"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"
"Committed to the restoration of wild Pacific salmon in mid Vancouver
Island watersheds through habitat restoration and community engagement"

Newsroom

Our Year in Review

Zoom2

Our AGM via ZOOM went pretty smoothly for being run by a bunch of tech-challenged Boomers. Included in the AGM was a summary of our activites for the past year (see below). Mike McCulloch, a Fish Biologist with BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development gave a presentation on an exciting study in 2021 on the Englishman River that involves us and a lot of fish. For the video of his presention click here and if you just want to view his power point slide show click here.

 

 

 Project Report

Past Year in Review:

September 2019 to September 2020

Believe it or not, this past year was one of the most active years in our twenty years as a Society.  Even though our volunteer efforts were curtailed by the COVID 19 pandemic, especially our outreach and fundraising activities, we should be proud of the number of projects we completed.  Here is a summary of our accomplishments.

Monitoring the Health of Englishman River Watershed

Estuary and Marine Foreshore

Forage Fish – monthly sampling for eggs and embryos continued with positive news of egg presence on the San Pariel beaches, but since MABRRI is supervising this program, their COVID plan has curtailed our involvement since March with MABRRI continuing to survey our sites.

Eelgrass

Eel Grass – Drone photo capture of foreshore at low tides in August - from Parksville Bay to Craig Bay in an attempt to establish extent of eel grass beds since the 2008 assessment of eelgrass by MVIHES volunteers.

 

 

Estuary Water Quality- Barb led a project to assess water quality in the western portion of the Englishman River estuary. Barb has written the results of the project into a report, and submitted it to all the funders.  Highlights of the findings include: 

  1. EstuarywaterqualityCopper and zinc concentrations exceeded the Water Quality Guidelines for the protection of aquatic life which may have caused negative effects. 
  2. Fecal coliform concentrations exceeded Health Canada guidelines for recreational use of water. Caffeine was detected in the water samples indicating some of the coliforms came from human septic. Fecal coliforms do not harm aquatic life, but human septic also contains household detergents, cleaning products and pharmaceuticals that can harm aquatic life. 
  3. The source of elevated copper, zinc and most of the fecal coliforms were two Parksville stormwater outfalls that discharge into the estuary. 
  4. City of Parksville has developed a water sampling program for all of the Parksville stormwater outfalls.

Low Flow Monitoring in the lower river (July to September 2020)

In an attempt to monitor the impact to flows in the lower river from the movement of the Englishman River Water Services (ERWS) water intake from Turner Rd. to Hwy 19, we had a team of volunteers monitor flows using a FLOWTRACKER .  We have used a Drone to capture river habitat conditions at these low flows.  Our data will be shared with ERWS and agencies.

Benthic Invertebrate Report completed

In the summer and fall of 2019, we teamed up with Island Waters Flyfishers and Mid Island Castaways, to capture the status of Benthic Invertebrates at 8 sites in the watershed.  During the spring months in 2020, while we were locked away due to COVID 19, we were able to generate a report that summarizes the findings.  In summary, the species of bugs indicate the water quality in the Englishman River is Good in the upper watershed but decreases to Acceptable below Top Bridge and is only Marginal at the Orange Bridge.  The diversity of bugs at each site indicate the habitat, which includes physical features, is Acceptable in the upper watershed and decreases to Marginal below Top Bridge and at the Orange Bridge.

C.W. Young Side Channel Wetland Monitoring

In 2018, two small colonies of yellow iris, an invasive species that fills in wetlands and displaces aquatic habitats, were discovered in the Beaver Pond, a wetland in the side channel. This was a real concern for us because Coho fry inhabit the side channel and their habitat was at risk of filling in with yellow iris, leaving no open water for the fish. Since the side channel is in the Englishman River Regional Park, the RDN contracted the Coastal Invasive Species Committee to remove the yellow iris in summer of 2019. MVIHES was asked to monitor the Beaver Pond for five years, starting in 2019, to document the success of the eradication of the yellow iris and identify other infestations of invasive species.  We have monitored the Beaver Pond for two years and have not seen any signs of yellow iris. However, we found an extensive invasion of reed canary grass which fills in wetlands and displaces aquatic habitat, like yellow iris. We will be working with the RDN to find a suitable method for controlling the invasive plant.

