Improving the health and ecology of the Blindman River is the aim behind a new initiative underway in central Alberta.
On Tuesday, officials with Lacombe County, Red Deer River Watershed Alliance (RDRWA), Agroforestry and Woodlot Extension Society (AWES) hosted an open house at the Abbey Centre in Blackfalds to give residents a better picture of restoration work being proposed for the river and surrounding watershed.
Noel St Jean, Executive Director for AWES says the primary objective is to improve the water quality and habitat on each side of the Blindman River.
“There’s a number of different ways that can be done,” says St Jean. “The project itself is looking at doing a health assessment of the river at the beginning, picking locations that will get our best results for our effort and then actually doing restoration work along the shorelines of the river. The project goes geographically from Bluffton all the way to the mouth of the river when it flows into the Red Deer River.”
At this point, St Jean anticipates the health assessment and restoration work to continue over the next three years.
“Environment did a province-wide study in 2015 and looked at all the rivers in Alberta and the most critical area in Alberta was the Red Deer River watershed and west of the Red Deer River, the Blindman being one of them” St Jean states. “It was rated as being number five out of five as far as critical from both a water quality standpoint and potential flooding stand point.”
St Jean points out there are a number of factors creating water quality and habitat concerns around the Blindman River.
“If you remember back to 2013 when Calgary and High River had the major floods, that is an example of what can happen when you have extreme rainfall and extreme surface flow from snowmelt in the spring,” he says. “You could have a similar situation on the Red Deer River, not the main stem itself because the damn out on the Glennifer Reservoir sort of controls the flow but a lot of the other rivers like the Medicine, Little Red and the Blindman are potential for that same occurrence again.”
St Jean says the biggest reason for that to occur is because there isn’t a buffer in between human use and the river itself.
“Having a buffer there, vegetation certainly reduces the flow and also improves the water quality going into the river too,” he exclaims. “So there’s two factors, it’s the flow level going into the river and the quality of the water going into the river.”
With both private and provincial government funding in place for the project, St Jean says they’re currently trying to find those key areas to begin restoration work and then work with landowners that might be living in those areas.
“We’re looking at trying to set up a stewardship committee you could become involved in,” points out St Jean. “We’re also looking for the average landowner that lives on the river that’s seeing what’s happening and would like to make some changes to what happened in the past because it is changing the footprint along the river but for the good, as far as water quality and water flow.”
St Jean concludes anyone that works along the Blindman River, lives along the river or cares about the river can certainly help, simply by being a supporter of the concept.
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