Heavy equipment working in such close proximity to the Campbell River – in the river itself, in fact – may have caught some people off guard, but it was there for a good reason: improving salmon habitat. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Better gravel beds for better salmon returns on the Campbell River

CRSF hopes new system of embedding spawning gravel will lead to less being washed away

People using the Canyonview Trail along the banks of the Campbell River these days will likely notice the big yellow industrial machinery working in the river itself near the old powerhouse.

Not to fear, however, as those machines are run on vegetable products that are safe for the water, and the work they are performing is for the good of the river itself. They are providing much needed help to spawning salmon.

The crews are replacing the gravel in the bed of the river that gets washed out by high water flows. There’s a man-made dam upstream, after all, that keeps new gravel from replacing what gets washed away, so it’s got to be done periodically by man instead of by nature.

Unlike most gravel replacement efforts in the past – and unlike the skyline upstream of this site that dumps buckets of the gravel into the river from above the canyon – this year’s operation is much more extensive.

“We’re kind of changing up the methodology this year,” says Peter Kirillo with Northwest Hydraulic Consultants.

Northwest Hydraulic has been performing the work for many years, but this is Kirillo’s first year overseeing the project.

“In past years we just kind of placed the spawning gravel on the riverbed, but this year, to protect against the possibility of another flood event, we’ve embedded two pads.”

Embedding the gravel sections involves creating a “containment cell” that keeps the sedimentation down while what are essentially large trenches or basins in the river are excavated – they’re about two metres deep – removing the compacted material from the base of the river and, within those basins, replacing it with fresh gravel that’s specifically-sized to be good for salmon spawning.

“The hope is that in high flows, if any gravel does move, those embedded cells will stay put, so we don’t lose the entire volume of gravel that we put in,” Kirillo says.

The operation is funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP), which assigned $188,000 of its $1.9 million in funding this year to the project.

RELATED: $188,000 funding provided for Campbell River spawning gravel replacement

“They’re digging down into the bed of the river itself and replacing the compacted gravel that hasn’t been washed away with a fresh bed of proper stuff,” says Campbell River Salmon Foundation (CRSF) president Martin Buchanan. “The stuff they’re taking out is packed down like cement in there and that’s part of why the good gravel just washes off the surface of it.”

The CRSF, Buchanan says, applies for the grant money from the FWCP, and also monitors the work and measures its success.

“The Campbell is a really short river and it has an incredible run of big chinook,” Buchanan says. “It’s because of the high flows that are in the system, but unfortunately, that’s also what makes it susceptible to the gravel they need to spawn being washed out.”

The other thing that’s new about the project this year is that there are sensors being installed in the gravel so the CRSF can record the gravel movement and be able to tell what effect flow levels have on the gravel, Buchanan says.

“We’re always trying to find better ways to get the gravel to stay where we put it, so the more data we have about when it moves and why it moves, the better we’ll be able to do that. We have to have gravel in here. When it gets washed out, it has to come back in, so we’re trying to find ways for us to have to do that less often, hopefully.”

The work should be completed this week, and by this time next year, the CRSF should know more about whether the new system is an improvement over the old one.

For more information on the project, contact the CRSF directly by email at info@crsalmonfoundation.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Two Campbell River First Nations advance to final stage of treaty negotiation

The Campbell River-based Wei Wai Kum and Kwiakah First Nations have signed… Continue reading

City of Campbell River to replace pumper truck at No. 2 Hall

Old truck to be moved into reserve roll for five years before decision is made on disposal options

Vehicles collide on Highway 19 in North Campbell River

Emergency crews tend to the occupant of a vehicle involved in a… Continue reading

Campbell River Art Gallery receives major funding from the Canada Council for the Arts

The Campbell River Art Gallery (CRAG) received a funding increase of $124,000… Continue reading

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

Canada ‘disappointed’ terror suspect’s British citizenship revoked

Jack Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the U.K. media, has been detained in a Kurdish prison for about two years

Chrystia Freeland condemns violence in Hong Kong, backs right to peaceful assembly

There have been months of protests in the semi-autonomous region

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

‘I’m just absolutely disgusted’: Husband furious after B.C. Mountie’s killer gets day parole

Kenneth Fenton was sentenced to prison after he fatally struck Const. Sarah Beckett’s cruiser

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Most Read