Temporary sandbagging for kokanee access at the mouth of Mill Creek in Harrop also improves human play habitat. Photo submitted

Temporary sandbagging for kokanee access at the mouth of Mill Creek in Harrop also improves human play habitat. Photo submitted

COLUMN: Making the effort

Columnist Eileen Delehanty Pearkes describes a community effort to restore and protect habitat

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes

A small group of intrepid volunteers toting shovels, hand-saws and clippers approached Mill (Harrop) Creek on a sunny August day. With B.C. ministry permits in hand that authorized this maintenance project, they were intent on improving a West Arm creek’s access and habitat for spawning kokanee. I tagged along, learning more about the great potential that exists to provide more space for our region’s iconic fresh-water salmon.

I’ve written here before about the shore-spawning kokanee, and I have no doubt from reader response that people care a lot. As a result of public concern about those shore-spawners, FortisBC has provided additional funding to study the impact of reservoir levels on the nests where these fish lay their eggs. The West Arm’s creek spawners are another type of fish, and the kokanee in Kootenay Lake, yet another. The Kootenay Lake fishery collapsed completely around 2014-15, for reasons that are still unclear. While the West Arm and Lake stocks are not scientifically connected, the collapse of the lake fishery has for many been a general call from the wild to do more.

The August 2019 project on Mill Creek was a short-term fix for a major project being discussed by fisheries officials for the near future. Volunteers removed overgrown willow and debris that were choking out the free flow of water at the mouth. They filled and placed dozens of sandbags, arranging them in a few key places to increase water flow and create settling areas where fish could spawn. In one morning, half a dozen men made the creek more hospitable to the fish.

The heavily managed channel at Kokanee Creek Park is an effort to assist spawning numbers in general. It’s working, but has limits. We need to continue to pay more attention to other creeks. Every year, a modest number of spawners arrive against odds to spawn at Duhamel, Lasca, Sitkum and other creeks, including Mill. These fish have to work harder than the fish in the intensively managed channel. They may be tougher and more resilient as a result.

Back in the early 2000s, I was involved with several other Nelson residents in an effort to restore the mouth of Cottonwood Creek to wild spawning kokanee. Historically, Nelson’s major creek had a prosperous run. Several factors ended that. Overfishing by early settlers; concrete channelizing by CPR after the 1948 flood; the operations of Libby Dam (1973); and the dumping of city storm water/winter road sands into the creek gradually destroyed kokanee habitat.

The Cottonwood restoration idea was widely and enthusiastically supported at the time, thanks to the involvement of Selkirk College and a key grant to the city from the BC Gas Tax Fund. Filters to settle out road sands before they entered the creek were installed. Meetings began with CP Rail and other interested parties. And then, with changes in city priorities, the project died out.

Having watched the dedicated Harrop volunteers work on Mill Creek, I have no doubt that paying attention to Cottonwood Creek can enrich the city’s cultural life. In September, when the spawners returned to Mill Creek, I walked almost daily along the water, watching. Males vied for the chosen females, pushing and even biting each other. If a female registered my shadow, she darted away from her gravel nest to seek cover. Ravens, osprey and seagulls combed the sky, positioning themselves for the feast once the fish had spawned and died. Bears appeared to feast.

It feels right to know that my own home can also be a habitat to wild creatures. This beautiful place where we live is not just for human beings. Making the effort to restore and protect habitat for others is always worthwhile.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nelson has begun 2021 with a small rise in COVID-19 cases. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Ten new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson area

The cases were reported for the week of Jan. 3 to 9

Zoey Uniat is now three months old. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar baby with rare disorder progressing towards coming home

Fundraiser for Zoey Uniat has raised more than $50,000

Pioneer Arena is closing for the season. Photo: John Boivin
Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena and Nelson Civic Centre closing for season

RDCK is closing the ice at two of its arenas due to financial concerns related to COVID-19

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

sdf
2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

(Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

Most Read