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VANCOUVER ISLAND (REGION 1):
FOCUS WATERSHEDS
Englishman River | Nanaimo River | Chemainus River
Focus watersheds northFocus watersheds south

ENGLISHMAN RIVER WATERSHED

Habitat Restoration
Habitat Protection
Adult Assessment
Juvenile Assessment
Watershed Map

Englishman River Watershed Details
Englishman River Watershed Map Code: 920462800
4th Order
Wild Stock Trend:Relatively Stable at a Low Level
Wild Stock Status:Extreme / Conservation Concern
Class:Wild (Proposed change from Augmented)
Recent Steelhead Escapements:100-200 Winter Run
Observed Mean Peak Fish/km 1998-2001: 5.6 Winter Run
Angling Regulations:Steelhead Seasonal Closure
Mean annual effort:Long term 1968-1996: 2,078 / Recent 1997-2001: Closed
Mean Annual catch:Long term 1968- 1996: 1,052 / Recent 1997-2001: Closed

Estimated Steelhead Habitat Smolt Capacity & Returning Adults (assuming 13% marine survival)

  • 4,600 smolts / 598 adults (based on SHA Model Ptolemy 2002, Ptolemy 1998)
  • Conservation Concern Level @ 30% of capacity: 180 adults
Existing Habitat:
watershed area (km2):
324
Comments
mean annual discharge (m3/s):
14
Extensive channel widening and chronic sedimentation related to past private land logging; reduced rearing habitat complexity aggravated by low summer flows; subject to winter rain-on-snow events that increase fish mortality; urbanization of lower/middle reaches (including tributaries) an increasing concern. Phosphorous limited. Baseflow alkalinity 31 mg/L and predicted capacity per steelhead size class is 202 g/Unit.
Summer Base Flow (%mad):
4.6
accessible length (km):
22.7
productivity:
Moderate

FISH HABITAT RESTORATION TO DATE

  • Two semi-natural side channels have been constructed by DFO. These are highly complexed with large woody debris but likely have low steelhead production. The Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd. Channel is on the south side of the river above the Allsbrook canyon and the TimberWest Forest Ltd. Channel is on the north side, downstream of the Morison Creek confluence.

SPECIAL HABITAT PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS

  • Reduce sedimentation from land development in Morison Creek watershed (a major tributary) and improve public awareness of habitat stewardship needs.
  • Ensure private land logging practices meet or exceed standards required by provincial regulations.
  • Arrest sediment loading from headwaters anderoding streambanks. Existing suitable parr habitat in boulder-cascades are highly embedded with sand and small gravel.
  • Restrict further water licenses unless supported by off-channel storage.
  • Develop operational "rule curve" for the new Arrowsmith Lake dam/reservoir that will provide flow augmentation between the dam and regional district's water intake in Parksville.

STEELHEAD OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES

  • Recover wild stocks to an estimated 400-500 adult returns capable of supporting a catch and release fishery for approximately 2,100 angler days per year over 15 km fishable water.
  • Make the Englishman a steelhead index stream as part of the PSEF watershed initiative.

IDENTIFIED RECOVERY OPTIONS

  • Install anchored LWD structures and build off-channel refuge alcoves on mainstem and add habitat complexing to Center Creek (a south fork tributary) - Gaboury 2002 recommended 73 sites at a total cost of approximately $193K.
  • Conduct a revetment program using re-vegetation techniques for eroding mainstem clay banks.
  • Extend the existing Timber West side-channel by 2.5 km at a cost of $200K - FOC-designed project delayed indefinitely due to development approval problems with the landowner.

NOTES: Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund watershed - recovery plan completed that covers all salmonids. Steelhead hatchery program discontinued after operation for about 15 years. Could evaluate organic nutrient enrichment potential, but the regional district's water intake is within Parksville city limits and below the areas where nutrients would need to be added.

Reports and Media:

Don Krogseth, Chairman of the Nature Trust of BC, and the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, inspect a large woody debris tructure, Englishman River 2003 © BCCF

Land Conservation on the Englishman River
PARKSVILLE - October 24, 2003

Following the announcement of the purchase and preservation of 432 acres of land (known as Block 602) from TimberWest on the north side of the Englishman River, Don Krogseth, Chairman of The Nature Trust of BC, and the Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection, inspect a Large Woody Debris (LWD) structure installed adjacent to Block 602 in August 2003. This LWD jam is one of 15 mainstem restoration sites constructed by the BC Conservation Foundation and funded by the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund through the Englishman River Watershed Recovery Plan, and by the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.

