On a rainy Wednesday morning, a group of eight nature lovers gathered at Simms Creek just downstream of the culvert under Galerno Road.
All were geared up with waders, or thigh high gum boots, and the mood was quite high despite the soggy conditions.
Four members of Greenways Land Trust, and four Simms Streamkeepers were teaming up to improve salmon habitat on the waterway.
“This pool makes for good fry habitat but it lacks in-stream cover,” said Camille Andrews, habitat management coordinator for Greenways Land Trust.
“So we’re installing brush bundles, which are basically a cluster of conifer branches that will float along the surface and provide cover from predation for juvenile salmon.
The bundles are also expected to attract aquatic invertebrates, which will provide a food source for the growing fish.
The teams started by creating an anchor with a concrete block, and then tying steel line around it, before placing it in the middle of the stream. From there, they strung the line through a series of branches to create the cover.
They built three of the covers using the same method along the stream.
The idea for the project came about last year when Greenways Land Trust used funding from Campbell River Salmon Foundation to hire consultant Dave Clough to assess the habitat condition of the Simms Creek.
In addition to the salmon fry cover, he suggested easing some blockages further downstream.
The teams reduced several large wood debris jams that were blocking flows and fish passage, as well as posing a potential flood risk to neighbouring properties.
Andrews mentioned spotting a few smelt making their way upstream after they were able chainsaw a path through.
“It’s amazing how much it’s flowing now,” she said.
The extra wood was placed further up on the bank to provide homes for amphibians.
“We have also been removing large garbage items that have been historically dumped into the creek and creek banks, including a number of concrete and rebar fence anchors, several hardened bags of cement, a variety of landscaping and construction debris, a bike, a metal drum used for burning, and many bags worth of household garbage that was pulled into the riparian area by a hungry bear,” Andrews explained.
“As we work, we have also been removing invasive Himalayan balsam, otherwise known as policeman’s helmet, a very fast spreading invasive plant that grows on stream banks out-competing native vegetation such as sedges, rushes and skunk cabbage.”
The watershed restoration crew has been made possible by the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, a provincially-funded program to stimulate economic recovery through investments in community driven watershed conservation and restoration projects.
The funding has allowed Greenways Land Trust to hire a crew and employ several shorter-term contract positions, protecting and restoring watersheds throughout Campbell River with an emphasis on improving the health of creek and estuary habitats.
If members of the community are interested in volunteering with the watershed restoration crew or Simms Creek Stewards, or aiding Greenways Land Trust in their restoration efforts, they are invited to get in touch through www.greenwaystrust.ca or 250-287-3785