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Cleaning Up the St. Lawrence

The Government of Canada is working with communities and other tiers of government to protect and restore water quality in the St. Lawrence. Since 1988, the Government of Canada has invested $357 million in hundreds of projects and thousands of concrete actions to protect, conserve and enhance the St. Lawrence River. These actions include cleaning up the water, protecting wildlife and flora, creating and restoring wetlands and habitats, developing new river access sites, reducing the impact of agricultural activities and sustainable management of navigation.

The most noteworthy achievements are:

  • A 96% reduction in the toxicity of liquid discharge into the river by 50 of the most polluting industries
  • Execution of 120 technological development projects designed for industrial and municipal depollution
  • Creation of the Saguenay-Saint-Lawrence Marine Park, the first park to be jointly managed by the Canadian and Québec governments, in close collaboration with the community
  • Protection of 116,650 ha of natural habitat by creating and expanding parks, ecological reserves and wildlife sanctuaries

Map of funded projects Development of Natural Areas on the Magdalen Islands Water conservation and preservation of its quality: A collective challenge for the Municipality of Les Escoumins and the community of Essipit Encouraging Gaspé and lower Laurentian communities to reduce the dumping of domestic waste into the environment in order to preserve marine habitats. Common Eider Community Education and Involvement Project Plan for the Protection and Development of the Barre de Sandy Beach Development of Pointe-aux-Pins on Île-aux-Grues, Phases I and II Reduction in Sand Loss and Slower Erosion in the Priority Sectors on the Magdalen Islands Restoration and protection of the spit and salt marshes in Pessamit Implementation of a community management of molluscs in Bonaventure and Saint-Siméon Sustainable Navigation Strategy St. Lawrence Shoreline Restoration Atlas Enlarge this area.

Click on the red dots in the map to learn more about St. Lawrence clean-up projects.

Legend

Circle = Funded Project
Dotted Line = Canada-United States Border

Project : Development of Natural Areas on the Magdalen Islands

EC Investment: $36,560

Results Expected:

  • 34 tons of waste will be removed from 43 sites, totalling 1.5 hectares.
  • An awareness campaign will be conducted with residents of the Magdalen Islands to prevent other illegal dumping sites from being created in the future.

Project Partners:

  • Environment Canada
  • Government of Quebec
  • Comité ZIP des Îles-de-la-Madeleine
  • Municipalities on the Magdalen Islands
  • Commission scolaire des Îles
  • Various NGOs: Société de Conservation des Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Attention FragÎles, Diffusion communautaire des Îles Inc.

Description: This project aims to restore sites that have suffered from clandestine waste disposal on the Magdalen Islands.

Status: Project to begin at the end of 2010

Project: Water conservation and preservation of its quality: A collective challenge for the Municipality of Les Escoumins and the community of Essipit

EC Investment: $33,000 out of the $67,000

Results to Date:

  • Reached 150 elementary students and more than 350 households, promoting the conservation of drinking water and the reduction of contaminants in wastewater.
  • Distribution of 58 environmentally-friendly products to merchants in the tourism sector and promotion of Bio-Vert products.
  • 453 commitments from 117 residents to reduce the consumption of drinking water and its contamination.

Project Partners:

  • Government of Canada
  • Comité ZIP de la rive nord de l'estuaire
  • Saguenay–Saint-Laurent Marine Park
  • Municipality of Les Escoumins and community of Essipit
  • Various NGOs and private businesses: Conseil de bassin de la rivière Escoumins, Biospectra, Savons Prolav Inc., Damelinc.

Description: The project’s aim is to educate residents and merchants in the Municipality of Les Escoumins and the community of Essipit on the importance of conserving drinking water in order to improve water quality.

Status: Begun in July 2009; end scheduled for December 2010

Project: Encouraging Gaspé and lower Laurentian communities to reduce the dumping of domestic waste into the environment in order to preserve marine habitats.

EC Investment: $18,820 out of the $47,150

Results to Date:

  • Workshops conducted in cégeps on the hazards and damages caused by plastic waste on marine wildlife. The workshops took place in the cégeps of La Pocatière, Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski, Matane and Gaspé in order to encourage young people to adopt behaviour that respects the environment. 218 young people were reached with these efforts and 1,500 people participated in the workshops.
  • Surveys with student cooperatives on the consumption of plastic bags took place before and after the workshops.

