Long Point Causeway Improvement Project

News

A lesson on ecopassages

ecopassage rick

Rick Levick, coordinator with the Long Point Causeway Improvement Project stands with one of the displays at an open house held at the Port Rowan Community Centre on Thursday. (SARAH DOKTOR Simcoe Reformer)

By Sarah Doktor, Simcoe Reformer
Thursday, December 19, 2013 5:13:02 EST PM

The Long Point Causeway Improvement Project held an open house at the Port Rowan Community Centre as part of their environmental assessment process and to inform the public of their plans to install up to nine more wildlife culverts.

“They can ask questions and find out what we’ve done so far. Learn about what we’ve done with the first phase, which was the first three (passages) we put in and learn about some of the monitoring we’ve done,” said Rick Levick, coordinator for the LPCIP.

In late 2012, the LPCIP installed the first three ecopassages to help reduce animal fatalities along the Causeway in Long Point.
The LPCIP set up cameras to monitor the passages, as well as a gauge to monitor water levels and water flow in the aquatic passage. They also had a representative from Long Point Waterfowl monitor the passages several times a week for a five month period this summer.
Based on those monitoring systems, the LPCIP has a better idea of how the passages are being used.

The LPCIP can also use data on the road mortality rate of years leading up to the installation of the passages to compare.
“We have a pretty good database of what is happening on the road and what has changed,” said Levick.
Those numbers were posted on the walls of the community centre for the public to view.

Scott Gillingwater, species at risk biologist with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority explained why it is worrisome to have high mortality rates for some species.

“When it’s an old adult turtle, you’re taking a huge reproductive component of the population away. Unlike humans, the older a turtle gets, the more reproductively successful a turtle gets…it is laying more eggs, larger eggs and has a higher hatch success rate. You want to safeguard the adults. Obviously we want to protect all age classes, but the adults are the most important,” he said.

The open house was also an opportunity for the LPCIP to explain to the public why fencing alone is not an effective solution.

“The problem with putting up fencing, while it keeps the animals off the road, is that it restricts their movements. The passages (and fencing) work together,” said Levick. On the flip side, Levick noted it would be equally ineffective to put in passages with fencing.
Levick also noted the LPCIP have had to do a lot of groundbreaking research because the project was fairly unique in Canada when they began. That has changed now. The Ministry of Transportation recently installed ecopassages along Highway 69 near Sudbury.

The LPCIP is now moving onto the next stage of their project, and the installation of several other culverts.

Earlier this year the LPCIP received $430,000 in federal and provincial funding.
“That is enough for us to go through this process and build up to five of six passages,” said Levick. So far, the project has raised $1.4 million.

The LPCIP hope to receive approvals and begin construction of the next phase of passages in the fall of 2014.