Andrew McNaughton and others work on restoration of Departure Creek on Tuesday. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo creek restoration meant to make habitat more fish-friendly

Streamkeepers, Departure Bay neighbours, City of Nanaimo, NALT and others partner on project

Work is underway to make Departure Creek a more inviting place for fish to come and spend some of their life cycle.

Streamkeepers, the neighbourhood association, the city and other partners are working this week to restore a section of the creek at Woodstream Park. A project two years ago to create a side channel for salmon wasn’t wholly successful, and the creek was also damaged by high flows last winter.

So this time of year, with water levels low, was the right time to try to make repairs and realignments. Jean-Michel Hanssens, a member of the Departure Creek Streamkeepers and the Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association, said the creek is one of the only ones left in Nanaimo that can support rearing coho. It’s also home to pink salmon and cutthroat trout.

RELATED: Conservation projects in B.C. receive $9.2M in funds from Victoria-based foundation

RELATED: B.C. forests watchdog calls for further protection of fish-bearing streams

The side channel, Hanssens explained, allows “the little guys” to get out of the current during the winter.

“The water level comes way up and we get those big rain events and drainage from storm drains that empty into the creek. This becomes a torrent, so the fish get battered up,” he said. “And if they don’t have a place where they can seek refuge, their productivity goes way down because the fish will get knocked down into the ocean.”

The work underway now will raise an area of the creek bed so that the water level will be high enough to back-fill the side channel. The creek bed is also being banked below the channel to try to keep the water moving quickly enough to prevent build-up of a “sand bar” that would obstruct access to the side channel.

“You learn as you go and you realize that well, we’re going to have to make some adjustments,” said Rob Lawrance, the City of Nanaimo’s environmental planner. “They had to find some new funds and the city was available to help with the machine and some of the support work.”

The project needed approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, funding was provided by the neighbourhood association and Nanaimo and Area Land Trust, and Snuneymuxw First Nation, Milner Group and others are also helping.

“This kind of work, to be successful, you need those kinds of partnerships. You can’d do these things in isolation,” Lawrance said. “You need First Nations buy-in, you need local community involved. This is a great example of that kind of co-operation in action.”

Hanssens said Streamkeepers have a permit from DFO to trap fish in the spring, and they measure, weigh and release the young coho to track the creek’s productivity. He said rough estimates are that a female coho might deposit 2,500 eggs – 10 per cent will hatch, 10 per cent of those will go to the ocean as smolt and 10 per cent of those will come back as adult fish. Along the way heron, otters and even cutthroat will feed on coho.

“A tremendous amount of stuff goes on in order for one fish to come back,” Hanssens said. “He’s got to survive. It’s a cycle.”

So sustainability efforts of humans who care about the creek and its inhabitants help.

“This is just another small project in the long-term vision to improve the fish habitat along this creek,” said Claudia Boyce, an executive with the neighbourhood association.

She pointed out a few areas where planting has been done to stabilize the banks of the creek, and said there has also been invasive species removal. There’s been a long history of Departure Bay residents caring for the creek, which she called an important feature of the neighbourhood.

“It’s quite a beautiful spot,” Boyce said. “It takes you away from the hustle and bustle and all the traffic … It’s kind of a little, hidden oasis from all the concrete and built environment that we live in.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

EnvironmentSalmon

Just Posted

Mount Washington to open Dec. 4 with COVID-19 protocols in place

Reservations for some services, face coverings will be required

Charity tackling ‘weekend hunger gap’ bracing for tripling of students in need

Backpack Buddies was serving 1,300 students per week in March, by June that number doubled

First year University of Victoria students face a vastly different ‘university experience’

First years at UVic are feeling frustrated with online classes and virtual friendships

Island Sexual Health expanding physical space and workforce

Island Health looking to hire more health care workers for centre once expansion complete

Editorial: Tiny houses should be a real option on the Island

We are missing the boat by not enabling the building of tiny houses

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

Tiny homes could help Cowichan’s housing issues, says housing official

John Horn says homeless need shelter with winter coming

Campbell River to get new $14-million library

Costs shared by regional library jurisdictions, not paid for by Campbell River taxpayers alone

Qualicum Beach seek funds for $4.5M community field project

Turf surface would allow for new sporting activities

Three Nanaimo-area writers up for CBC non-fiction prize

Sheila Brooke, Vicki McLeod and Rachael Preston make 35-person longlist

Most Read