Project Partners:

  • Government of Canada
  • Réseau d’observation des mammifères marins
  • Caisses populaires Desjardins
  • Amphibia-Nature
  • Quebecor

Description: The project’s aim was to educate students and residents in the Lower St. Lawrence and Gaspésie region on the impact of plastic bags on marine and coastal habitats. The objective was to encourage students and residents to reduce the dumping of disposable plastic bags and other domestic products into the environment.

Status: Completed in March 2010

Project: Common Eider Community Education and Involvement Project

EC Investment: $26,154

Results to Date:

  • 100 wildlife structures installed
  • Protection or re-establishment of an avian species
  • 45 islands affected by the conservation work
  • More than 3,000 people educated by the project, including 55 young people who participated directly in the project and 15 members of the Innu community
  • 203 volunteers involved

Project Partners:

  • Government of Canada
  • Commission scolaire du Littoral
  • CFBS Radio
  • Princeton University
  • Various NGOs: Student Conservation Association, Canadian Rangers, Quebec-Labrador Foundation, Courtemanche Wildlife Council, Ducks Unlimited

Description: With this community action project on the Lower North Shore of Quebec, local groups, schools and individuals protected populations of common eider through an education program and conservation efforts for documenting and improving the nesting rate of this species.

Status: Completed

Project: Plan for the Protection and Development of the Barre de Sandy Beach

EC investment: $15,100

Results to Date:

  • To come - Project began in May 2010

Project Partners:

  • Government of Canada
  • Government of Quebec
  • Société de Barre de Sandy Beach
  • Cégep de la Gaspésie et des Îles
  • Municipality of Gaspé

Description: The project’s objective is to protect the ecological integrity of the sensitive and fragile Sandy Beach sandbar, through the supervision of the recreational activities that take place there. Results are achieved by educating visitors and offering advice on sustainable use of the area. A cleanup operation will also be conducted. Restoration of this area will remove 200 m3 of detritus and 20 tons of metal.

Status: Project began in May 2010

Project: Development of Pointe-aux-Pins on Île-aux-Grues, Phases I and II

Investment: Contribution from the Community Interactions Program: $50,868 of the $205,068

Receiving Organization: Conservation de la Nature - Québec

Description: The aim of this project is to funnel various visitors (hikers, motorcyclists, ATV users and snowmobilers) and thereby protect the ecological integrity of the site. The purpose of the proposed changes is to reduce motor vehicle traffic.

Status: Project completed in 2009

Project: Reduction in Sand Loss and Slower Erosion in the Priority Sectors on the Magdalen Islands

Investment: Contribution from the Community Interactions Program: $69,963 out of the $116,063

Receiving Organization: Mouvement pour la valorisation du patrimoine naturel madelinot

Description: The project includes a characterization phase followed by mobilization and training efforts with residents. Beach cleanup, the installation of waste collectors, as well as a promotion and awareness campaign will ensure the continuation of efforts.

Status: Project completed in 2010

Project: Restoration and protection of the spit and salt marshes in Pessamit

Investment: Contribution by the Community Interactions Program: $49,900 out of the $106,400

Receiving Organization: Comité ZIP de la rive nord de l'estuaire

Description: The aim of the project is to protect and restore a habitat of high ecological value located near the Village of Pessamit that is subject to strong pressure from human activity. The project includes the re-vegetation of eroded dunes and ATV trails, the installation of control gates as well as an initiative to educate residents who use the area. The Innu community involved in this project has been highly motivated to protect this fragile area.

Status: Project completed in 2008

Project: Implementation of a community management of molluscs in Bonaventure and Saint-Siméon

Investment: Contribution of the Community Interactions Program: $20,834 out of the $45,553

Receiving Organization: Association des pêcheurs sportifs de la rivière Bonaventure

Description: The aim of the project is to re-appropriate the harvesting of quahogs in Bonaventure and neighbouring communities. This is achieved through the community management of molluscs in order to better manage the resource in collaboration with government officials.

