT has done a planting on this creek, Hunt said. Last year’s plants lasted less than a week before someone ripped up and tossed most of them into the creek.

“The site we planted last year doesn’t look so good right now.”

Student Erika Aubuchon, who helped with that planting and is back for this year’s event, said she became very angry when she found out about the vandalism, as she was looking forward to seeing the plants grow.

“I really want the creek to become healthy again,” she said.

These plantings will bring more oxygen and wildlife to Little Egg Creek, making it prettier and healthier, Aubuchon said.

“I really hope people won’t try to steal or destroy the trees and bushes.”

Crews plan to mark out the plantings with stakes this year and hope the students involved will feel they have a stake in the project, Jacobson said.

The town hopes to keep doing plantings along Little Egg Creek for as long as NAIT is doing its project, Jacobson said.

The Little Egg Creek planting runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m. this May 29 just north of G.H. Primeau School. Call Jacobson at 780-939-7832 for details.


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