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Students help new wetland take root at city solar farm

Published on

George Mathewson

They say when it comes to habitat restoration, if you plant it they will come.

And that’s proven true at the Enbridge Sarnia Solar Farm on Churchill Line, which earlier this year began a five-year project to return large portions of former agricultural lands to native ecosystems.

For example, two ponds dug this summer in a low-lying area of the property was the first step in creating a wetland.

When students from St. Clair Secondary showed up recently to plug the raw banks with cattails and other native plants they discovered they weren’t alone.

There in the soft clay were fresh tracks left by coyotes, deer, heron and other birds already visiting the filling depressions.

“There was no wetland here before and soon there will be frogs and toads and dragonflies,” said Larry Cornelis of Return the Landscape, which has partnered with Enbridge on the $150,000 project.

“Even one acre at a time, every bit makes a difference.”

The 66 students in Grade 9 geography and Grade 12 horticulture rimmed the ponds with goldenrod, milkweed, sensitive ferns, nannyberry and other native species.

Other planting projects underway include more prairie meadows, trees and the expansion of an existing woodlot.

Ian MacRobbie, a general manager with Enbridge, said 650 acres of the 1,100-acre site are occupied by the solar panels arrays and ancillary uses, leaving plenty of room for naturalization.

The new ponds also drain the low site and its often-wet access road, he added.

“Putting a wetland here is helping with the environment and helping us with the operation.”

Releasing cattail seed proved to be a fun if messy job for St. Clair Secondary students Laura Crozier, left, and Holly Shelton, who were participating in a wetland restoration project at the Enbridge Sarnia Solar Farm. Glenn Ogilvie
Releasing cattail seed proved to be a fun if messy job for St. Clair Secondary students Laura Crozier, left, and Holly Shelton, who were participating in a wetland restoration project at the Enbridge Sarnia Solar Farm.
Glenn Ogilvie

 

Josh Kita uses a large pick to prepare planting holes in the new wetlands. Glenn Ogilvie
Josh Kita uses a large pick to prepare planting holes in the new wetlands.
Glenn Ogilvie

 

This unpromising looking depression, which is slowly filling with water, will soon be home for frogs, dragonflies and fish, officials say.
This unpromising looking depression, which is slowly filling with water, will soon be home for frogs, dragonflies and fish, officials say.

 

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