Please open PDF below for full announcement
Englishman River (186KB PDF, opens new browswer window)

Stream Flow, Water Quality and Low-Level Nutrient Monitoring in the Englishman River Watershed, 2002, Wright (2003) (2.9MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Vancouver Sun, March 8, 2003
B.C.'s threatened waterways by Stephen Hume

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Englishman River Watershed Habitat Restoration

Until recently there has been little habitat enhancement directed at steelhead in the Englishman River watershed. However, in 2000 the Englishman was selected by the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund as a "pilot" watershed for recovery of Georgia Basin coho and steelhead. Subsequently, LGL Ltd. (2001) prepared an Englishman River Watershed Recovery Plan, details of which can be found at the following website: http://www.psf.ca/04programs/04englishman.html.

For more information on proposed fish habitat restoration designs on the mainstem Englishman River download this report. Fish Habitat Restoration Designs for Englishman River (2003) (4.5MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

The plan identifies steelhead and coho stock status, habitat capability estimates, and short and long term recovery strategies for this important east coast Island watershed. Following detailed channel condition assessments (Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, 2001; Lough and Morley 2002), habitat restoration prescriptions are now being prepared for implementation in August 2003. In addition, an in-stream flow study is underway which should help identify the benefits of water storage release from the Regional District of Nanaimo's new reservoir at Arrowsmith Lake. The intent is to develop an operational "rule curve" which can be used to budget water released from the dam to meet critical fish life-history needs during the period of "least available" flow (i.e. summer-early fall). Hopefully, an agreement between the regional district and government fisheries agencies will be in place prior to the summer of 2003.

Since 1990, DFO has taken the lead in developing side-channels on the Englishman River primarily for coho, chum and pink salmon (two are now built, restoration site 2 and 3 on watershed overview map). The objective behind the introduction of pinks was for nutrient enrichment from spawned carcasses, and to provide fry in the early spring as prey for pre-smolt coho and sea run cutthroat trout (B. Hurst, former DFO Biologist, pers. comm.). Additional side-channel and alcove sites should be identified given the volatility of the mainstem during winter floods. A side-channel project which holds considerable promise for future development is located within Block 602 on the north bank of the river between Morison Creek and Allsbrook canyon (downstream of an existing side channel complex). Block 602 is currently owned by TimberWest Forest Ltd. but is subject to sale being negotiated by The Nature Trust, in partnership with various public and private interests. If the sale is completed, the parcel will be used as a major riparian habitat and permanent side-channel facility for both fish and wildlife conservation purposes.

Another enhancement strategy which could benefit wild steelhead would be organic enrichment of the mainstem and South Englishman rivers (restoration reach 4 on watershed map). Provincial fisheries researchers are currently investigating a new organic fertilizer product which uses heat-compacted waste from a fish processing plant in southeast Alaska. These compacted "logs" of pollack (a marine groundfish species), have a high phosphorus content (6-15-0.4) which is the limiting nutrient to productivity of most coastal streams in southwest BC. Given the logs are completely organic (i.e., made of fish), they should be more acceptable for use in watersheds where drinking water quality is an issue. That said, it would be essential to first satisfy regional health authorities and other interests that selective use of this product would not compromise water quality standards in the Englishman River.

Report:

Click to download PDF Vancouver Island Riparian Restoration Recommendations and Prescription - Quinsam, Chemainus, Englishman, Little Qualicum, and Oyster Rivers. Poulin (2005) (2.3MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download PDF Construction of Artificial Fish Habitat in the Englishman River, 2004. McCulloch (2005) (2.8MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download PDF Vancouver Island Riparian Restoration Recommendations and Prescription - Quinsam, Chemainus, Englishman, Little Qualicum, and Oyster Rivers. Poulin (2005) (2.3MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download Salmon Carcass Planting Procedures
Click to download Salmon Carcass Planting Procedures Download booklet
(365KB PDF)

Salmon Carcass Planting Procedures for Vancouver Island Public Stream Stewardship Groups (2005)

This booklet was designed to assist stream stewardship groups, small community hatcheries and non-government organizations on Vancouver Island with salmon carcass planting programs.
Section 1 outlines factors that must be considered in deciding if a carcass program is appropriate and feasible in the target watershed.
Section 2 lists contacts and outlines the steps involved in making a proposal.
Section 3 describes carcass planting techniques and methodology.

