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Maintaining the Tawatinaw River watershed

Athabasca Watershed Council hopes to re-form Tawatinaw River specific stewardship group
The Tawatinaw River starts at Helliwell Lake, 68 kilometres southwest of Athabasca in Westlock County. It flows north past Rochester, Perryvale and Colinton before meeting the Athabasca River. The Athabasca Watershed Council and Crooked Creek Conservancy Society are holding a free open house at the Rochester Seniors’ Centre Nov. 26, 10 a.m. to noon open to anyone who lives along the riparian area and is interested in maintaining its health.

ATHABASCA — The Athabasca Watershed Council (AWC) has been mapping the banks of the Tawatinaw River and now they are holding an open house inviting anyone who lives along the riparian to an open house with the goal of re-starting a stewardship group. 

The event is coordinated with the help of the Crooked Creek Conservancy Society and will be held at the Rochester Senior's Centre, Nov. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon with a host of guest speakers including from Alberta Environment and Protected Areas Fisheries Department and the Land Stewardship Centre and, if possible, start a new group or revive the Tawatinaw Watershed Conservancy.

“We put this open house together and invited guest speakers to talk about fisheries, shorelines, and water quality and some available funding,” said AWC science coordinator Sarah MacDonald in a Nov. 10 interview. “We also wanted to talk about the Land Stewardship Centre and Highway 2 Conservation and ALUS (Alternative Land Use Services) which just came to the Athabasca, Barrhead, and Westlock area.” 

The group has been working with Fiera Biological Consulting to map the Tawatinaw River to see how healthy and intact the shorelines are. 

“They have a desktop method using GIS (graphic information system) to be able to determine whether the shorelines are healthy or not and they give a rating.; very intact, moderately intact, low intact, very low intact (so) we can know what areas to target for funding, to help with projects that involve shorelines if landowners are interested,” she said. 

The AWC has already mapped the Pembina River and in doing so were able to network with other groups. 

“With the Pembina it helped bring the group together and we were able to collaborate with a bunch of other groups,” said MacDonald. "And in Lac La Biche they have such a good collaboration with Healthy Waters and the municipality so, we thought we would do something similar in the Tawatinaw.” 

Ideally, if enough people are interested, MacDonald said they would like to see a watershed stewardship group formed to focus on the Tawatinaw River. 

“It's such an interesting watershed,” she said. "There’s some jack pine stands which is so interesting, some river otter and it used to have Arctic grayling."

Marcel Macullo with the Alberta Environment and Protected Areas Fisheries Department will be speaking on the state of fisheries in the Tawatinaw River, Milena McWatt is a coordinator with the Green Acreages Program which provides funding to residential properties to help with riparian health. 

“If you have a water body on your land, the Green Acreage Program will provide help with funding,” MacDonald said. "That's similar to the ALUS program that provides funding to agricultural producers.” 

Also, Petra Rowell, the AWC executive director will be speaking about the Healthy Shorelines Initiative and Harvey Scott with the Crooked Creek Conservancy will talk about stewardship. 

It is a free event funded by the Alberta Watersheds Resiliency and Riparian Program. 

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