Laurel Creek Workshop

Executive Summary An information exchange involving popular aspects of Laurel Creek was completed on 29 October 1996. This was an attempt to satisfy a request made by the WATgreen committee to Dean Fitzgerald to excise current knowledge concerning this important aquatic resource, which traverses the University of Waterloo campus, in a public forum. Motivation for this information exchange also arose from the recently completed Tricouncil Secretariat Eco-Research Project (Issues of Sustainability for an Urbanizing Watershed) focused on the Grand River Watershed, funded through Environment Canada's Green Plan. The opportunity was at hand to take advantage of extensive research efforts and information that focused on this aquatic resource and its tributaries.

The workshop involved three or so facets of interest to the university community and adjacent stakeholders: biology and hydrology of the stream, urban planning and the future of this aquatic resource. An eclectic group of informed individuals made a series of short, concise oral presentations (15 minutes) with Dr. Paul Eagles acting as moderator, in addition to providing introductory and concluding remarks. These presentations were recorded electronically using video taping. Along with this electronic memento, each participant provided a summary manuscript or abstract included in these workshop proceedings thus representing a permanently bound institutional memory.

A summary of the specific presentations is as follows. Cathy Blott, Department of Biology, led an overview of the physical changes which have been made to Laurel Creek since European colonization, starting around 1805. Dave Barton, Department of Biology, provided information concerning the current status of the benthic invertebrate resources in Laurel Creek and some of its major tributaries. Jenny Winter, Department of Biology, described recent water quality trends (1995) and placed this information in the context of stream eutrophication. Dean Fitzgerald, Department of Biology, contrasted and compared the historical (last 30 years) to current status (1995) of the fish from headwaters to confluence with the Grand River. John Kominar, Department of Chemistry, Wilfrid Laurier University, characterized flow patterns and sediment loadings of toxic materials in the creek with reference to known governmental (U.S. and Canada) limits for surface waters.

Following the break, Sue Mclernon, Department of Planning, described the results of a campus wide environmental audit made by a class she participated in, and highlighted some of the important conclusions and proposed alternatives that could be implemented by the university. Cyndi Rattenburg-Walker, representative of Joe Berridge and Associates Consulting (recognized consultant to the university for environmental issues and authors of the 1992 Campus Master Plan), contrasted and interpreted the older university campus plan and foreshadowed the upcoming revamp of this document. Ed Gazendam, Grand River Conservation Authority, examined small stream management in light of current engineering practices and management goals within the watershed. Bruce Kilgour, Department of Biology, used a data set collected in collaboration with Dave Barton and the Ministry of Natural Resources to demonstrate a technique for objectively determining if measurable ecological change has been observed within the aquatic community (benthic invertebrate) from the stream of interest.

The third section was initiated by Greg Romanick, Director of Planning and Development, City of Waterloo. He highlighted the innovative and progressive approach Waterloo is taking to the management and rehabilitation of Laurel Creek today and for the future, in the context of expected development with shared responsibility between the City, the University and the Grand River Conservation Authority. Jack Imhof, Ministry of Natural Resources, Aquatic Ecosystems Branch, emphasized important physical processes which shape streams generally, and noted those that seem particularly important to Laurel Creek. Ed Kott, Department of Biology, Wilfrid Laurier University, through a series of current examples, unequivocally demonstrated the role of man in permanently altering the biota of streams and rivers.

Participation and attendance at the workshop varied between 40 and 50 individuals in the early morning, to perhaps as many as 75 towards lunch. This group ranged widely, from university students to professors to university employees to citizens of Waterloo and adjacent towns like Elmira. Those who attended seemed to show overt interest in the topics being discussed and asked numerous questions concerning the content of the presentations. Comments were made concerning other topics not addressed in this workshop that could be incorporated into a similar exercise in the future. Of particular interest was a second workshop dealing with areas not addressed in the first programme (e.g. recreational activities along the stream) and perhaps a workshop with a focus on alternative management approaches to the impounded sections of Laurel Creek (esp. Laurel Creek Reservoir, as it is beyond its functional life!). Participants also showed interest in the posters which were on display. These were provided by Janet Cox, Department of Environmental Studies, Cathy Blott, Jenny Winter and Dean Fitzgerald, all examining issues relevant to Laurel Creek.

The success and effective execution of this workshop was in part strongly influenced by the efforts of the Heritage Resource Centre through Lisa Weber and Patti Cook, Waste Management Office. Drs. Eagles and Duthie were instrumental in helping focus the WATgreen Committee regarding the genesis of having an information exchange and the development of these proceedings. I would not have had the opportunity to conduct research in this watershed nor involve myself with organizing a workshop and proceedings concerning Laurel Creek without the support of my supervisor in the Biology Department, D. George Dixon.

Paper copies will be held at the University of Waterloo Waste Management Office. (519-888-4567, x3245)

Dean Fitzgerald, Ph. D. student
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Windsor
Windsor, ON
N9B 3P4
519/253-4232 Ext. 2709
FAX 519/971-3609
fitzge8@server.uwindsor.ca