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Englishman River Watershed Habitat Protection

Like other central east coast streams, the Englishman has experienced a wide range of habitat impacts, particularly over the last 20-30 years. This has paralleled human population growth in the Parksville-Qualicum area, and follows intensive logging of the old-growth forest on private land. Most of the watershed is owned by TimberWest Forest Ltd., and Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd., who are now harvesting second-growth stands in the river valley. In some cases, logged parcels are being sold to developers for new residential subdivisions administered by the Regional District of Nanaimo.

On key tributaries like Morison Creek, a "patchwork" of small hobby farms and poor land use practices (e.g., tilling of peat bogs) have resulted in major sediment loading of fish habitats. This is literally one of those cases of "death by a thousand cuts", as fisheries agencies have extreme difficulty in dealing with a myriad of point sediment sources. Only through effective stream stewardship can an improved land use ethic be fostered between local neighbours. This obviously takes time, but should be strongly encouraged through government initiatives like Streamkeepers and the former Urban Salmon Habitat Program. Other land use issues like development of large gravel pits and regional district landfills have been associated with the Englishman River. Fisheries agencies and public "fish advocacy" groups must continue to deal with these proposals in a strong, coordinated way to ensure fish habitat protection remains a high priority.

Englishman River Watershed Adult Assessment

Chart: Englishman River WR Steelhead observed in mainstem snorkel surveys, 2002-2004

Chart: Winter Steelhead Populations - Fish per Kilometer, East Van. Is. Streams

Snorkel survey counts should only be treated as a relative index of stock abundance.

Chart: Englishman River - Steelhead Catch and Effort

Chart: Central East Coast Vancouver Island Peak Observed Winter Steelhead Snorkel Counts 1998-2004 (as of March 15, 2004)

Snorkel survey counts should only be treated as a relative index of stock abundance.

Chart: Englishman River Winter Run Steelhead Adult Assessment

Report:

Snorkel Observations of Winter Steelhead Trout Escapement to the Englishman River, Vancouver Island, 2002, Smith (2003) (3.4 MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download PDF Snorkel Observations of Winter Steelhead Trout Escapement to the Englishman River, Vancouver Island, 2004. Silvestri (2004) (1MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

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Englishman River Watershed Juvenile Assessment

Electroshocking on the Englishman River © Mike McCulloch BCCFElectroshocking on the Englishman River © Mike McCulloch BCCF

Chart: Mean depth/velocity adjusted steelhead fry abundance in the Englishman River, 1998-2004

Chart: Peak Adult Steelhead Counts Versus Adjusted Fry per Unit on the Englishman River 1990, 1998-2003

Chart: Englishman River Estimated Adult Escapement to 2004

Rotary screw trap for juvenle assessment on Englishman River © Mike McCulloch BCCF

PSEF Smolt Assessment Report:

Assessment of 2002 Steelhead Smolt Yield from the Englishman River, Vancouver Island, Craig & McCubbing (2002) (102KB PDF, opens in new browser window).

Assessment of 2003 Steelhead Smolt Yield from the Englisman River, Vancouver Island, Craig & McCubbing (2003) (729KB PDF, opens in new browser window)

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Englishman River Watershed Map

NANAIMO RIVER WATERSHED

Nanaimo River Watershed Details
Nanaimo River Watershed Map Code: 920384400
5th Order
Wild Stock Trend:Relatively Stable at a Low Level
Wild Stock Status:Extreme / Conservation Concern
Class:Augmented (VI Hatchery Program suspended in 1998 due to lack of wild brood stock)
Recent Steelhead Escapements:

100 - 200 Winter Run Observed Mean Peak Fish/km
1998-2001: Nanaimo River: 4.5 WR, Haslam Cr. 0.9/km
(Very difficult to enumerate - large watershed and poor river visibility conditions)

Angling Status: Steelhead Seasonal Closure
Mean annual effort: Long term 1968-1996: 4,142 / Recent 1997-2001: Closed
Mean Annual catch: Long term 1968- 1996: 1,364 / Recent 1997-2001: Closed

Estimated Steelhead Habitat Smolt Capacity & Returning Adults (assuming 13% marine survival):

