"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"
"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"

Water Quality Monitors in the Englishman River Watershed

Once a week for the next 5 weeks our volunteers will be monitoring water quality at nine sites in the Englishman River Watershed. This monitoring program is part of  the Community Watershed Monitoring Network (CWMN) run by the Regional District of Nanaimo's (RDN) Drinking Water and Watershed Protection department.

Every year the CWMN monitors for 5 weeks in August to collect water quality data during the driest time of the year when water flows are at their lowest, and 5 weeks in the fall when rainfall is running off the land and carrying sediment into the creeks and rivers. Four water quality parameters are measured using scientific meters supplied by the RDN: water temperature, dissolved oxygen concentrations, turbidity (measures the amount of solids in the water), and conductivity (measures the amount of contaminants like metals). Each summer, two employees of the RDN hold a training session on water sampling technique, and the operation and maintenance of the meters. 

The sites that MVIHES monitor are located between the Orange Bridge in Parksville and the upper Englishman River above the falls, and include Shelly, Morison and Centre Creeks in addition to the Englishman River. Some of the sites are on Timber West and Island Timberlands' properties which require some four wheeling to access (woohoo!) and a radio to communicate with logging trucks on the road. 

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Ben is using a meter for measuring temperature, oxygen and conductivity, while Elaine shows Janet how to use the turbidity meter on Centre Creek

 

 

 

 

This water quality data was critical for identifying erosion and sedimentation problems in Shelly Creek which led to some stream rehabilitation work and a hydrology study to identify the source of the problems. 

The RDN compiles all the data from the CWMN in an annual report titled "The State of Our Streams" which can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Volunteers Get CABIN Trained

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On September 9 and 10, volunteers from the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society gathered at the Englishman River in Parksville for a training course in the collection of aquatic bugs using the Canadian Biological Monitoring Network (CABIN) method.

 The bugs living at the bottom of our rivers and streams can tell us a lot about the health of those waterbodies. Some are found only in unpolluted waters while others dominate polluted environments. The CABIN monitoring program, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada, assesses the health of freshwater ecosystems like the Englishman River using bugs.  

  

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The course was taught by two intrepid instructors from Living Lakes Canada based out of Nelson, BC. Heather Leschied is in the foreground wearing the purple jacket, and Raegan Mallinson is holding the specially designed CABIN net used for collecting bugs. They did an awesome job training such a diverse group as ours!

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

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Samples are collected by holding the CABIN net against the bottom of the creek or river in a riffle area while the person holding the net vigorously kicks up the bottom for exactly three long minutes. The insects living at the bottom are stirred up and swept into the net by the current where they are funnelled into a plastic bottle screwed into the end of the net.

 

 

 

 

   

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The plastic bottle is unscrewed from the net and the contents poured into a plastic sampling jar. The jar is sent to a scientitist called a Taxonomist who now has the job of counting and identifying the bugs down to the species level. How they do this without going bug-eyed (heh, heh), I don't know.

 

 

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Additional data about the river is collected, such as water quality, flow velocity, slope, the type of bottom, and surrounding vegetation.

CABIN7CABIN5Our volunteers have been trained and certified to a nationally acceptable standard. The beauty of this system is that monitoring data entered into the CABIN database from creeks and rivers across Canada have been collected using the same method, so the results from one waterbody can be compared with the results of others. The database contains reference creeks and rivers for each region of Canada that are used as examples of unaffected to severely affected ecosystems.  For instance, data collected from the Englishman River would be compared with the data from reference rivers for the Vancouver Island Region to determine where it lies on the scale of being environmentally affected.

MVIHES plans on using this method to monitor the health of the Englishman River and tributaries such as Shelly Creek. When done periodically on a waterbody it could determine whether health is improving, declining or remaining the same over time. It would be wonderful to have scientific proof that the health of a creek is improving  following stream remediation work or a change in water management.

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Congratulations CABIN Volunteers!

2017 Annual General Meeting

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The 2017 Annual General Meeting was held on September 16, 2017 in the Arbutus Room at the Parksville Community Conference Centre. A slide show of MVIHES volunteer activities was presented by Carl Rathburn (President), followed by a tribute to Faye Smith by Peter Law (Vice President). Faye, who passed away in March, was the Project Coordinator for MVIHES and a great friend for nearly 20 years. 

 

 

 

2017AGMJanThe guest speaker at the meeting was Jan Bednarski, a Research Scientist with Natural Resources Canada at the Pacific Geoscience Centre in Sidney, BC. He gave a fascinating and informative presenation on the glacial and geological history of the mid Vancouver Island area that shaped today's groundwater resources, along with photos and explanations of how seismic and geological information is collected. He presented MVIHES with a book on groundwater which is highly appreciated and will be well-used.

 

Following Jan's presentation, a memorial tribute to Faye Smith was held at the site where a flowering Dogwood tree and plaque has been installed in her honour in the park area adjacent to the Civic Centre. She is sadly missed.

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Restoring the Esturary

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In an effort to return the Englishman River Estuary to a more natural state, the Nature Trust, who has ownership of the estuary lands, removed a man-made dyke that separated part of the estuary from ocean tidal flows.

 

 

  

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Approximately 3000 m3 of gravel dyke material were excavated in early August, resulting in the removal of a 100 m long barrier (in red) to tidal flows.

 

 

 

 

 

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Channels were dug through the remaining native soil to further enhance flow in and out of the estuary.

 

 

 

 

  

 

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Two truckloads of large woody debris, and crab apple trees removed during the excavation, have been strategically placed to provide shade and cover to fish and other marine species. 

 

 

 

 

Some sections of the trails that intersect the estuary will be reconfigured to reduce impact by human traffic. The old look out is being replaced with lookouts in two new locations that will provide expansive views of the estuary, perfect for bird watching. This is just the first phase of the work planned for the estuary over the next few years. The Englishman River Estuary is on its way to beoming a more naturally functioning ecosystem.

To learn more about this project and MVIHES involvement, click here.

Fish Rescue in Shelly Creek

As you know, a water main is being installed along the E&N rail line to connect the new water intake in the Englishman River to an above ground storage resevoir in Springwood Park. The E&N rail line crosses Shelly Creek near the intersection of Wildgreen Way and Butler Ave. Improvements must be made to the Shelly Creek culvert at the E&N crossing so it can support the pipe. Before work can be done on the culvert, all fish in the vicinity of the culvert must be captured and moved to a safe location within Shelly Creek.

frysalvagemapAround June 20, MIVHES was informed that the biological consultants working for the City had moved 12 adult Cutthroat Trout to a location in the creek below Blower Rd. Unknown to the consultants was that this section of the creek dries up in summer. MVIHES notified the City and the consultants moved the fish up into pools in the Corfield Park which contain water year round and already support a small Cutthroat Trout population.

isolated pool with stranded fish

 

 

In the meantime, two of our intrepid volunteers, Dick Dobler and Pete Law, held a search party of their own to see if more fish needed re-locating from the culvert site. And indeed there were.

 

 

Cutthroat Trout fry

 

Between June 21 and June 26, using a combination of minnow trapping and pole seining in a section between 100 m upstream of the crossing and 50 m downstream of the crossing, they captured 3 Cutthroat adults and parrs, and 5 Cutthroat fry. All of the fish were found in isolated pools that were drying up fast with no flow between them, like the one above.

 

 

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The fish were released in the pools in Corfield Park to join their Cutthroat family. Home Sweet Home

 

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