Status: Project completed in 2010

Project: Sustainable Navigation Strategy

Investment: $1,661,300 (between 2005 and 2010)

Partners:

  • Government of Canada
  • Government of Quebec
  • Commercial and pleasure-boating maritime industry
  • Environmental stakeholders
  • River communities

Objective: To harmonize commercial and pleasure boating navigation practices with the protection of the river's ecosystems.

Results Achieved:

  • Reduction in the speed of commercial ships to counter shoreline erosion. A measure that has 90% compliance.
  • Control and management of ship ballast water. In 2009, 100% of the ships headed for St. Lawrence ports were inspected with a 97.9% compliance rate.

Status: Ongoing

Project: St. Lawrence Shoreline Restoration Atlas

Description: The atlas contains an inventory of nearly 500 sites covering some 700 hectares along the St. Lawrence River.

Each entry presents the restoration techniques recommended, the cost and the environmental benefits expected, the name of the contact persons providing technical support and a list of organizations that could provide financial support.

This project illustrates the science and its applications at Environment Canada and, more specifically, the interventions undertaken as part of the intervention field focussing on the ecological integrity of the St. Lawrence Plan.

Investments in the St. Lawrence

Each year, the Government of Canada on average invests close to $15 million in cleaning up the St. Lawrence, with almost $8 million coming from Environment Canada.

The yearly envelope of nearly $8 million from Environment Canada is allocated as follows:

  • Over $1,750,000 in projects executed in partnership with the community, including ZIP committees, such as: protection of fragile shoreline and natural spaces, maintenance and creation of spawning grounds, planting of plant species, beach clean-up, promotion of green practices, protection of vulnerable species, management of fishing, clean-up of waste from illegal dump sites, water conservation, and the enhancement and restoration of the natural environment.
  • Over $5 million in scientific research and monitoring, in order to better understand the St. Lawrence ecosystem, its wildlife and aquatic habitats, reduce the impact of agricultural activities and better predict the future of its ecosystem.
  • Nearly $850,000 in developing collaboration initiatives in various areas, including initiatives to harmonize commercial navigation and recreational boating practices with the protection of river ecosystems, develop and restore public access to the St. Lawrence River, and manage interventions in a coordinated fashion, factoring in the cause and effect relations in the St. Lawrence River ecosystem.  

St. Lawrence River Science

Environment Canada offers substantial scientific expertise in the framework of efforts pertaining to the St. Lawrence, carrying out or partnering in the key studies used to understand and better manage the issues that affect it. Through our science and expertise, we contribute to the sustainable management of the St. Lawrence through greater knowledge of its ecosystem and a better understanding of the various pressures on it and threats to it. The science that Environment Canada is currently engaged in pertaining to the St. Lawrence makes it possible to:

  • Analyze the impact of exotic and invasive species on freshwater aquatic ecosystems and on their distribution, recruitment and colonization in the fluvial environment
  • Engage in the environmental and toxicological assessment of methods for treating ship ballast water
  • Evaluate the impacts of climatic variations and water level conditions on the productivity and diversity of aquatic plants

Other results from science done by the Government of Canada under the St. Lawrence Plan are also available in Fact sheets on indicators of the State of the St. Lawrence .

Collaborative approach

The St. Lawrence is one of Canada’s priority ecosystems; it stretches over more than 3,000 kilometres. This ecosystem is not only an environment for many species, but it is also an important source of drinking water and resources for the population.  Moreover, it is also an artery for commercial navigation and recreational boating and a unique site for a variety of recreation activities. 

Since 1989, the governments of Canada and Québec have been working to improve the St. Lawrence’s condition and restore various uses of it through the following agreements:

  • The St. Lawrence Action Plan, from 1988 to 1993
  • Saint-Laurent Vision 2000, from 1993 to 1998 and 1998 to 2003
  • The St. Lawrence Plan for Sustainable Development, from 2005 to 2010
  • St. Lawrence Action Plan 2011-2026

This long-standing collaboration has yielded tangible, substantial results in the areas of agricultural clean-up, conserving biodiversity, industrial and urban depollution, and improving human health with regard to contaminants in the river for people living along its shores. It has also led to the development of a sustainable navigation strategy in junction with the marine industry, environmental participants, governments and the public. Lastly, community organizations have implemented several hundred projects enabling the clean-up and stabilization of shoreline, development of wildlife habitat and enhancement of sites for access to the St. Lawrence.