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Wellesley Pond drained down for maintenance work

Is a pond without water still a pond? If you’re in Wellesley this week, you can, well, ponder that for yourself.

The village landmark was drained down earlier this week as the Grand River Conservation Authority inspects the dam. Water levels should return to normal by week’s end.

Lowered water levels exposed large mud flats, though water will continue to flow through the old creek channel at the bottom of the reservoir. Draining the old mill pond at a gradual rate over two days allowed the GRCA to monitor the flows, thus minimizing the amount of silt washed downstream and to give fish in the pond time to move to other parts of the creek. Staff were on hand to move any fish that become stranded.

Although the work is something of an undertaking, the GRCA does not see any great impact to the pond, its surroundings or wildlife in the area.

“We do not expect any significant ecological impacts as the result of the drawdown and short time period of the overall drawdown. There may be reptiles such as turtles or amphibians such as frogs that have burrowed into the pond’s accumulated sediment to begin hibernating,” explained Lisa Stocco, the agency’s manager of communications. “Staff will be visually monitoring the pond and wildlife will be relocated if required.”

Inspecting the dam is a one-day job, and following the inspection, the pond will be returned to its normal holding level. The week-long timetable speaks to the time it takes to drain the poind, which is fed by Firella Creek and Campbell drain, and then let it return to normal levels.

The work is part of the GRCA’s routine maintenance schedule of water control structures. The timing was chosen to minimize the impact on habitat and to maximize the flows to refill the pond as quickly as possible.

“Based on current flows, we expect the pond will return to its normal holding level by the end of the week,” said Stocco.

A similar process was carried out in November of 2014 for concrete repair on the structure.

“There were no significant ecological impacts in 2014, as the pond was not emptied completely. The streams were still flowing so fish were able to move to areas of deeper water. We expect this will be the case again, this week,” explained Stocco.

In a related matter, the Friends of Wellesley Pond community group provided township councillors meeting Tuesday night with an update on the group’s rehabilitiation project.

Committee member Murray Bremner reported that a public meeting held last month regarding potential enhancements to the pond and its surroundings generated considerable feedback, including the submission of 265 comment forms.

An open house featured three conceptual plans for revitalizing the pond’s natural aspects. The changes range from minor tweaks, such as adding sunken trees, log piles and stone formations to act as natural habitats, to replacing the artificial pond entirely in favour of a simple channel bordered by wetlands and some trails. Two of the plans maintain the pond, but differ in terms of the extent of naturalization efforts.

While many residents are concerned about the pond and its future, the committee needs to do a better job of getting informtion to the public about rehabilitation options, he added.

Looking ahead, Bremner told the council that the group will be reviewing and identifying questions that the group will answer at another public meeting to be held at a later date. The goal is to create a plan supported by community, with more details coming forward when the group has a better idea of costs, available grants and the extent of fundraising to be done.

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