WWF-Canada joins call to decommission Springbank Dam on Thames River in London, Ont.

Community will benefit and watershed health will improve from a river that flows more freely

TORONTO, Jan. 21, 2016 /CNW/ - WWF-Canada has joined forces with the Ontario Rivers Alliance as part of a collective of conservation organizations and angling clubs to call on the City of London, Ont., to decommission the Springbank dam on the Thames River.

The Thames is a Canadian Heritage River that flows through the heart of London and is home to a number of species at risk, including the spiny softshell turtle. Decommissioning the dam, which has not functioned since 2008, will continue to bring benefits to the environmental health of the river as well as the well-being of the communities and wildlife that depend on it.

"Decommissioning the Springbank Dam will help improve the health of the Northern Lake Erie Watershed and increase the vitality of the Thames River as natural ecosystems are returned. This is a win-win scenario for people and wildlife," said David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada. "Helping restore the Thames to a more natural condition promotes clean water, helps species at risk thrive and provides sustainable recreation opportunities for the people of London. We strongly urge the City of London to make possible the environmental and community benefits that decommissioning the dam will bring."

Dams can have a detrimental impact on aquatic environment. Free-flowing rivers improve the resiliency of freshwater ecosystems and are better able to adapt to climate change. Dammed or diverted rivers impede the ability of species to move among the habitats that are critical to their survival and may result in population loss.

"Healthy free-flowing rivers provide a multitude of ecosystem benefits, and helps to buffer the effects of climate change," said Linda Heron, chair and CEO of Ontario Rivers Alliance. "Removing Springbank Dam would not only benefit the Thames River ecosystem, but would also make a positive contribution towards reducing water quality issues in the Great Lakes.  We urge the City of London's Mayor and Council to have Springbank Dam decommissioned."

The Thames River is a tributary of the Northern Lake Erie watershed. WWF's national assessment of watershed health shows that the water quality scores for phosphorous in and around the dam is poor. Specifically, phosphorus levels exceeded water-quality guidelines in more than 70 per cent of water samples taken between 2008 and 2012.          

Phosphorous is an important nutrient found naturally in rivers. It allows plants and algae to grow. But when present at high concentrations, it can promote the growth of harmful algae blooms. Dams and reservoirs exacerbate the phosphorous problem. They lead to increased water temperature and allow sediments to settle, both factors that make phosphorous more available, causing more algal growth. Harmful algal blooms are a potential risk to human and aquatic health, posing risks to drinking water supplies, quality of life and economic vitality as well as being aesthetically unappealing.

A binational group of federal scientists has identified the Thames as a priority river for action to reduce the amount of phosphorous entering Lake Erie. By removing the dam, the City of London will help Ontario and Canada meet their commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the new Ontario-Michigan-Ohio agreement to reduce the amount of phosphorous entering Lake Erie by 40 per cent over 10 years, which WWF supports.

The Thames River as a whole has many other threats to its health, including wastewater and agricultural runoff. WWF strongly believes that decommissioning the Springbank Dam will help improve the health of the river in the nearby, upstream and downstream sections.

In the long term, it will improve the water quality of the Thames River and help restore the health of the Lake Erie Watershed's aquatic ecosystem. When a river is healthy, its community can better enjoy its benefits, from clean water and recreational opportunities such as sustainable fishing, to natural river beautification and gaining deeper connection to nature.

About WWF-Canada
WWF-Canada, part of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), helps people and nature thrive by creating solutions to the most serious conservation challenges facing our planet.


For further information: Media contact: Rowena Calpito, WWF-Canada, (416) 489-4567 ext, 7267, rcalpito@wwfcanada.org


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