August 17, 2012 – As part of our last day on the North Coast we met up with three others involved in salmon restoration projects. We toured a number of sites along the road between Kitimat and Terrace and viewed projects ranging from culvert removal and bridge construction to restore fish passage into traditional spawning grounds, to engineering new offside channels for new spawning habitat, mostly revolving around restoring spawning habitat and enhancement of Lakelse stocks of sockeye.
There have been some really great success stories, such as the return of increased numbers of sockeye to Scully Creek. Scully Creek was one of the worst environmental events in the Lakelse Lake system due to a series of highway slides in the 1960′s. During the fall 1992 flood, Scully creek scoured down to a rock-filled barrier protecting an old gas-line crossing about a km upstream of the highway. This altered the flow towards and through a nearby hotsprings and resort. Late, larger highway culverts were installed but the Scully creek surface flow remained out of the original creek bed and flows were insufficient. Because of the low flows, a beaver moved into the area and build a massive dam that completely blocked adult passage and the result was a feasting grounds for the local bears, which quickly keyed in on the trapped fish, decimating what did make it in. Sockeye returns dropped 3000-4000 adults in the mid-90′s to as low as 100.
Through a great deal of effort on the part of the Lakelse Watershed Society, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Pacific Salmon Commission, and others, restoration was undertaken. Flow augmentation through excavation to access ground water brought an increase in water back to the creek, and undercut banks were engineered to provide shelter from bears. Gravel was added to improve spawning habitat, and a fishway was installed to allow fish to access the elevated culvert. Habitat was added inside the large culvert to improve passage, and an excavator removed the massive beaver dam.
The efforts were a success and the last few years have seen a significant increase in returning adults.
There is such passion attached to working with wild salmon and every success story is so rewarding. There is so much more to recovering salmon populations than hatcheries, all the pieces are connected.
Can you see why I love working in this program?