by Catherine Blake
Last week I met Michael O’Malley of our Mississippi Riverwatchers group, to go for an early morning flight over the Mississippi River from Appleton to Almonte. You may have seen his yellow two-seater plane flying above the river yourself, from time to time, as he has taken various people up to see the river, the healthy woods and lands, and the dying wetlands nearer Appleton.
(I am also a member of the Riverwatchers, formerly tentatively named the Riverkeepers, with permission of the larger organization. However, as we are in the process of joining the Ottawa Riverkeepers Association, we need to have a different name to show the different groups. )
I had seen photographs taken from this same plane by other riders, but how different it is to see the comparison between the beauty of the healthy woods and farmland and the dying wetlands with one own eyes! Despite the dryness of the summer there is a solid canopy of trees in the healthy woods, whereas the dying wetlands are clearly marked out by great swaths of leafless or nearly leafless skeletons of trees.The relationship of dy ing areas to the river level is very obvious ; you can see the edges of the of the dying woodland areas running parallel to the water’s edge from Appleton, running toward Almonte, or extending back more deeply into large low-lying areas.
For years now concerned citizens have been asking the Mississippi River Conservation Authority to revisit the Waterlevel Management Plan to alleviate this wanton destruction caused by the raising of the weir boards at the old flour mill generating station, now owned by Enerdu, by only a few inches. Because the height of these boards affects the health of all wetlands and woods upriver as far as Appleton, the management of these heights should be subject to the needs of the whole ecosystem, not just the money-making capacity of the falls!
Mike O’Malley has offered various town councilors and the Mayor free rides to survey this destruction themselves, and so far only three or four have taken him up on this offer. I do urge the mayor and any councilors who have not yet accepted his invitation, to do so at their earliest convenience. It is a lovely thing to do, to see our community laid out in the beautiful landscape below, and very sobering to realize that as a community we need to act quickly, to save our heritage of the designated wetland as part of our local environment.