Habitat Enhancement

Once a creek has been surveyed and problem areas highlighted, M.E.S.S.S can then form a plan to undergo a restoration project. Read on for a detailed write up of our most recent projects.

Shoal Harbour Creek Restoration Project, Summer 2016.

MESSS’s gravel installation project for Shoal Harbour Creek took place in August 2016 in partnership with the Pacific Salmon Foundation. A total of 10 tons of gravel were dropped at 3 strategic locations in half ton bags this past June. MESSS’s president Chris Bennett oversaw the drop sites for the gravel, which was brought in to 2 locations along Shoal M/L and 1 location along the Connector M/L road by Bella Love and her two tugboat deckhands.

Gravel site selection criteria were based on preferred spawning conditions of coho salmon and accessibility to gravel drop sites. Other factors also taken into account were water depth, the presence of existing boulders and large woody debris where back eddies might be created.

The gravel size was determined from observation of native gravel in the area and species utilization. It is recommended to choose gravel that is suitably mixed with complex sizes similar to the historic condition for the stream reach. Typically, coho require washed 3 – 5 inch round.

Consequently the size of the gravel chosen for this project was optimal for spawning coho which require gravel that is small enough to be moved by the fish and large enough to allow good intra-gravel water flow to the incubating eggs and developing alevins. The gravel placement will help to ensure that the environment in the nest is supplied with a constant flow of water that delivers oxygen and removes waste.

Under the competent supervision of MESS Society’s number one Field Technician, biologist Marie-Josee Gagnon, gravel was packed in to Shoal Harbour Creek by herself and volunteers Bertie Warren, who was helping at Blackfish Lodge for the summer, and Chris Guinchard, a Salmon Coast Field Station volunteer. All the work of installing the gravel was completed manually using buckets and shovels.  MJ kept track of the number of buckets carried by the crew, who at times were able to move an astonishing quarter ton of gravel per hour into the creek.

The 2016 Shoal gravel placement project increased the usable, functional, spawning habitat in the stream’s upstream portion of reach #4 by about 46 square metres. In the final assessment all sites but one met the minimum area requirement of 11.7cubic metres. Inspections to date, after high flows, indicate that phase 1 of the project has been successful. All sites demonstrated good retention and there were no siltation issues on the gravel. Sites were visited on 3 occasions from October 27th to November 13th 2016.

MESSS would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of this project.

Chris Bennett was readily available when called upon to coordinate the gravel deliveries and to guide the selection of gravel placement at subsites.

We thank the Pacific Salmon Foundation for once again providing the funds to cover some of our gravel costs for this salmon enhancement project.

Bella and her tugboat deckhands were indispensable and we thank them for volunteering their time and effort to drop 10 tons of gravel along the gravel placement sites.

This project would not have been possible without the help of Chris Guinchard and Bertie Warren who were part of the 3 person crew for Phase 1. Thanks so much Bertie and Chris! MJ stated, “In addition to their physical strength, both provided valuable input during and throughout gravel placement work. Their expertise was much appreciated”.

And much appreciation and thanks to MJ Gagnon whose professional expertise, herculean hard work and masterfully complete report writing always goes far and above the requirements of the job.

See photo gallery for photos of Shoal Harbour Creek Restoration, phase 1

Report compiled by Y. Maximchuk, Director MESSS

 

Loose Lake Tributary Restoration Project, Summer 2014.

In the summer of 2014, MESSS began a pilot project to refurbish coho spawning habitat in various feeder creeks of the Scott Cove system on Gilford Island, situated in the Broughton Archipelago east of northern Vancouver Island, BC. The idea was that the introduction of new clean gravel suited to coho spawning requirements would result in measurably greater survival of eggs laid by spawning coho.

A call for applicants for the gavel project was put out and several variously qualified respondents sent in resumes. Alex Spicer and Skye Maitland were the happy applicants who came to Echo Bay for the job. Alex Spicer held the lead role as the volunteer supervisor. Skye Maitland volunteered on the late-summer project and both women, along with several other helpers from the Salmon Coast Research Station, worked daily with commitment and energy to fulfill the requirements of cleaning and re-furbishing salmon spawning habitat with the new gravel.

Five cubic yards of carefully selected gravel, the ideal size and shape for spawning coho, was transported to Echo Bay  on pallets by Bella Love with her tugboat Stormaway II, towing the barge Magnolia II. She trucked it up Scott Cove Main logging road and set the pallets down at the side of the road near the selected streams. Thanks, Bella!

We thank the Pacific Salmon Foundation for the funding of the purchase of the gravel and the barge fees, and thanks as well to all those who donate to PSF so they are able to support the work of Salmon Enhancement in British Columbia: www.psf.ca

 

 

Throughout August 2014 Alex and Skye worked in Chris Bennett Creek, John Lewis Creek, the Connector Creek and Loose Lake stream removing debris, raking gravel to release silt, and spreading the new gravel, in order to create healthier spawning habitat for the expected return of the coho. Commonly helicopters are used for this type of restoration work, which is enormously costly for a small community run hatchery. The fact that the gravel placement work was done by hand garnered several benefits; cost reductions to community and government, an interesting and meaningful experience for two individuals, and precision placement of the gravel based on observation and assessment at close hand, all hopefully resulting in increased habitat for redds and next spring’s fry survival.

Bill Proctor, past President and current Vice President, spent some time refurbishing the hatchery speed boat so it would safely transport the crew daily through varied weather to their destination. Al Munro and Ted Emmonds replaced the windshield and rough seats in the speedboat. Yvonne Maximchuk painted some new signs for Chris Bennett Creek and John Lewis Creek which the crew installed at the end of the project.

A project like this can have a powerfully positive impact on salmon populations, but it also can make a difference in the lives of the participants who work up close and personal in what likely looks like an ordinary old stream to many. Here’s how Alex and Skye describe their experience….

Here’s Alex –

 

“In August of 2014, I spent an amazing month testing the feasibility of a project to enhance salmon spawning habitat for local streams. We carried buckets of gravel to streams with known Coho salmon populations, and strategically placed the gravel in areas that would create optimal spawning habitat. While working on this project, I gained more knowledge about salmon habitat, and learned oral history of the community and its relationship to the natural resources around Echo Bay. This was not my first visit to Echo Bay, nor will it be my last. The wildlife in Echo Bay is spectacular, but what keeps bringing me back to this place of beauty is the community and how connected the people here are with nature. It is amazing to experience the power and passion that such a small community can have and it gives me hope that it is still possible to make a difference to our wild salmon stocks.”

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And Skye –

“Working for MESSS was very rewarding and a very valued experience for me… I found the routine of returning to the creeks each day really fostered an unexpected sense of belonging and attachment within me.

Writing to a friend after having been on Gilford Island for only a couple of weeks… what came out in my stream of consciousness ramblings was just how very attached I had become to the idea that what we were doing in these creeks – these seemingly insignificant or small acts of restoration – might actually work. I realized then that I had developed a truly emotional response to the possibility that we might see more fish returning to these creeks! And I find that with every creek that I am fortunate enough to walk or visit, that attachment only wedges deeper. I know I’m not alone in that…On a day to day basis, the work required was nothing special….when it comes to clearing brush and shovelling gravel there’s no sugarcoating it – it’s just work. But I think what made the project so meaningful to me was that process of visiting the same creeks day in and day out, walking around, seeing where the sun created shaded pools, watching for fry.. The more time we spent knee deep in creek water, or exploring the tributary networks through the forest, the more I think we understood what we were doing.”

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3 thoughts on “Habitat Enhancement”

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