General News · 13th November 2017
There are as many as 140,000 aging culverts needing replacement throughout the province, and Cortes Island had the extreme good fortune to have 2 replacements in September & October 2017!
In 2013, a highways biologist, Sean Wong, came to Cortes Island, and was first acquainted with the aging Basil Creek culvert. Emcon, our local highways contractor, had made several attempts in recent years to mitigate the increasing bank erosion and overflowing ditch along the main road above the Basil Creek culvert. Cortes Streamkeepers first looked at low water in Basil Creek and the major fish barrier of that the culvert with fish biologist, Dave Clough in 2014. Cortes benefitted from the interplay of these factors, and serious planning with the major parties began in the spring of 2016. The Basil Creek project was initially planned as a culvert replacement with an open-bottom arch, headed up by Sean Wong, the head restoration biologist on Vancouver Island for Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI). The major parties involved were: MOTI with the official oversight & responsibility; Emcon, as the local road contractors; Klahoose First Nation, as Basil Creek has historically been an important creek in their traditional territory; Stacey Larson & DFO; FOCI, as the local community sponsoring society; and Cortes Streamkeepers, offering a voice for salmon and on-the-ground representation for FOCI. The additional bonus was that Whaletown Creek also received an open-bottom arch culvert due to the efficiency of crew, machinery & materials being on island, and a timely, encouraging call from our regional director, Noba Anderson.
FOCI and Streamkeepers were proactive in delaying the project start-up until after Labour Day, out of concern for local business disruptions with a road closure during the business of August. The ‘fish window’ is generally considered to be August 15 to September 15, and in this particular situation, low precipitation in September was beneficial for the work done at Basil & Whaletown Creeks.
The work completed at Basil Creek included the following: a complete rebuilding and reinforcement of the main road ditch leading into the creek; an excavation down to the original streambed in order to restore the natural streambed; the installation of a patented, open-bottom arch culvert; with adjoining landowner support, a rebuilding of the streambed from the road to the estuary, which included a series of 7 riffle/pool/spawning bed sequences and the addition of much needed spawning gravel; the removal of a large patch of invasive bamboo and in its place, the creation of a side-channel, rearing pool for fish; the placement of much large woody debris in the creek, such as root masses & tree trunks, to stabilize banks and provide much needed fish cover (which had been lacking); planting of many local and native plants, shrubs & trees along the stream & pond banks; and a general clean-up of the creek that had been abused by human use over decades. The crew also created an easy public footpath on highways road allowance with educational signage, which gives easy viewing access to the creek at the downstream end of the arch. It is important to mention that the property owners on either side of lower Basil Creek have expressed concern that the work will encourage more foot traffic. Therefore, it should be emphasized that there is good public access along the oceanfront (as always) and now by the main road and arch, so please be respectful of private property.
The work completed at Whaletown Creek was a smaller project, and included the following: the removal of a sizable clump of Bohemian Knotweed, considered to be one of the most invasive and difficult plants to eradicate, by a group of 7 streamkeepers & locals; a deep excavation to lower the height of the streambed; the installation of a smaller, open-bottom arch culvert; the placement of spawning gravel in spawning platforms within the arch; a general cleanup of old water lines; the creation of a footpath and easy viewing on MOTI right-of-way at the upstream end of the arch; and streamside planting of native tress and shrubs by a hardy group of 5 youth & 3 adult streamkeepers. MOTI has also deposited additional spawning gravel to be used to build spawning opportunities downstream of the arch by MOTI and the adjoining property owner in the spring.
Sean Wong and his crew were outstanding in many ways, and went to exceptional efforts to complete not one, but two, extraordinary projects of long-standing benefit to fish and the Cortes community! Sean solicited input from Cortes Streamkeepers and responded to local needs. Sean hired local workers when possible, generated work for local businesses, and made an extra effort to hire a fair representation of women, first nations and young adults. The crew improved several nearby driveways that were used during the work, and replaced an aging water pipe for the Squirrel Cove Store. FOCI and Cortes streamkeepers offer a huge voice of thanks and gratitude to Sean for his professional and personal dedication to improving conditions for salmon!!!
Streamkeeper presence was very beneficial to Sean and the work done at both creeks. Streamkeepers played a strong role providing local advice, communications, and reassurance through on-site daily presence. They recommended public access at both creeks, and advocated for the manual (not chemical or machine) removal of knotweed. Streamkeepers were also particularly vigilant in netting and isolating the work site at Whaletown Creek, and live trapping fish to remove them from the work zone – 30 coho fry, 10 cutthroat, 20 sculpin.
The majority of the funding came from MOTI, with some grant money from DFO and Pacific Salmon Foundation through FOCI. Much thanks to the FOCI Board and Helen Hall, executive director, for partnering with MOTI for these 2 restoration projects. And final thanks to the Cortes community for their goodwill and flexibility during the road works.
Streamkeeper youth at Whaletown Creek
WHALETOWN CREEK - Spectacular Success
Comment by Shay'ne Findlay on 18th November 2017
Thank you so much to the Cortes Streamkeepers and Sean Wong and his fine crew. The work was quickly done with beautiful results. It is simply magical to stand at the edge of the creek and listen to the water flow knowing marine life is being enhanced to be enjoyed by all for now and future generations. The crew went out of their way to make it easy for our ingress and egress as our driveway was right next to the culvert. They couldn't been more accommodating. We are so fortunate to live on Cortes Island and our children and grandchildren look forward to the time when we pass our place along to them.