NPCA restoration specialist Steve Gillis with an American sycamore planted along Twelve Mile Creek. BERNIE PUCHALSKI

Time is running out for interested parties to take part in the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s restoration program.

The deadline for 2022 projects is Nov. 15, and applications for the restoration program can be downloaded from the NPCA website at https://npca.ca/restoration. Applications can be made by private and public landowners, incorporated non-governmental organizations, and non-incorporated organizations such as nature clubs, and friends of organizations.

Launched in 2019, the program’s goal is to restore and improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and forest cover across the Niagara Peninsula watershed. The Niagara Peninsula watershed is highly degraded and conservation authority water quality monitoring has determined most of the surface waters in the watershed are either poor or impaired.

One project that has recently been funded by the program is the restoration of a section of the Twelve Mile Creek behind a property on Effingham Road.

“This one is a tree planting/riparian project,” said Steve Gillis, a NPCA restoration specialist. “We’re planting next to the creek to increase habitat, improve water quality and increase forest cover as well.”

Among the plantings on the property are American sycamore, white oak and tulip trees, serviceberries, dogwood and willows.

“The Twelve Mile Creek is our only cold-water system,” he said. “Obviously one of the most important things for a cold water system is to have that shade to keep the temperatures low. That’s why we did the planting along the creek here. It is to help provide the shade but it’s also providing wildlife corridors to increase the habitat as well.”

The majority of the NPCA’s restoration projects are partner-funded with groups such as Ducks Unlimited, Forest Ontario, and Trout Unlimited’s Niagara chapter. The latter two groups were partners at the Effingham Road site.

“We truly try our best to get as many partners as we can to help reduce the cost for the landowners,” Gillis said.

The NPCA provides 75 percent of the funding and there eight different categories eligible for restoration funds.

“We do tree planting, wetland creation and agricultural [best management practice] projects as well, and we work with the farming community,” Gillis said. “For those projects, a lot of it is trying to reduce nutrients getting into creeks by doing such things as helping people fix their manure storage, winter cover crops and fencing cattle out of creeks.”

Interest in the program has been keen.

“We had at least 80 applications last year and I think we had about 50 approved projects this year,” Gillis said. “We do have quite a bit of uptake.

The program’s predecessor ran from the late 1990s until 2017.

“We’re sort of picking up steam again and trying to get people involved,” he said.

In 2021, the NPCA budgeted $250,000 for the program but not all of the money was spent.

“We got a bit of a hit with Covid and it is also a voluntary program so we’re working with people and it might be midway through the year when they say the situations changed and don’t want to do a project anymore,” Gillis said.

Another program the NPCA is hoping to publicize is its well decommissioning program. The authority funds 80 percent of the cost of decommissioning a well to a maximum of $1,000 with a maximum of two wells per property.

“With an abandoned well, it is all about stopping the contamination of groundwater,” Gillis said. “A lot of the stuff we do is sort of a surface water thing but this program is about keeping up the groundwater quality.”

Grants are given on a first-come, first-serve basis, and all work must be completed by an Ontario Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks licensed well contractor. To download a grant application form visit https://npca.ca/well-decommissioning.

The NPCA estimates the number of abandoned water wells in the watershed is in the thousands. Since 2007, the authority has provided funding to decommission some one hundred of them.