Community Watershed Monitoring 

We are entering our 10th year of partnering with the RDN on this project. This past year, the RDN’s Drinking Water and Watershed Protection Program had a “strategic plan” report generated (for the next 10 years), and they have identified rainwater management as a key direction they want to act on.   Once again COVID protocols have limited the number of volunteers who can participate.

Photopoint Monitoring

We have been conducting photopoint monitoring on the Englishman River since 2015. This involves taking photos along the river in precisely the same locations every few months so that changes in the riverbanks, gravel bars, log jams, etc. can be tracked. This is important for understanding the power of the river and the dynamics of the river channel. We have certainly seen some amazing examples of the power of the river to change its course. 

Projects to Monitor the Health of Shelly Creek

Shelly Creek Smolt Fence

Once again, we had a great turnout of volunteers to help us set up the smolt fence this past March.  Then the word came down that any field work needed to address COVID issues, so our activities at the trap were very limited, with a team of 2 dedicated volunteers working to produce an accurate count of smolts.  This spring (March 15 to early May), we counted 3156 Coho smolts, and 13 trout.  A below average year for Shelly Creek, but this represents our 10th year of data collection from this site.  This is an impressive dataset – a great example of local citizen science at work.

Shelly Creek Flow Monitoring

We continued our efforts to understand the “water balance” in Shelly Creek.  This past year we set up a flow monitoring program with local residents helping us collect the data.  Hopefully, this information will lead us to develop projects to sustain flows in summer and moderate high flows in the winter months.  We are looking at developing a wetland in the upper watershed.

Ecological Assessment Process of the Shelly Creekshed

EcologicalvalueThe Partnership for Water Sustainability and MVIHES collaborated to produce a report released in April 2020.  The review identified the extent to which the community recognizes the Shelly creekshed as a natural commons and evidence that residents, property owners, NGOs, businesses and local governments consider it worth investment of volunteer time, funding and pursuit of a long range strategy for enhancement.  As part of this study, we looked at how much money (including volunteer time) has been spent to restore the creek (2010-2020). The rough estimate of expenditures related to maintenance (or remediation) and management (or enhancement) of the Shelly creekshed during the past decade, including work currently in the City of Parksville Parks budget  is $300,000.

Restoration Projects Funded/Completed to Support Wild Fish Production in 2020.

Martindale Pond Restoration

CarlThis past year saw MVIHES take on one of our biggest fish habitat restoration projects in our 20 year history.  The project has been incubating for the past few years with some of our members, and we collected enough data to prove the project’s “time has come”.  We asked Dave Clough to review our data on the site, and he concluded that the lower Shelly Creek wetland complex, so important to over-wintering Coho and trout juveniles, was choked with sediments, and needed to be removed.  Our team, lead by Carl Rathburn and Barb Riordan, submitted a proposal to the Pacific Salmon Foundation to fund the excavation, and it was approved for full funding.  Working with local contractors (Koers Surveying and Parksville Heavy Equipment) who chipped in donated time and equipment, the project was completed over a six day period earlier this month.  Over 30 truck loads of sediment were removed and spread into the Shelly Farm fields.  Congratulations to Carl, Barb, and our local contractors in getting the job done.

City of Parksville’s Shelly Park Footbridge Installation

The City of Parksville have taken the lead over the past year to recognize the importance of informing and protecting the small population of resident Coastal Cutthroat Trout that reside in Shelly Creek Park.  In 2018, as part of the City’s Parks Strategic Plan, MVIHES promoted the idea of a new footbridge in the Park, to help restore a section of important riparian habitat which park users were trampling (unintentionally of course).  The City’s Parks Department developed a footbridge project and submitted it to Council earlier this year for funding.  Council recognized the importance of the project, and work began in early September to rehabilitate the walkway and bridge crossing adjacent to the creek, to ensure fish and fish habitat were protected from unintentional damage by park users in the future.  We congratulate the City for being proactive and getting this project done so the local community can see the wild trout that reside there (year-round) for years to come.

