by Monte Sonnenburg, Simcoe Reformer
LONG POINT, Dec.10, 2014 – The odds keep improving for wildlife in the Port Rowan area that insists on commuting between Long Point Bay and the Big Creek Marsh.
Organizers of the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project (LPCIP) hoped to have six “ecopassages” in place beneath the roadway by next spring. Instead, there will be eight, leaving the group four short of its intended target of 12.
Three concrete passageways were scheduled to go under the 3.6-kilometre causeway this fall. Thanks to $120,000 in last-minute funding from the federal government’s National Conservation Plan, LPCIP and Norfolk County were able to boost this to five. Construction is underway this week.
The causeway initiative was launched six years ago in response to high wildlife mortality rates on the causeway. The routine of numerous species in the Port Rowan area includes roaming back and forth between Long Point Bay and the Big Creek Marsh.
Meanwhile, the roadway in between handles a large volume of traffic from spring to winter. In 2008, the causeway was identified as one of the deadliest stretches of road in North America for endangered reptiles.
In partnership with Long Point Waterfowl, LPCIP has gathered photographic evidence that the ecopassages in place are performing as advertised. Motion-sensitive cameras have captured a wide variety of animals opting for the safer, subterranean route. LPCIP estimates mortality rates are down 50% since the first passageways were installed.
“We now have photographic evidence that all kinds of wildlife – turtles, snakes and all kinds of mammals – are using the culverts to pass safely under the road,” Paula Jongerden, chair of the LPCIP steering committee, said in a news release. “Our work has made significant progress in ensuring that species-at-risk reptiles will continue to thrive in the Long Point area, one of Canada’s 16 World Biosphere Reserves.”
The ecopassages also serve a hydrological function. Since the causeway was built in 1928, water flow between the Big Creek Marsh and Long Point Bay has been constricted.
This has implications for water quality in the marsh, which has experienced heavy siltation in recent years. The passages will ease water flows on both sides of the causeway, hopefully alleviating some of the problems that have been identified.
Even though we are approaching mid-December, traffic on the causeway Wednesday was fairly steady. The Belmont construction firm Gary D. Robinson Contracting is installing the eight-tonne ecopassages while maintaining one lane of traffic at all times.
Eric D’Hondt, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, told Norfolk council this week that traffic disruptions have been minimal. Traffic flows on the causeway Wednesday appear to bear that out.