Greenways Land Trust director Chuck DeSorcy

Greenways rescues salmon habitat

A man-made stream system created 16 years ago to help salmon was undone by the vagaries of nature

A man-made stream system created 16 years ago to help salmon was undone by the vagaries of nature. Last week, the men returned.

Using excavators, chainsaws and good old elbow grease, a group of volunteers and contractors worked last Tuesday to re-establish the west branch of Kingfisher Creek above its confluence of the Campbell River.

The project was organized by Greenways Land Trust, which received more than $30,000 in grant funding from the Campbell River Salmon Foundation and Fisheries and Oceans’ Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program.

“As an organization, we knew there were some issues with the creek, based on what the Streamkeepers were telling us,” said Cynthia Bendickson of Greenways. “Both of our funding partners thought it was a great project and got on board.”

Kingfisher Creek, which trickles into the Campbell River near the Haig Brown Heritage House just west of the Highway 19 bridge, historically boasted populations of coho, pink and chum salmon.

But by the 1960s, the natural stream had been culverted over its last kilometre.

Roderick Haig-Brown dreamed of restoring what was then known as Kingfisher Brook, but died before the dream was realized.

The Haig-Brown Kingfisher Creek Society was formed and, in 1999, restored the east and west branches of the creek with support from the City of Campbell River and Sequoia Springs West Development.

The two man-made channels proved to be a temporary solution.

“It stopped working,” Greenways Land Trust director Chuck DeSorcy said while helping dig out a new streambed in the west channel Tuesday. “Beavers dammed the east branch and it overflowed toward the west branch, creating a wetlands in the middle that wasn’t there before. The natural streambed upstream is still flowing, but when the water gets down here it just kind of bleeds off into the wetland.”

As a result, water flow in the dry summer months stopped reaching the Campbell River and left small fish stranded in diminishing pools.

Work last week involved carving a new streambed in the west channel, complete with pools, twists and large rocks tucked away in strategic spots along the bank. The channel was to be connected to the existing stream above the wetlands to provide for a steady flow of water.

“In the summer, when there is no rain and low (water) flows, the water doesn’t even reach the lower channel,” said DeSorcy. “If we can keep some water in here, we get a chance to keep any fish that are in there alive.”

DeSorcy said Kingfisher Creek serves as spawning habitat for both coho and pink salmon, and as a refuge for small coho, pink and chum fry to escape the churning waters of the Campbell River when its flow is heavy.

“When it’s finished, this gives us more than a kilometre of fish habitat,” he said.

DeSorcy and volunteer Mark Savage were joined in the thick brush along the stream Aug. 25 by equipment operator Loic Hersco of TLC Stonework. The excavators were contracted, but Hersco joked he is providing a “good karma discount” to Greenways.

For Savage, the project was a labour of love for a longtime resident who has grown up with the changes wrought upon Kingfisher Creek.