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Rockland resident, contractor filled in wetland shoreline
A Rockland man and a development company face $14,500 fines after pleading guilty to harming fish habitat in the Ottawa River by filling in a section of the river with soil and dirt.
Jacob Wyssen was fined $6,000 in a provincial court on Aug. 22, after pleading guilty to an offence under the federal Fisheries Act. Mr. Wyssen was also ordered to restore the habitat that was destroyed by the infill.
Stéphane Poupart Development Ltd., the contractor Mr. Wyssen hired to complete the work, also pleaded guilty, and was fined $8,500. Only part of the combined penalties—$1,450—will be paid in fines. The remaining $13,050 will be paid to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to help restore and protect other fish habitats in the Ottawa River. The provincial Ministry of Natural Resources was also involved in the investigation.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada biologists first visited Mr. Wyssen’s residence near Wendover, about 50 kilometres east of Ottawa, in the fall of 2005, when they learned that 170 square metres of shoreline had been filled with soil and dirt removed when work had been done to excavate the basement of a residence on the property, said Georgina Williston, a federal fish-habitat biologist.
Often, wetland shorelines are filled in by landowners because their mucky, plant-dotted water access is unattractive. But these calm-water back bays teeming with vegetation often make for ideal spawning grounds for fish like muskellunge, whose eggs need to stick to plants to survive, she said.
“What people don’t find appealing is what wildlife finds appealing,” Ms. Williston said. “Everything uses these areas. They’re very productive.”
Restoring the habitat will involve removing the soil and fill that had been placed in the wetland shore area to create a causeway, Ms. Williston said. Mr. Wyssen will also have to replant the aquatic vegetation that was covered over, to jumpstart the recovery of the fish habitat, she said.
The Prescott office of Fisheries and Oceans Canada receives about 100 complaints of fish habitat damage a year, said Brian Round, a fishery officer and field supervisor for the Eastern Ontario division of the department. Although some of those complaints turn out to be unfounded, other instances of damage to fish habitat go unreported, he said.
Earlier this summer, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority investigated a retaining wall of concrete blocks built without permits by the Chinese Embassy in the Rideau River, ostensibly to restore a damaged shoreline.
Staff from the embassy met with representatives from the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority in early July to discuss how to restore the shoreline in a more ecologically sound way.
“There’s been no change on the property,” said Diane Downey, communications manager for the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. The embassy has submitted a drawing of its plans for the shoreline area, which is currently under review, Ms. Downey said.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008