  • approx 10,000 / 1300 adults (based on Tredger 1986 (low end - difficult to estimate because of lakes in system and currently degraded habitat)
  • Conservation Concern Level @ 30% of estimated capacity is 390 adults.
Existing Habitat:  
watershed area (km2):820.9 Comments
mean annual discharge (m3/s):39.7  Sediment problems, logging damage, low summer flows and seriously degraded habitats in Haslam Creek and other significant tributaries, major flow diversions to Harmac Pacific mill, municipal supply from existing reservoirs, low summer temperatures below uppermost reservoir - steelhead utilization expected to be low above lakes on mainstem. Alder in riparian zones precludes LWD. Baseflow alkalinity low at 15 mg/L and predicted capacity per steelhead size class is 140 g/Unit. Haslam Cr. 96.0 sq. km / MAD 4.38 cms
Summer Base Flow (%mad):12.2 
accessible length (km):93.7 
productivity:low 

HABITAT RESTORATION TO DATE

  • Fisheries and Oceans attempted to improve summer Chinook passage at "Bore Hole" cascade circa 1995 but results inconclusive.

SPECIAL HABITAT PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS

  • Provide adequate protection from expanding urban development.
  • Ensure sustainable logging practices are followed on private lands.
  • Encourage stewardship groups to assist in habitat protection.

STEELHEAD OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES

  • Return wild stocks to greater than 500 adult returns capable of supporting a catch and release fishery over 5-km fishable water based on 4,100 angler days a year.
  • Review Implementation of MELP's Nanaimo River Water Management Plan (1993) re conservation flow requirements.
  • Continue seasonal closure until stock recovers appreciably. Continue to encourage steelhead conservation with Nanaimo First Nation.
  • Examine feasibility of water flow and temperature improvement opportunities below reservoirs.
  • Consider an LGB program as originally planned if results elsewhere are clearly supportive.

Consider fish passage improvements at the "Bore Hole" and "White Rapids" in Nanaimo River canyon.

IDENTIFIED RECOVERY OPTIONS

  • Gravel placement in lake outlets, well-anchored LWD complexing and refuge alcoves. (Gaboury 2002 recommended spawning gravel in mainstem below First Lake and 111 LWD sites in Haslam and Deadwood Creek for a total cost of approx. $329,000.)
  • Good organic nutrient enrichment possibilities - needs full consultation with community.

NOTES: Community Development hatchery in watershed was established in early 1980s.

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Nanaimo River Watershed Habitat Restoration

An assessment of potential fish habitat restoration in five east Vancouver Island watersheds, including the Nanaimo, was completed in 2001 (Gaboury and McCulloch 2002). In-stream works prescribed in this report focus on restoring habitat thought to limit wild steelhead production and to mitigate for habitat lost during past forest harvesting. A total of 51 sites were identified in Haslam Creek, a tributary to the lower Nanaimo River, for rearing habitat improvements through installation of rock-ballasted large woody debris (restoration reach 1 on watershed map). Another 60 sites were identified in Deadwood Creek, locally known as the "North Fork" of the Nanaimo River. Completion of prescribed works is contingent on funding support for the Greater Georgia Basin Steelhead Recovery Plan, and the fostering of public/private partnerships in the watershed, including those with Snuneymuxw First Nation and farm owners in the Haslam Creek watershed.

There has been little steelhead habitat restoration to date in the Nanaimo River watershed. In the early 1980s, several experimental boulder placements occurred in lower Haslam Creek to improve steelhead rearing habitat. These largely failed due to bedload deposition in the treated area (G. Reid, Fisheries Section Head, MWLAP, pers. comm.). Griffith (1992) evaluated side-channel development potential in the lower Nanaimo River floodplain, downstream of the Island Highway. While some sites were "flagged" as possible candidates, no actions were taken because of anticipated high costs. It is recommended that these (and other) sites now be reassessed, in partnership with DFO's Habitat Restoration Unit. Similarly, ongoing investigations of fish passage problems in the river's lower canyon (i.e., "Bore Hole" and "White Rapids") need to be focussed and coordinated between MWLAP and DFO. A concensus on possible actions like blasting and fishway design must embrace the needs of all anadromous species relying on upstream spawning and rearing areas.

