Spawning fish given a boost as part of Colwood residential project

By  Joel Tansey – Goldstream News Gazette Colwood, West Shore posted Mar 9, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Colwood’s groundwater-fed Bee Creek, with a steady year-round stream and consistent temperatures, is the perfect “kitchen” for cutthroat trout and coho salmon.

Plentiful numbers of small invertebrates make this a veritable smorgasbord for area fish. But large quantities of sediment – a consequence of the natural wetlands in the stream’s headwater – plug up the spaces between the gravel base, smothering their spawning habitat, and make it less than ideal for reproduction.

As aquatic ecologist Patrick Lucey quipped, it’s short on bedrooms. Rather than candles and rose petals, trout and salmon require well oxygenated water and inviting gravel beds in order to reproduce. Bee Creek lacks the latter.

Meanwhile, the developers of Pacific Landing, through which the creek runs and feeds into Esquimalt Lagoon, were faced with a challenging predicament.

The constant flow of groundwater under the future site of their multi-phase condo project would need to be dealt with.

Traditionally, developers pump groundwater to another environment, but this comes with a host of problems, including reliability during storms. Instead, they worked with the community-driven Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative and later brought in Lucey and fisheries biologist Steve Voller to explore alternatives.

“The developer really needs to be given a lot of credit for being the catalyst in bringing all of these different groups together,” Lucey said.

“It could have been developed very differently and they chose not to do that.”

The pair recognized that gravity, and a new secondary channel, could deal with the ground water issue while also providing an opportunity to improve the habitat for trout and salmon.

In short, they could catch two fish with one worm. As a result, a spawning channel was formed from groundwater underneath the 33-unit, phase one condo that doesn’t have the same sediment issues as Bee Creek, and was engineered to be suitable for fish reproduction with the construction of a series of gravel beds.

Further, the water spills out of a culvert from the source and trickles down a pile of small rocks, ensuring it’s well oxygenated before it reaches the man-made channel.

The bedrooms were ready.

It also benefits from a steady stream and cool year-round temperatures because of its groundwater source. Early signs show that fish are using their newly refurbished living space, and with trout spawning season taking place over the coming months, project leaders are eagerly waiting to see how the habitat works in practice.

“I’ve seen incremental habitat losses over and over again … It’s really nice to see the opposite happening here,” said Voller.

The secondary channel has proven to be a cost-effective way for the Pacific Landing developers to deal with the groundwater issue and it should add value to the development’s future residents, with viewing platforms and raised pathways planned for the area. They’ve also committed to similar projects for subsequent phases.

As Lucey stood along the banks of the secondary channel that he helped dig out, he reflected on the project and offered his hope that other developers might also consider these kinds of sustainable alternatives.

“What a perfect case study to demonstrate how development on the adjacent lands should proceed,” he said, pointing to ongoing negotiations between First Nations groups and the Department of National Defence regarding the Royal Roads property.

“You can work your way all along Esquimalt Lagoon building these kinds of systems, because there’s so much groundwater … and (this concept) ties in with First Nations perspectives and vision on land stewardship.”

Read the original article here

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