Help could be on the way for Hillman Marsh
Conservationist Wayne King had tears in his eyes Thursday when professional geo-scientist Pete Zuzek made him aware funding could be on the way to help resolve the erosion of Hillman Marsh.
“It's exciting for me,” said the Leamington local, who used to swim in the marsh as a kid. “I've been working on this for a lot of years. To hear there's possibly something in the pipeline — it was exceptionally good news.”
Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) CAO Tim Byrne says the government has been listening.
“There has been funding that we've been made aware of that could be coming forward,” he said.
A welcomed development after King, a member of the Leamington Shoreline Association, sounded the alarm earlier this week over a decimated Hillman Marsh. He shared pictures of dead fish along the shoreline which he says resulted from a combination of low water levels and the severe weather event before Christmas.
“We've been fighting against high water thinking lower water wouldn't be a problem, it would be good for us but it turned out to be bad,” he said.
The barrier beach that once protected the marsh was destroyed by high lake levels and high winds.
“That was a treeline that was probably 75 feet wide, very heavily treed,” said King, pointing to what used to be a barrier on the east side of the marsh which has effectively turned the marsh into a bay of Lake Erie.
King worries about the lake levels rising further causing erosion and a breach on the south side of the marsh.
“Leaving this berm over here now exposed to the wave action,” said King, pointing to a berm he says protects about 7,500 acres of farm land and roughly 500 homes and businesses. The berm is about a hundred feet wide.
Zuzek first visited south east Leamington 25 years ago. He says the barrier beach system and the marsh eco-system are past the tipping point.
“They’re at a point where there is no returning back to a positive state without significant human intervention,” he said.
Zuzek applauds the resiliency of King, ERCA and the Municipality of Leamington.
“The efforts by everyone to pursue a long-term solution is absolutely critical to maintaining Hillman Marsh and to shore up the dyke infrastructure that protects the farm land below lake level,” he said.
Byrne says ERCA and the Municipality of Leamington have been asked to resubmit a proposal making a request for $18 million through the federal government’s Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation fund (DMAF) to help remediate the area. The fund is part of a 10-year national program that will see $2 billion invested in projects that help communities better withstand natural hazards.
“Hopefully we'll be granted those moneys that ourselves and the municipality of Leamington can undertake this work to protect that eco-system, that wetland and help protect residents of south east Leamington,” he said.
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