In WLAP's Nanaimo River Water Management Plan (1993), a series of recommendations were made to meet the conservation needs of wild salmon and trout populations. The plan recommended a preferred range of fisheries (mainly steelhead) maintenance flows from 3.9-7.9 cms (138-279 cfs or 10-20% of mean annual discharge), with a target flow of 5.9 cms (208 cfs or 15% mad) for the 35 km section between the Island Highway bridge and Fourth Lake, when adequate storage was available. If these flows are provided in most years, then steelhead summer rearing requirements will be largely met. A study is also underway (2002) to identify potential mitigation options for the cold, hypolimnetic water releases from the Fourth Lake reservoir (restoration site2 on watershed map) by Harmac Pulp Operations (a division of Pope and Talbot Ltd.). This water is required for mill operations near the estuary, but has the unintended effect of "chilling" flows downstream for several kilometers (<10C) below Fourth Lake, impacting summer growth and subsequent survival of juvenile fish.

Another potential restoration tool is the use of artificial stream enrichment to increase rearing habitat productivity. This would be totally dependent on the province developing and receiving approval to use an organic fertilizer product, like the compacted pollack referred to previously. The prime area for fertilizer treatment to benefit steelhead would be from the outlet of First Nanaimo Lake, downstream to White Rapids in the lower canyon, including lower reaches of the north and south forks of the Nanaimo River. MWLAP, in conjunction with Trout Unlimited Canada, have compiled background water chemistry and streamflow data for this section, so that fertilizer loading rates can be calculated for the late May to August period. Discussions with regional health officials, other agencies and licenced water users will be needed prior to implementation of an enrichment project in future years.

Report:

Fish Habitat Restoration Designs for Five East Vancouver Island Watersheds, Gaboury & McCulloch (2002) (10.8MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download report East Coast Vancouver Island Salmon Carcass Program Implementation, Wright (2004) (1.5MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

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Nanaimo River Watershed Habitat Protection

A review of the effectiveness of MWLAP's Nanaimo River Water Management Plan should be undertaken by participants from the original plan's drafting committee. This is essential if the plan's recommendations are to be consistently met, and also to avoid institutional or administrative problems that might compromise the best use of available water each year.

Since much of the Nanaimo River watershed lies within Private Managed Forest Land owned by TimberWest Forest Ltd. and Weyerhaeuser Canada Ltd., periodic audits of logging practices should be done jointly by MWLAP and Ministry of Forests, in cooperation with the two companies. There has been a long history of road and hillslope instability in logged areas of the upper Nanaimo, and these sites are known to cause sediment transport into lakes and streams inhabited by salmon and trout. Over the last several years much progress has been made in effectively treating hillslope erosion problems related to past road and logging developments (Dr. Bob Willington, TimberWest, pers. comm.).

For the river's lower reach and tributaries below the Island Highway bridge, encroachments from urban and industrial activities continue to challenge fish habitat protection needs. Strong stewardship groups, working closely with government fisheries agencies, are the best hope for preserving critical habitat for wild fish. Such a process is currently underway in the Nanaimo River estuary, through the federal government's Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. DFO is taking the lead in the investigation of environmental impacts from forest industry applications to renew log storage leases on estuary land.

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Nanaimo River Watershed Adult Assessment

Chart: Nanaimo River - Steelhead Catch and Effort

Chart: Haslam Creek - Steelhead Catch and Effort

Chart: Central East Coast Vancouver Island peak Adult Winter Run, steelhead Snorkel Counts, 1998-2002

 

Chart: Nanaimo River Winter Run Steelhead Adult Assessment

Chart: Haslam River Winter Run Steelhead Adult Assessment

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Nanaimo River Watershed Juvenile Assessment

Electrofishing on Nanaimo River © Mike McCulloch BCCFElectrofishing on Haslam Creek, tributary of the Nanaimo River © Mike McCulloch

Electofishing at the orange gate on the Nanaimo River © Mike McCulloch BCCFElectrofishing on the Nanaimo River © Mike McCulloch BCCF

Chart: Depth/velocity adjusted steelhead fry abundance in 7 electrofishing sites on the Nanaimo River

Chart: Depth/velocity adjusted steelhead fry abundance in 4 electrofishing sites on Nanaimo River Tributaries

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Nanaimo River Watershed Map

Map: Nanaimo River Watershed

Map: Fish Distribution in the Nanaimo River

Download PDF Fish Distribution in the Nanimo River (310KB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Map: Proposed Habitat Restoration Sites, Haslam Creek

