Ponass Lake (Heritage Marsh) Rebuild, 2014-15
Goals and Objectives
The Ponass Lake Heritage Marsh, situated in the Quill Lakes Watershed, is a 6,932 acre marsh complex consisting of six basins ranging from 242 to 4,029 acres in size. The complex is shallow and irregularly shaped with approximately 162 km of shoreline. The dominant wetland vegetation species include cattail, hardstem bulrush, water milfoil and various pondweeds.
Located in the Aspen Parkland Ecoregion, the marsh plus the 3,900 acres of native uplands surrounding it are crown land owned by the Province of Saskatchewan. The uplands are leased for hay production and pasture and are protected from breaking by the provincial Wildlife Habitat Protection Act. Private lands surrounding the complex are primarily cultivated for crop production but also contain numerous small potholes.
In the 1950s after years of complaints from the lessees regarding drought and flood conditions, the Ministry of Agriculture undertook investigations to see if the marsh could be drained. Ducks Unlimited Canada initiated discussions with the provincial government to conserve the marsh through the provision of flood control and crop depredation prevention. In 1981 Ponass Lake was designated as Saskatchewan’s first Heritage Marsh. Construction of a series of dikes, control structures and farm crossings was completed in 1983. In addition the project includes a 219 acre lure crop and two bait pads operated by the provincial government to reduce waterfowl crop damage in the area.
The purpose of this wetland conservation project rebuild is to replace the existing control structures and culverts in crossings which have reached their anticipated life expectancy. Completion of the rebuild will ensure the ongoing protection of Saskatchewan’s first Heritage Marsh including the important habitat it provides for staging, molting and breeding waterfowl.
Ponass Lake is a wetland conservation project which provides staging, molting and breeding habitat for ducks and geese. As an Important Bird Area, it is identified to be of global significance for staging waterfowl and national significance for staging Sandhill Cranes. Environment Canada ranks the area as nationally important for migratory birds, breeding ducks, staging ducks, geese, and shorebirds, and regionally important for colonial waterbirds. This wetland provides abundant waterfowl hunting opportunities as well as wildlife viewing thereby promoting the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl. Ponass Lake is promoted as a waterfowl and wildlife viewing area by Tourism Saskatchewan.
Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions
WHC’s contribution will contribute to the ongoing protection of 6,932 acres of important habitat for staging, molting and breeding waterfowl. Construction materials selected will ensure that the project remains operational for another 50+ years. In addition the continuation of this project will provide significant waterfowl hunting opportunities in central Saskatchewan. WHC’s contribution will provide security to their original investment in the Ponass Lake Heritage Marsh.
Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management
Conservation groups, including the Heritage Marsh partners and society in general will benefit from the conservation of this important wetland. The flood control and the provision of stock water in drought years will benefit agricultural producers on adjacent lands.
Waterfowl hunters will receive significant hunting opportunities through the protection of this important fall staging marsh. In particular this marsh is important in providing hunting opportunities for mallards, Canada geese and snow geese.
The general public will benefit from the ecological benefits that wetlands provide including improved water quality and the mitigation of climate change through the sequestration of carbon.
The Ponass Lake Heritage Marsh is situated in the Quill Lakes Watershed, within in the Aspen Parkland Ecoregion (Saskatchewan).
For more information on this project, please contact William Chappell, Head of Habitat Asset Management, Saskatchewan Provincial Operations, Ducks Unlimited Canada, SK.