Outreach/Education Projects Funded in 2020

Sensitive Habitat Signs (with the yellow fish) – PSF have funded 4 new signs to be placed at major bridge crossings in the Englishman River and tributaries, including at the Orange Bridge and Highway 19.

yellowfish

Lawn Fish to Promote Water Conservation – The Pacific Conservation Assistance Fund have awarded funding to MVIHES to spearhead this project which uses “wooden fish” as a symbol of “good water conservation” practices being deployed by residential property owners.  We look forward to working with members of QBSS on this project.

 

 What Can we look forward to in 2021?

Hopefully, depending on how our community/country adapts to the pandemic, MVIHES members can look forward to another active year ahead.

For example, this spring (2021) the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) together with the British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF) will implement a tagging study using Passive Integrated Tags (PIT) in a number of Vancouver Island river systems (including the Englishman River) to provide information on survival “bottlenecks” for Coho, Chinook, and Steelhead in both freshwater and early marine environments.  This is a three-year project, beginning in 2021.  I’m sure MVIHES members will be helping in some field capacity to assist this important salmon and trout habitat study.

Volunteers on the Go - Part II

Welcome to the second in a series of "Volunteers on the Go". Our volunteers are proving very resilient by continuing to do MVIHES work while following the recommendations of BC's health officers in fighting COVID-19 (i.e. still no hugging and kissing allowed). Here are some more things we are doing.

 

 Stream Flow Monitoring

Shelleybored

A big thanks to Shelley Goertzen (right hand photo) who is our Secretary, keeping us all organized and taking the minutes of our Board Meetings, sending out the MailChimp messages, and the most exciting job of all (as seen by the expression on her face), entering all the data from the smolt trap and other fish surveys into a spreadsheet for Department of Fisheries and Oceans (I think she's asleep). The rest of the time she is out doing field work like Stream Flow Monitoring. 

 

 

secretary

 

MVIHES is conducting streamflow monitoring in the Englishman River this summer using a device called a Flowtracker, to help determine if there are sufficient flows for sustaining fish populations. As seen in the photo to the left, Shelley is operating the the Flowtracker controller and Dick Dobler (you may remember him in a previous article as "Catcher of the Fry") is using the "wading rod" which has the Flowtracker probe attached to the bottom. Chris Smith (you may know him as the Glaskrafter) is holding the clipboard, waiting for data. And taking the photo is Pete Law.

 

Flow monitoring sites include upstream and downstream of the new water intake for the Parksville water treatment plant, the old water intake, and downstream of the old water intake before the Englishman River Estuary. If you are interested in particpating in this or other projects, see below.

 UPCOMING PROJECTS

1. YELLOW FISH LAWN SIGNS. yellowfishA few years ago we had a Salmon Friendly Lawn program that promoted water conservation in the Oceanside area. Residents made a pledge to not water their lawns in the summer months and received a yellow fish lawn sign to signify their pledge and get their neighbours interested. We are reviving the program and are looking for some people who have skills and equipment for woodworking to produce the wooden fish. We will supply the wood and a fish template.  

 

 2.  GROUNDWATER WELL MONITORING. Several private wells in the Englishman River watershed contain data loggers that collect information on water levels every four hours all year round. This information is used to help the RDN understand the state of the aquifers in our region. MVIHES downloads the data off the loggers and sends it to the RDN and GWS which is a hydrological engineering company that has created a computer model of our aquifers. We are planning our next round of downloads for September and are looking for people to help

 If you are interested in particpating in any of these projects, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Wetland Survey in the C.W. Young Side Channel

The C.W. Young Side Channel is a channel constructed off the Englishman River within the Englishman River Regional Park (ERRP). The side channel is a Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) salmon enhancement operation, intended to provide over-wintering habitat for Coho Salmon fry reared in the Englishman River. Beaver dams within the channel have created the 2.8 ha marsh wetland called the Beaver Pond. A map showing an overview of the Beaver Pond in the ERRP is below. 

