THE NETLEY LIBAY MARSH
The Netley-Libau Marsh is the largest coastal wetland in North America with about 22,000 hectares of area. It has provided benefits in the past such as nutrient sequestration to reduce algae blooms for Lake Winnipeg, a nursery for fish populations, also, wildlife and waterfowl habitat. History has shown this area has been utilized by First Nation peoples and have been traditionally used for trapping, hunting, harvesting and medicines.
This marsh has deteriorated for a number of reasons, mostly due to human activity, and it is no longer a healthy, functional wetland. Until 1999, the Federal government ran a dredging program in the Red River, up to the mouth of Lake Winnipeg. Once this program was cancelled, siltation that travels with water started to accumulate where the Red River connects to the Lake. This buildup ends up forcing water to go through the marsh (through the “Netley cut” inlet). Large portions of the marsh are flooded, impeding vegetation growth. Ice jamming during early spring is also eroding the shoreline. Other factors like the water levels on Lake Winnipeg and the presence of Common Carp (aquatic invasive species) are also destroying the marsh. As a consequence, much of the marshes’ habitat for wildlife, fish and waterfowl have been lost.
Restoration Pilot Project
A partnership of organizations -including RRBC and SCO- are working with expert scientists, industry leaders, citizens and government to put forward a restoration project for the marsh. The project proposes to use the Amphibex machines (currently used for ice breaking) to dredge a specific section of the Red River and use the dredged sediment to construct vegetation shelves as shallow-water habitat appropriate for the growth of cattails and other marsh vegetation. The restored habitat will bring back fish, wildlife and waterfowl. This technique was very successful in the restoration of wetlands in numerous places around the world and will work here as well.
This project could prove feasible to launch a full-time operation to restore the marshes that use to be where the Netley and Harman Lakes currently are. This will prevent water diverting through the Netley Cut and force it to the lake by taking the path of its natural channels. A healthy marsh will act again as a nutrient absorbing ecosystem, capable of reducing pollutants in the water, sequestering carbon, creating habitat for fisheries, wildlife and waterfowl, and bring back traditional livelihood for First Nations.