Home News Grand opening of bay restoration

Grand opening of bay restoration

Nanor Froundjian The Eastern Door

Lush greenery swayed in the wind while birds and insects chirped across Tekakwitha Island. But anyone who has been in the community for a while knows this isn’t what the island looked like before – the water was stagnant, some areas were rocky or completely bare, and the biodiversity was deteriorating.

Now after nearly 15 years, the Tekakwitha Island and Bay Restoration Project is officially complete.

“We wanted to improve the habitat on the island as well both for wildlife and the community so that it can be more thoroughly enjoyed,” said Patrick Ragaz, general manager of field sciences at the Kahnawake Environment Protection Office (KEPO). 

This project first started when community members started raising concerns with KEPO about issues with water flow in the bay and how it was interfering with paddling, swimming, fishing, among other activities taking place.

KEPO’s first goal was to understand what was happening in the bay. A few years of study showed the St. Lawrence Seaway was a significant contributing factor – particularly due to having the bay outlet into the seaway directly, and having the Chateauguay River upstream contributing to a lot of sediment and nutrients from agricultural fields, explained Ragaz.

As well, the construction of the seaway led to a lot of rock material, making it a “fairly inhospitable place for the next almost 70 years,” according to Ragaz.  

Nanor Froundjian The Eastern Door

One avenue for a solution, which KEPO worked on with the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, was to increase flow in both the seaway and in the bay. 

A turtle nesting ground, a beach, and access points to the water are a few of the features added to the island, as well as a feature to control invasive species. 

The biodiversity has since begun to replenish – birds and insects could be heard and had once again found a home on the island.

“I’m personally very proud of this.… It will be a legacy for future generations,” said Daniel Farina, deputy director general of CDPQ-Infra, a partner on the project.

“Because of what’s in our hearts, and what we believe in as Onkwehón:we people, the environment is always at the forefront of our mind as stewards of the environment,” said MCK grand chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer, adding the importance of sharing and learning from one another in collaborations and partnerships. 

All parties involved in the realization of this project knew the time, investment, and teamwork that would be required through its countless steps and studies. 

“I think this is just a testament to show what working together can actually do,” said Mohawk Council of Kahnawake (MCK) chief Cody Diabo, who leads the environment portfolio.

Although Diabo saw this as a step towards reconciliation, he stressed the work is ongoing. 

“There is constant work whenever you try to naturalize something that was unnatural; it takes a while for nature to rebound,” he said, adding there’s still some issues with flow in the water that are being ironed out. 

He recently visited the island with his family and saw for the first time since he was a child that corn was growing on the island. 

“To me, that was just a sign that we’re doing something really good for nature, for Mother Earth, for the environment,” he said.

KEPO will continue to monitor the project to track its evolution over the course of time.

This article was originally published in print on Friday, July 28, in issue 32.30 of The Eastern Door.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.

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Nanor is a reporter and copy editor with The Eastern Door. She was previously the managing editor and creative director at The Link.