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Greater Winnipeg
Waterways Conservation Framework

Our legacy to future generations

Conservation framework

Many considerations affecting the implementation of the Little Forks National Urban Park are not specific to Winnipeg’s city centre. Indeed, private ownership of the riverbanks and riparian zones, habitat and recreational trail discontinuity, inadequate funding, and an overly fragmented legislative and management framework affect all waterways in the city’s metropolitan region. It seems probable, then, that the policies, strategies, and management practices required to support the national urban park can prove equally relevant to the full extent of Winnipeg’s metropolitan rivers and creeks. Accordingly, the creation of a national urban park could provide the impetus for implementing a Greater Winnipeg Waterways Conservation Framework.

This framework would include four components: a designated waterways conservation area; consistent legislative and administrative provisions; standardized management , maintenance, and monitoring practices; and public education.

To establish the areas within which the Waterways Conservation Framework would apply, we recommend adopting the following practice and modifying existing municipal legislation accordingly:

  1. The term waterway will be meant to refer to a river, stream, creek, canal, drainage ditch, water channel and other watercourses -- whether natural, constructed or altered -- and will include the frozen surface and bed of a waterway. 

  2. The Normal High Water Mark will be used to establish the lateral extent of a waterway’s public riverbed. This is consistent with provincial legislation and guidelines, and matches most precisely the edges of the ecologically-valuable riparian areas. 

  3. The lateral extent of a waterway’s conservation area will be established by applying a conservation buffer on each side of the riverbed. The width of this  conservation buffer would be 105 metres for rivers (Red, Assiniboine, Seine, and LaSalle), 75 metres for main creeks (Sturgeon, Truro, Omand’s, and Bunn’s), and 50 meters for all other waterways.

  4. All properties within the Waterways Conservation Area, or portion thereof, will be subject to the terms of the Waterways Conservation Framework.

Conservation practices

Photos: Denis DePape.

Rivers and creeks, just like parks, require constant maintenance and improvements to preserve their ecological resilience and recreational value. Decades of interventions by the City of Winnipeg, non-profit organizations, and residents associations -- notably on the Seine River, Bunn’s Creek, and Oman’s Creek -- illustrate some of the activities that would need to be implemented across the entire Waterways Conservation Area.


These include: 

  • Water quality improvement works such as riffles, bank stabilization, and sediments capture

  • Habitat improvements such as shallow fish spawning areas

  • The removal of invasive species such as buckthorn

  • Naturalization and riparian plantation, and

  • Seasonal clean-ups

As an example, Save Our Seine maintains a “River Keepers” initiative funded through the provincial Urban Green Team program and promotes biodiversity through the removal of noxious plants, the enhancement of pollinator habitat, reforestation, and annual summer clean-up programs. 


To help assess municipal environmental sustainability performance, OurWinnipeg 2045 exhorts the City to track the status of municipal green and natural spaces, with regular reporting to City Council and the public. The inventory of existing waterways and associated riparian areas, and the monitoring of maintenance works and operations within the Waterways Conservation Area, would be a fundamental component of this tracking mechanism.

Save Our Seine is in the process of conducting an extensive geo-mapping of the Seine River corridor to identify areas of concern and monitor ongoing conservation activities. A similar tool should be implemented for the entire Waterways Conservation Area.

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