Stoney Creek now offers better homes for fishy Vanderhoofians in the Nechako River watershed, thanks to local groups and landowners.
This November, in time before winter arrived and the first creek ice formed, Nechako Environment and Water Stewardship Society teamed up with Vanderhoof construction company M4 Enterprises to complete the fifth habitat restoration project on Stoney Creek, a tributary that flows into the Nechako River just west of Vanderhoof.
“What we’re finding is that we get a lot of Chinook salmon fry that occupies the side streams, where they have better chances to survival,” said Wayne Salewski of NEWSS. “It is important for the Nechako White sturgeon as well, as some of it could be sturgeon food.”
With support from surrounding property owners, sharpened tree root wads were inserted into creek banks downstream from the McIntosh Trail footbridge to push water into the creek’s centre, lowering pressure on the banks and discouraging erosion, Salewski explained.
Sediment created by bank erosion fills rocky sections of river bottoms, which could have provided adequate fish spawning locations as cracks between rocks hide fish fry from predators.
To ensure that water flow stays meandering for fish habitat, the root wads were placed strategically to push water from either side at different sections of the creek.
Willow stakes and grass seeds were also planted along the section to help stabilize the creek banks in spring.
Just upstream from the footbridge, a rock weir that spans the creek’s width was built to push water back upstream, deepen the creek to create spawning beds, and agitate the flow to increase oxygen levels. Rocks that were placed nearby helped to provide structure and hiding spots for the habitat.
“[It] is already creating a strong and focused current that is washing and cleaning the gravels below, which will further enhance spawning opportunities,” Salewski said.
Stoney Creek flows out of Nulki Lake about 20 kilometres south of Vanderhoof, travelling northward through Saik’uz First Nation and various agricultural, forested, and residential landscapes before entering the Nechako River at the Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Vanderhoof. The confluence is one of the known breeding areas of the endangered Nechako White Sturgeon.
With one more project to go for Stoney Creek, NEWSS will continue restoration work on Murray Creek and start research on Knight Creek near the eastern boundaries of Vanderhoof.
A Nechako Watershed monitoring program will also take place next year, involving School District No. 91 students as part of water stewardship education. Research on the local otter population is in the works.
“We understand that otters like fish a lot and we want to understand their relationship with sturgeon,” Salewski said. “We’ll be looking for evidence of feeding sites.”