Download PDF Proposed Habitat Restoration Sites, Haslam Creek (263KB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Map: Proposed Habitat Restoration Sites, Deadwood Creek and Nanaimo River

Download PDF Proposed Habitat Restoration Sites, Deadwood Creek and Nanaimo River (304KB PDF, opens in new browser window)

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CHEMAINUS RIVER WATERSHED

Chemainus River Watershed Details
Chemainus River Watershed Map Code: 920303500
4th-5th Order
Wild Stock Trend:Relatively Stable at a Low Level
Wild Stock Status:Extreme / Conservation Concern for both summer and winter runs
Class:Wild
Recent Steelhead Escapements:50-100 Winter Run, <50 Summer Run
Observed Mean Peak Fish/km 1998-2001: 11.8 WR, n/a SR
Angling Regulations:Steelhead Seasonal Closure
Mean annual effort:Long term 1968-1996: 493 / Recent 1997-2001: Closed
Mean Annual catch:Long term 1968- 1996: 148 / Recent 1997-2001: Closed

Estimated Steelhead Habitat Smolt Capacity & Returning Adults (assuming 13% marine survival)

  • 4,200 smolts / 546 adults (based on Tredger 1986/Ptolemy 2002 (low end))
  • Conservation Concern Level @ 30% of capacity is 164 adults.
Existing Habitat:
 
watershed area (km2):
359
  Comments
mean annual discharge (m3/s):
19.2
 Extensive bedload movement in mainstem. Sediment problems, historic logging damage and potential for more impacts, low summer flows with urbanization and agricultural impacts on the lower river. Base flow alkalinity low at 5 mg/L and predicted capacity per steelhead size class is 80 g/Unit.
Summer Base Flow (%mad):
3.5
 
accessible length (km):
63.6
 
productivity:
low
 

HABITAT RESTORATION TO DATE

  • Westholme side channel for salmon in lower river downstream of Highway 1 bridge.

HABITAT PROTECTION REQUIREMENTS

  • Provide adequate protection from urban development and agricultural activities.
  • Ensure good logging practices are followed on private lands.
  • Work closely with provincial mine inspectors regarding new mining development applications.

STEELHEAD OBJECTIVES AND STRATEGIES

  • Recover wild stocks to well within the Routine Management Zone capable of supporting a catch and release fishery over 5 km fishable water based on 500 angler days per year.
  • Upgrade basic stock composition and habitat capability information.
  • Engage private forest companies in significantly improved logging practices that are comparable to FPC standards and in a habitat restoration program over the next five years.
  • Consider as a candidate for a future LGB program if stock does not recover and results from elsewhere are positive.

RECOVERY OPTIONS

  • Install well-anchored LWD complexing and refuge alcoves - Gaboury 2002 recommended 52 LWD sites - total cost $131,142
  • Conduct annual stream nutrient enrichment (-severely phosphorous limited).

NOTES: The forest holdings in this watershed are all private land. Migration bottleneck exists in Copper Canyon - extensive habitat above but recruitment very weak. Juvenile sampling completed in 1998. Continue seasonal total closure until stock recovers.

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Chemainus River Watershed Habitat Restoration

There have been no steelhead habitat enhancement projects undertaken in the Chemainus River. This is regrettable given the river's depleted wild population, and the amount of habitat potentially available to the species. In part, this relates to the private ownership of much of the watershed, but there is really no justification for the long delay in responding to this serious conservation problem.

An assessment of potential fish habitat restoration projects in five east Vancouver Island watersheds, including the Chemainus, was completed in 2001 (Gaboury and McCulloch 2002). In-stream works prescribed in the report focus on developing habitats thought to limit steelhead production and to mitigate for habitat lost during past forest harvesting. At total of 52 sites were identified for rearing habitat complexing, mainly using rock-ballasted large woody debris (restoration reach 1 on watershed map). Completion of prescribed works is contingent on funding support for the Steelhead Recovery Plan and the development of public/private partnerships in the watershed.

While a comprehensive biophysical inventory would be the best way of identifying additional habitat restoration options, this would be quite costly unless spread over several years. Consequently, MWLAP regional staff and provincial Fisheries Research scientists should immediately begin to assess the feasibility of stream fertilization for specific mainstem reaches, as well as key tributaries known to support steelhead. This will involve water chemistry sampling (unless already available), streamflow analysis and a review of any juvenile steelhead life history and growth data (e.g., average smolt age; size at age). Some of this information was collected during the summer of 1998. Preliminary discussions with other agencies, landowners (forest companies) and First Nations should also be started to determine the level of support (or opposition) for the technique. Given the size of the watershed, helicopter application of a new inorganic, slow-release fertilizer would likely be most cost-effective, however, the option of using an organic product should also be explored.