 

ERRPBeaverPond

YELLOWIRISIn 2018, two small colonies of yellow iris (shown in the photo to the left), an invasive species that fills in wetlands and displaces aquatic habitats, were discovered in the Beaver Pond. This was a real concern for us, as well as for the Regional District of Nanaimo Parks Department (RDN), because Coho fry inhabit the Beaver Pond. Their habitat was at risk of filling in with yellow iris, leaving no open water for the fish. Plus, the yellow iris would probably spread into other areas of the side channel where Coho fry inhabit.

The RDN contracted the Coastal Invasive Species Committee to remove the yellow iris in summer of 2019 with financial assistance from DFO. MVIHES was asked to monitor the Beaver Pond for five years, starting in 2019, to document the success of the eradication of the yellow iris and identify other infestations of invasive species. 

For those of you who have taken the Wetlandkeepers course, you  know that the typical method for assessing wetlands is to establish a number of transects that cross the wetland in several locations and collect information on vegetation while walking along the transects. Since we would be monitoring the wetland every year for five years, we chose a method that was first developed by the forest industry: Permanent Sample Plots, or PSP's. A PSP allows you to go to the same location year after year and monitor for changes without having to assess the entire area which would be very labour intensive. The information collected was based on the guidelines in the Wetlandkeepers Handbook. MVIHES selected seven locations for PSPs, two which included the yellow iris infestations. A map showing their locations is below.

 EERPBeaverPondPSPs

So what did we find? Well, we didn't find any yellow iris because the Coastal Invasive Species Committee had done an awesome job of removing it a few weeks before we surveyed those plots. Unfortunately, we found that six of the seven plots contained another invasive species: reed canary grass. And reed canary grass was the dominant species in five of those six plots!  You can read the technical report for last year's monitoring here.

reedcanarygrass1Reed canary grass is a perennial sod-forming grass species that prefers wetlands.  Sod-forming means it creates it's own soil and changes a marsh into a dry meadow. You can see tall stalks of the grass growing amongst cattails in the photo on the left. Although reed canary grass is native in North America, varieties of this grass have been introduced from Europe and Asia. These varieties are aggressive in the central and western regions of North America, invading and filling in wetlands. The most probable source of the aggressive variety in the wetland are seeds from pasture grasses and hay bales for cattle and horses on local farms. Seeds may have been carried into the wetland by wind or birds, or arrived in the hair of horses and dogs on the park trails. 

 

reedcanarygrass5The only plot that did not contain reed canary grass is shown on the right. Many Coho fry were observed in this plot which was all open water, meaning there was no vegetation growing out of the water like cattails or grass. Reed canary grass can be seen in the background. This plot was the deepest with a 1.2 m water depth which is probably too deep for the grass to establish. All other plots had depths between 0.0 m and 0.5 m.  

 

 

reedcanarygrass4

 

Open water occupied 10 percent to 40 percent of the area in other plots, but the only one where coho fry were observed is shown in the photo on the left. The rest of the areas within the plots contained mostly reed canary grass with some cattails, rushes, sedges, and shrubs like salmonberry, elderberry, hard hack, willows, black twinberry and Pacific nine-bark. 

 

 

 

Reedcanarygrass2

The reed canary grass is an even bigger threat to fish habitat in the wetland than the yellow iris because of the extent to which it has invaded. There is no easy way to remove or control it. The photo to the right shows how the grass has filled in the open water that existed between cattails in most of the plots. When the grass has filled in the spaces, shrubs and trees are able to encroach, turning the marsh into a wet meadow and eventually a woodland. 

 

We are in communication with the RDN to find an approach for managing the reed canary grass. In the meantime, we have almost completed this year's survey of the PSP's and will be interpreting the results in a report.