"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"

2018 Coho Smolt Count

smolttrapCome out and help us count the Coho Salmon smolts as they migrate out of Shelly Creek to the Englishman River.

Every spring, for six weeks, we set up a smolt trap in Shelly Creek to count the number of Coho smolts and fry that overwintered in the creek to escape the turbulent flows of the Englishman River. We usually count several thousand in a season but one year was exceptionally good when we counted over 8000 smolts.  Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout also venture into the trap, along with the occassional frog, salamander and duckling.

The smolt trap is on Martindale Rd where Shelly Creek crosses under the road. We start counting at 9 am every morning and are usually done by 10 am. If you would like to volunteer to count the fish, frogs, salamanders, etc., sign up for the days you are available right here. Sign Up

 

Morison Creek Fish Habitat Assessment

MorisonCr1On March 21 and 22, eight volunteers joined Dave Clough, our consulting Biologist, to assess the salmon and trout habitat in Morison Creek and identify areas of the creek that  need restoration work. In addition to the volunteers, Dave's assistant Brad, and 2 VIU students, Chelsea and Spencer, were there to lend a hand. 

Morison Creek flows through Errington and enters the Englishman River on the north bank, approximately 1.1 km upstream of the confluence of the Englishman and South Englishman Rivers. It is an important creek for Coho Salmon, Steelhead Trout and Cutthroat Trout. Its 35.6 km2 watershed was historically logged resulting in heavy water flows that washed out much of the gravel and cobble (valuable fish habitat)  in the lower reaches, leaving bedrock and boulders on the creek bottom. Morison Creek has 2 sets of falls. Triple Falls is the most well known and a barrier to Coho and Steelhead spawners, although there have been undocumented observations of fish successfully leaping the falls in years with high flows. The upper reaches and headwaters contain Cutthroat Trout and pass through farm land. A few of these farms were the sites of sediment control work conducted through a collaboration of land owners and MVIHES between 2005 and 2007.  

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Measurements such as channel width, water depth, and percent slope of the creek  banks are taken at each riffle (a stretch of choppy water) and pool.

 MorisonCr2Observations are recorded on:

  • the amount and type of vegetation at each location - provides shade for the creek and bank stability.
  • the amount of bedrock, boulders, cobble, gravel and fines on the creek bottom. 
  • the amount of large woody debris in the creek - important for providing cover for fry and smolts.

 

 

 

MorisonCr5Other important information includes the number and size of obstructions in the creek, which are usually formed when a large tree falls over trapping more woody debris, like branches and smaller trees, behind it. These can make travel up and down the creek difficult for fish, not to mention human volunteers. 

 

 

 

 

 

It was wonderful to get to see this beautiful creek and take part in the data collection. Once the  information is processed, a habitat restoration strategy and plan will be developed for the creek. Stay tuned.

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Getting the Dirt on Martindale Pond

Sediment 3On February 13, five volunteers descended on Martindale Pond in Shelly Creek to measure the depth of sediment that has collected in the pond over the years. Martindale Pond is where Coho Salmon smolts spend the winter to avoid the turbulent flows of the Englishman River during the winter rains. Each spring,  we install a smolt trap that allows us to count them as they begin their migration back into the Englishman River. We have counted up to 8,000 in one spring, so Martindale Pond is an important site for the Englishman River Coho population.

 

Martindale Pond has been filling up with sediment which is the result of erosion of the creek banks. This results in there being less and less space in the pond for the smolts to occupy. MVIHES would like to have this excess sediment removed from the pond to make more room for the smolts, but first we need to determine how much sediment there is to remove.

Sediment 1We did this using wooden dowels with a scale in centimetres written on them. We placed one end of the dowel gently on the bottom of the pond and measured the water level using the scale on the dowel . Then we pushed the dowel down into the muck until we hit solid ground and measured the water level off the dowel again. The difference between the water level with the dowel pushed into the muck and that before it was pushed into the muck gives us the thickness of the sediment layer at the bottom of the pond. The average thickness of the sediment is 28 cm, however, as we got closer to where Shelly Creek enters the pond, the thickness increased to 70 and 90  cm (almost 1 m thick). The creek channel itself has 90 cm of sediment.

The next step is to put together a plan to have the sediment removed. Stay tuned for futher developments! 

 Sediment 2

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!

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