Other steelhead restoration projects could include construction of side-channels and alcoves to provide more stable over-wintering habitat. DFO's Westholme Channel, downstream of the Island Highway bridge, is currently the only groundwater-fed channel on the Chemainus, and it can be affected by seasonally low river flows and well water extraction for irrigation (M. Sheng, Habitat and Enhancement Biologist, DFO, pers. comm.). It is therefore crucial that adequate bioengineering precede development of these types of facilities. Private forest land affecting access for fisheries restoration could limit the scope of these projects in future.

Another enhancement proposal for the Chemainus River involves blasting or bypassing the Copper Canyon falls. This has generally been premised on enhancing salmon species, without regard to the evolutionary significance of summer steelhead above the falls. In the past, MWLAP staff have objected to these proposals, and proponents appear to have accepted hatchery salmon fry out-planting above the falls as an alternative.

Reports:

Click to download PDF Fish Habitat Restoration Designs for Five East Vancouver Island Watersheds, Gaboury & McCulloch (2002) (10.8MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download PDF Construction of Artificial Fish Habitat in the Chemainus River, 2004. Craig (2004) (3.7MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Click to download PDF Vancouver Island Riparian Restoration Recommendations and Prescription - Quinsam, Chemainus, Englishman, Little Qualicum, and Oyster Rivers. Poulin (2005) (2.3MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

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Chemainus River Watershed Habitat Protection

The most significant habitat protection issue for the Chemainus River remains private land logging by Weyerhaeuser Canada. Over the last several decades, much of the watershed's old-growth forest has been logged, and second-growth stands are now being harvested. Since FPC regulations do not apply to private land, the company is directly responsible for fish habitat protection. While the public expects forest companies to safeguard other resource values, there may be less incentive in highly competitive international markets, especially when BC is a high-cost producer of wood products. Consequently, MWLAP and Ministry of Forests should schedule audits of the company's performance, particularly with respect to environmental impacts.

A second habitat protection concern is related to urban and agricultural effects on the lower river, downstream of the Island Highway. In the past, this reach has been seriously impacted by bedload deposition, flood control and minimal summer flows. Moreover, it is unlikely that any of these persistent problems will be solved in the near future. Consequently, the value of this area to wild steelhead production remains in doubt.

A third habitat protection concern for the Chemainus relates to past and ongoing mining activity. There has been a long history of copper and zinc mining in the watershed dating back to the turn of the century. Three abandoned mines on Mount Sicker have been linked to acid rock drainage problems, and a new placer operation (near Copper Canyon) is now proceeding through the government's inter-agency review (G. Carriere, Regional Inspector of Mines, Ministry of Employment and Investment, pers. comm.). There is also some current exploration on the old Laramide property in the headwaters of Solly Creek, a Chemainus River tributary. MWLAP's pollution prevention staff have monitored water quality downstream of the Mount Sicker mine properties, and presently consider the threat of acid rock drainage to Chemainus River fish stocks as low (J. Deniseger, Impact Assessment Biologist, MWLAP, pers. comm.; Martell 1995). That said, MWLAP staff (fisheries, pollution prevention) must work closely with provincial mines inspectors to ensure that environmental standards are met in all mining exploration and developments in the Chemainus watershed.

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Chemainus River Watershed Adult Assessment

Chart: Chemainus River - Steelhead Catch and Effort

Chart: Chemainus River Winter Run Steelhead Adult Assessment

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Chemainus River Watershed Map

Map: Chemainus River Watershed

Map: Fish Distribution in the Chemainus River

Download PDF Fish Distribution in the Chemainus River (149KB PDF, opens in new browser window)

Map: Proposed Habitat Restoration Sites, Chemainus River

Download PDF Proposed Habitat Restoration Sites, Chemainus River (1.7MB PDF, opens in new browser window)

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© BC Conservation Foundation 2003-2006
3-1200 Princess Royal Avenue • Nanaimo • BC V9S 3Z7
Tel. 250.716.8776 • Fax 250.716.2167

www.steelheadrecoveryplan.ca info@steelheadrecoveryplan.ca