SEARCH ENGINE: Fishy business in the Niagara River

You ask… We Answer.

Q: The Niagara Parks Commission appears to be building some kind of fish habitat construction at Baker’s Creek, at the Niagara Parkway and near the boat launch on the parkway near Chippawa. I was just wondering what is all about?

A: Old Christmas trees and ash trees that have succumbed to the Emerald Ash Borer are being used by the Niagara Parks Commission to help create fish habitat along the Niagara River shoreline.

The project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, aims to create more coastal wetlands along the river shoreline with aquatic plants critical for fish populations.

Corey Burant, project manager of forest health for the parks commission, said the dead trees have been placed at the mouth of Baker’s Creek and Ussher’s Creek to slow down the water. That allows the vegetation seeds coming down the river to collect and deposit in the river bank. When the water is fast, he said it scatters the sediment and vegetation doesn’t establish.

The idea is to grow vegetation that creates shelter for small fish. Burant said there are over 93 species in the river.

“The trees themselves that are anchored in will also provide shelter as well,” he said. “Small fish tend to hide amongst the branches that are in the water.”

At one time, the Niagara shoreline would have been lined with coastal wetlands but it’s been hardened using large boulders and concrete to prevent erosion. That’s created the fast water and a loss of most near-shore aquatic vegetation. The Ministry determined more than 75 per cent of the coastal wetlands have been lost on the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

The fish habitat project has been in the works for two years and required drawings and surveys. The actual habitats took about a month to build and were completed in March.

Burant said the commission is looking at other sites along the river for potential fish habitat.

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Q: What happened to the Flying Saucer in Niagara Falls? I go there pretty much weekly, this week all papered up and there’s a dumpster out front.

A: Fear not. The popular long-time Lundy’s Lane restaurant shaped like a UFO is undergoing a very earthly makeover.

The Flying Saucer Drive-In Restaurant posted a message to its customers on Facebook that they are closed between March 20 and April 12 for extensive renovations. It’s re-opening on April 13.

“We apologize for the temporary inconvenience, but ET has to fly home for a bit. He misses his relatives,” the restaurant posted.

The Flying Saucer was built as a drive-in restaurant in 1972 by Henry DiCienzo, who later added a dine-in section in the 1980s.

In 2007, the restaurant was named the top wonder in the Niagara Falls Review’s Seven Wonders of Niagara Falls contest. Readers were asked to vote for their favourite place, hangout or person, historical or natural landmark for the seven wonders of the city.

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Q: Why is there no “H” sign on the QEW through St. Catharines to direct people to the hospital? Do you know if there are any plans to add one?

A: The Ministry of Transportation says there are blue “H” signs directing people to the Niagara Health System’s St. Catharines Hospital on the QEW, just before the cut off for Hwy. 406 in the Toronto-bound and Fort Erie-bound lanes.

Spokeswoman Astrid Poei said there are also advance and turn-off signs on Hwy. 406 before the Fourth Avenue exit in north and south lanes. Directional signs are in place on the off-ramps to guide motorists onto westbound Fourth Avenue.

So when does a hospital get a blue highway “H”?

It must be open to the public, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with emergency care. It must have an illuminated “H” sign on the outside of the building visible from the highway. As well, the distance from the highway must be no more than 10 km — in St. Catharines, it’s 1.7 km.

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