Tree planting assessment along Sucwoa river bank. (Submitted photo)

Six northwestern Vancouver Island rivers undergoing fish habitat restoration

Coastal Restoration Fund project addresses river bank instability between Tahsis and Zeballos

A riparian restoration along the banks of the Tahsis River is underway after a $900,000 grant by the Coastal Restoration Fund.

On June 15, forestry crews conducted surveys to identify ways to promote long-lived conifers along the river banks. The restoration project aims to plant and accelerate the growth of spruce and cedar trees to repair stream-banks to promote a healthy habitat.

Spearheaded by the Nootka Sound Watershed Society (NSWS) and managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the work will be conducted over three years on six northwest Vancouver Island salmon streams in the region around Tahsis and Zeballos.

A healthy riparian zone — the interface between land and water bodies — is often covered with dense vegetation including mature trees and shrubs. These riparian zones are essential to maintain ecosystems, prevent soil erosion and protect fish habitats.

Along with stable banks, rivers also need fallen trees in stream for healthy fish habitat. Large woody debris — a critical component of fish habitat — naturally occurs when trees fall into the river over time, but Tahsis River lacked large woody debris in its system. Also, unstable stream banks along the Tahsis, caused by soil erosion and logging over time, delivered sediments detrimental to salmon health. The riparian restoration project in Tahsis will address these issues.

Kent O’Neill, president of NSWS said that the society is committed to a “holistic” maintenance of the ecosystem which in turn promotes healthy salmon habitats.

NSWS is a non profit, multi-stakeholder group championing salmon restoration and enhancing biodiversity on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

In March the first phase of the project was completed along the banks of Sucwoa River, located between Gold River and Tahsis. Almost 1,200 seedlings, donated by Western Forest Products, were planted along 30 hectares.

Two more phases are planned in Tahsis this year and two phases in Zeballos in 2021.

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