Welcome to the third edition in the series "Volunteers on the Go". Two of our activities that were on hold due to the pandemic are now back on line (with Covid-19 protocols): the bi-weekly water sampling at the Orange Bridge in Parksville that we do for Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC); and the Forage Fish Spawning Habitat sampling we do monthly (sometimes biweekly) in partnership with Vancouver Island University (VIU) and the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute (MABRRI).
Water Sampling at the Orange Bridge
The Orange Bridge spans the Englishman River in Parksville and is one of several long-term freshwater quality monitoring sites in the coastal watersheds of British Columbia. MVIHES has been collecting water samples from the Englishman River at this location and sending them to an analytical laboratory on behalf of ECCC for approximately 15 years. ECCC uses the data to assess water quality status and long-term trends, detect emerging issues, establish water quality guidelines and track the effectiveness of remedial measures and regulatory decisions in the Pacific Basin.
ECCC supplies MVIHES with bottles that are placed in a rack (seen in right-hand photo) and lowered by a rope into the Englishman River for filling. Each bottle in the rack is used for analysis of specific parameters such as heavy metals, E. coli, nitrogen, chloride, water hardness, turbidity. Once the bottles are filled they are packed into a cooler with cold packs that ECCC also supplies and sent to a lab in Burnaby for analysis. The results of the analysis are sent to ECCC and go into a public database.
The photo to the left shows actor and heart throb Mark Ruffalo on the Orange Bridge after he has lifted the sampling rack out of the river. No wait.....that's MVIHES volunteer and Board Member Bernd Keller! Yay Bernd! It's so hard to tell who's behind the masks these days. Well, whoever it is, he's getting ready to take the bottles out of the rack, put the lids back on the bottles, and pack them in the cooler to be shipped to the lab in Burnaby. Taking the photo is MVIHES volunteer Shelley Goertzen.
Forage Fish Spawning Habitat Sampling
Since 2018, MVIHES has been identifying and sampling forage fish spawning habitat on the beaches from Craig Bay to the Parksville Community Park. Forage fish are small fish that travel in large schools and are a food source or 'forage' for larger fish and marine mammals and birds.They include Pacific Sand Lance (seen in bottom of photo) and Surf Smelt (seen in top of photo) which lay tiny eggs (1mm) on pebble and sand beaches just below the high-tide line - an area called the intertidal zone. It's important to identify and map beaches where forage fish spawn so spawning habitat can be protected from disturbance during the spawning window.
On November 10, MVIHES volunteers, including Brenda Little in the right-hand photo, collected habitat data and sand samples from 11 potential spawning sites. The sand samples, one of which is seen in the left-hand photo below, are sieved and "vortexed" to sort out the right sized sand grains where forage fish eggs and embryos can be found. The sorted sand from each site is placed in a sample bottle with a tag and checked under a microscope by VIU and MABBRI for the presence of eggs and embryos. In December of 2018 and 2019, Pacific Sand Lance eggs were found in the sand samples from the beach in San Pareil.
Photo by Don Lyster
This time it appears Pacific Sand Lance eggs have been found on the beach in the Parksville Community Park. The photo to the right was taken through a microscope by MABRRI and shows five eggs attached to sand particles. The eggs are being sent to an expert with the Dept. of Fish and Game in Washington State for verification.
Other volunteers who were involved on November 10 and are suspiciously absent in all the photos taken that day are Don Lyster, Pat Ashton, Katrice Bauer, Shelley Goertzen, Peter Law and the Vortex Queen (Barb Riordan).
In early September, we took on one of our biggest fish habitat restoration projects in our 20-year history. Martindale Pond, home to thousands of overwintering Coho Salmon fry, had been filling with sediment and invasive plants like yellow iris and reed canary grass for years. Less and less habitat was available for the fry that develop into smolts and leave the pond for the Englishman River every spring. Juvenile Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout also overwinter in the pond and leave in the spring. The pond is also home to a turtle named Martin and two red-legged frogs named Dale and Dale (you laugh, but you try and tell one frog from the other). Drone footage of Martindale Pond - summer 2020
The pond desperately needed a good cleaning. We applied for and received funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation for $50,000 to excavate the pond. A portion of the grant was contributed by Mosaic Forest Management, a sponsor of the Community Salmon Program. An application for a “Notification to Changes in a Stream” was submitted to the provincial government and a permit from the City of Parksville to work on City Property (Martindale Rd and road allowance) was also obtained.
Parksville Heavy Equipment was contracted to dig out the pond and haul the sediment in dump trucks to the Shelly Farm where it was spread on the fields as fertilizer. Over thirty truckloads of sediment were removed!
A crane with a "clamshell" bucket hanging off the end of a 90 foot boom was used to grab the sediment from the pond and dump it beside a sump that allowed water to drain out of the sediment without running back into the pond. An excavator then picked up the sediment and placed it in a dump truck. See photos below.
Biologist Dave Clough (right-hand photo) was on hand throughout the project to make sure erosion control measures were functioning as designed. Following removal of the sediment, the area that had been disturbed by the trucks and heavy equipment was rehabilitated under Dave's supervision using methods that are standard practice for Parksville Heavy Equipment. The area was graded and made smooth so that a fast growing grass seed mix prescribed for erosion control could be spread. Straw was spread over the area for a couple of reasons. The straw will stop the seed from blowing away or washing away in the rain. The straw will also stop the soil from being washed into the pond by the rain.
Ryan Christie of Parksville Heavy Equipment spreading seed Shelley Goertzen using seed spreader, Dave Clough spreading straw
The seed and straw applications were followed by planting red-osier dogwood stakes around the edge of the pond where vegetation was removed. Red-osier dogwood is plentiful at the pond and is a great species for stabilizing the banks of creeks and ponds. Saplings are cut down and then cut into two foot lengths. These are called stakes which are planted about three-quarters of their length into the ground, often using a small sledge hammer. Roots will grow out of the section of stake buried in the ground and soon a new sapling will form. The photos below show some of our stakers. From left to right they are Pat Ashton, Pete Law, John Phillips, and below them, newcomers Quentin Jack-Little and Katrice Baur. Present but not in the photos was Duane Round..
And voila, the finished product. This project was really Carl Rathburn's baby from the start. It's been three years in the making. Carl did all the communicating with land owners, including Shelly Farm, and organizing with Parksville Heavy Equipment and Dave Clough. Carl is in the right hand photo, admiring his new domain.
This project was a huge undertaking and could not have been done without the work by many parties. In addition to Carl Rathburn and the stakers (sounds like a rock 'n roll group), and seeder Shelley Goertzen, mentioned above, MVIHES would like to thank the following people:
Dave Clough (DR Clough Consulting): project design and "Notification for Changes in a Stream"; moved fish from the pond downstream in Shelly Creek; erosion and sediment control; site restoration.
Ryan Christie, John Christie and all the crew at Parksville Heavy Equipment: contractor for pond excavation and site restoration.
Koers Engineering: surveyed and provided engineered drawing of the pond while donating some of their engineering services.
Ken Bergeron et.al., landowners of Martindale Pond: granted permission for work on their property
Murray and Shelly Laplante, landowners of Shelly Farm : granted permission for hauling and spreading sediment on their fields.
Laura Terry, Community Advisor for Department of Fisheries and Oceans: supported project and submitted "Notification for Changes in a Stream".
Dick Dobler, MVIHES volunteer: assisted Dave with fish removal and set up of erosion and sediment control system.
Barb Riordan, MVIHES volunteer and loan shark: completed grant application for $50,000, supplied workers and volunteers with cookies, took some pictures, bossed a few people around.