Pausing train for better fish migration in Vanderhoof

This year’s Halloween night brought better passage for the district’s aquatic migrants.

On Oct. 31

On Oct. 31

Bringing candy and fun to Vanderhoof’s costumed residents, this year’s Halloween night also brought better passage for the district’s aquatic migrants.

On Oct. 31, partnering with the Nechako Environment and Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS), the Canadian National Railway Company installed a new customized culvert to improve fish passage to upstream habitats at its rail crossing over Stoney Creek.

To put in place the pre-assembled culvert measuring three metres in diameter, crews diverted the creek around the working area for the day, as well as temporarily removing the track and an embankment portion, CN spokesperson Kate Fenske said.

Environmental monitors were on site during construction to provide technical direction, diverting flow and salvaging fish from the work area, Fenske added.

“The collected fish were then released downstream unharmed,” she said, adding that in the weeks after the culvert installation, crews also built an in-stream rock weir to stabilize the creek’s banks and remove debris upstream of the new culvert.

CN completes a fish passage restoration project in Western Canada each year to restore or improve fish access to habitat upstream of the CN track, Fenske said.

Initiated by NEWSS and with two years of planning, the culvert replacement project involved the company shutting down the rail line for 16 hours, said NEWSS director Wayne Salewski.

“It’s amazing they got it done in that short period of time, but it’s a beautiful fish passage/culvert now,” Salewski said.

He added, “As a large corporation with a lot of responsibility to their customers, they don’t do this lightly.”

The rail company will return next year to conduct fish monitoring, as well as plant trees and shrubs along the land by the creek, Salewski said.

“Their staff on this project has been amazing, very efficient,” he said. “It’s a good relationship with CN.”

The culvert installation was the society’s sixth Stoney Creek project in the last two years — NEWSS and its partners, including CN, have spent over $600,000 so far on the creek, Salewski added.

Another project for Stoney Creek will take place soon, as crews build winter habitat by Vanderhoof’s pedestrian bridge over the creek.

“We got to do some things before we freeze over,” Salewski said.