News Manitoba

Tobacco Creek project developing into a model watershed

By Glen Hallick

The Valley Leader

A model project on managing an area watershed is looking to get a better idea of what really works and what doesn't.

The Tobacco Creek Watershed project was asking for input and held a community visioning workshop February 24 at the memorial hall in Roland.

"We want ideas, input, concerns and desires from farmers and anyone with an interest in this stuff," member Bryan Oborne said.

"There's a lot of wisdom in this community."

Oborne said the South Tobacco Creek watershed is about 29 square miles and begins on the escarpment, which is 600 feet above the flatlands of the Red River Valley.

The entire Tobacco Creek watershed encompasses about 400 square miles.

The creek is part of the Morris River, which empties into the Red River and which then flows into Lake Winnipeg.

Oborne said the purpose of the meeting is to get a good picture on managing water along the Tobacco Creek.

That's because it was chosen as one of eight finalists to become part of a watershed research project for the University of Waterloo's Canada Water Network.

"We want to create a living watershed laboratory," Oborne said. "We're the only project of this type within a thousand miles."

Should it be selected, then $750,000 will be provided for a three-year scientific research project.

"We are very excited to have this unique and timely opportunity to advance the project. We look forward to hearing from the community and from others with an interest in agriculture's role in making long-term solutions happen," chair Les McEwan said in a prepared statement.

McEwan explained the project spearheaded by the Deerwood Soil and Water Management Association is meant to be a scientific research platform to help understand and address the contributing factors associated with the declining health of Lake Winnipeg.

"If we're going to figure out Lake Winnipeg, then we need to figure out the smaller watersheds like the Tobacco Creek," Oborne added.

He said research is needed to examine how 150 years of settlement and farming has affected water quality and water flows.

The meeting featured a number of speakers including McEwan and Oborne plus:

- Dr. Greg McCullough on the role of flooding in phosphorus loading to Lake Winnipeg

- Dr. Henry Venema on depicting a watershed of the future

- Dr. David Lobb on the current state of watershed research in Manitoba.