The B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF) recognized the work of the Trail Wildlife Association (TWA) at its 58th AGM and Convention by presenting them with a prestigious conservation award earlier this month in Kelowna.
TWA was awarded the Dr. Louis Lemieux Conservation Award for its ongoing work with restoring the Murphy Creek spawning channel.
“It’s pretty cool,” said TWA director Rob Frew. “We didn’t do the project to get the award . . . but it brings more funding so it’s good.”
The project team comprised of Frew, Michael Zimmer, fisheries biologist with the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), ONA technologist Natasha Audy, TWA’s Cara Adrain, and dedicated volunteers also received a $1,000 cheque which will go right back into the Murphy Creek Spawning and Rearing Channel Restoration project that requires continual monitoring and maintenance.
“Anything you construct needs a maintenance program, somebody to steward it, keep an eye on it and make sure its functional,” said Zimmer. “Like the thing went dry a few times, and that’s a problem especially when you have fish up there. They spawn and you have eggs incubating, and the thing goes dry, you have the potential to lose a year class there from the side channel. So the importance of regular flow and moderated flow is critical.”
After careful study and survey of Murphy Creek, work began last fall, as new valves and pipes were installed to the water intake structures to improve flow control in the side channel during runoff and the warmer months when dewatering threatens fry and stranding redds.
“There was very poor control,” said Frew, a retired environmental coordinator with Teck. “It was tough. There was virtually no adjustment on the original one, it was basically a flapper valve and the other one would plug a lot of the time.”
The two new intake pipes are also much larger with a 20-inch diameter as opposed to the older 10-inch pipes. The crew also dredged the settling pond removing silt, as well as upgrading the water routing system.
“Especially at freshet when you have a lot of material coming from the landscape, and that’s why we have that settling pond, to push the water in there and let some of that stuff settle out, and so what is going into the side channel is the highest quality water we can have,” said Zimmer. “If we have a chance to improve on things let’s do it.”
The team has already noted early success, with up to 13 rainbows returning to the creek in one day’s count, and have identified redds in the system, says Frew.
The project manager adds that the temperature is still a little cool, about four degrees, where rainbow trout’s optimal spawning temperature is five to 10 C.
The TWA is also taking advantage of the new project to help educate future biologists. Last fall, J.L. Crowe students assisted with maintenance activities on the channel as well as helped construct a new footbridge while learning about habitat restoration from the fisheries biologist.
“It’s been a good partnership for us,” said Frew.
Fifteen students attended a field walk-through day at the site to see what it was about, and a dozen returned to do the work. Crowe students and the project team will continue to monitor the spawning rainbows and the efficacy of the upgraded system.
New sluice gates on both of the water intake structures were also recently installed, as were a grate to block woody debris from entering the lower intake and a grill on the upper intake.
Installations planned for 2014 include a silt curtain in the settling pond, as well as initiatives to help improve spawning channel beds and cover.