The Rat River is a picturesque waterway viewed from Peter Funk’s farm, located south of Grunthal, MB along Highway #216. The river winds its way through Peter’s pastureland as it crosses the highway and flows into St. Malo Lake. Peter needs to fence off the river to prevent his cattle from wandering away when the river level is low. Fencing off the river, however, creates an obstruction and safety concern for river users accessing the waterway throughout the year.
A canoeist from Ontario recently received a shock after canoeing into an electric fence hung over the Nith River near Kitchener. The safety and accessibility of waterways and the need for exclusion fencing for riparian livestock management is a source of contention between farmers and recreational river users. The wire fence Peter hung across the river was frequently cut until he spoke with Robert Budey, a Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) sub-watershed representative of the Rat River & Joubert Creek watershed.
“I spoke with Peter and brought up the issue at the next sub-district meeting,” said Robert. “The sub-district passed a recommendation for a cross-river fence pilot-project that was adopted by the SRRCD Board of Directors in 2015.”
Funk Cross-River Fence viewed from the Rat River along Highway #216
Funk Cross-River Fence Design
The SRRCD partnered with Peter Funk to find an innovative response to the mutual concerns on both side of the fence. Chris Randall, SRRCD Project Supervisor, provided his expertise as an environmental professional and long-time canoeing enthusiast to acquire the necessary permits and implement a customized design for Peter.
Constructing the Funk Cross-River Fence
The Funk Cross-River Fence is made up of a steel cable strung across the river and secured to fence posts. The cable is raised a few metres above the water level so that river users can safely navigate the waterway underneath the cable. Plastic PVC pipes hanging from the cable are uniformly spaced apart to create a ‘curtain’ effect. The curtain effect of the pipes acts as a visual barrier to deter livestock from wandering away. It also allows canoeists to safely manoeuver through the pipes that hang freely above the riverbed. The design of the pipe assembly consists of a wire that is threaded through a drilled hole in the pipe and looped around the steel cable. The pipe assembly is designed so that individual pipes can be easily replaced. The pipes are spaced one foot apart and secured in place to a rope threaded through the wire loops. The rope is used to pull the curtain of pipes back into the riverbank to allow snowmobilers and cross-country skiers safe access to the waterway in winter.
Funk Cross-River Fence pipe assembly
Funk Cross-River Fence Unique to Canada
A variation of the Funk Cross-River Fence design was first developed in the United States by the Dolores River Boating Advocates in Colorado. The group became concerned by a boating accident involving a man who was snagged by barbed wire under the surface of the water. The boaters collaborated with a local rancher to develop a river fence to protect both river users and livestock. The resulting river fence in Colorado provided the inspiration for the Funk Cross-River Fence pilot-project implemented by the SRRCD in 2015 and completed with follow-up activities taking place in 2016.
The Funk Cross-River Fence is unique to Canada and was funded by the SRRCD for under $1,000. The high visibility of the river fence along Highway #216 has stirred curiosity in the local community. The SRRCD has subsequently committed to installing two more cross-river fences in the area as word-of-mouth conversations between neighbours speak to the success of this unique pilot-project.
Funk Cross-River Fence in-action
Successful watershed initiatives are established at the local level by innovators, like Peter Funk and Robert Budey. Our programs are created by early adopters who challenge us to embrace innovation by working together to find creative solutions at the local, sub-watershed, and board levels. District members, like Robert Budey, go the extra mile to make meaningful connections on the ground and the success of the Funk Cross-River Fence gives meaning to the value of active district member engagement with the local community.
“We work in a lot of riparian areas,” says Robert, “and it’s important to use the resources we already have to find the best solutions that benefit agriculture and the local community.”
The SRRCD is always looking for new ways to partner with our watershed residents and we are pleased to do the legwork behind the resource planning needed to implement a project, allowing you to focus on doing what you do best.
Visit our website at www.srrwd.ca to learn more about the programs we offer.