"Committed to the recovery 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"


Our Coho Are Coming Home

Some exciting news in Shelly Creek! Some of the adult Coho observed spawning in Shelly Creek right now were PIT tagged as smolts in our smolt trap while on their migration to the ocean. Now they're back!

You may have read in a previous article, that for the past three years, the BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) has been PIT tagging the Coho Salmon smolts we capture in our smolt trap in Shelly Creek as part of the Bottlenecks to Marine Survival Program. A “survival bottleneck” is an event that drastically reduces the size of a population. The program is investigating the cause of recent drastic declines in Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead populations in the Salish Sea using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags, antennae arrays, and scanning technology to track individual fish to determine their fate. PIT tagging and installation of antenna arrays on east Vancouver Island is happening in the major river systems, from the Quinsam to Goldstream River and includes the Englishman.



                                     PIT Tag                                                                              Implanting PIT Tag in a Shelly Creek fish


Each PIT tag contains a code with information about an individual fish, like where and when it was tagged, its length, and locations of other arrays that have detected the tag, like the Englishman River array near the estuary. The array picks up the code from a PIT tag (like the chip in your bank card) and stores it in a data logger. In 2021, MVIHES purchased 2 antenna arrays from BCCF for our own project: tracking the movements of PIT tagged Cutthroat Trout in Shelly Creek Park (at Hamilton Rd and Corfield St North).




On November 7, and with the help of BCCF, we installed one of our arrays in Shelly Creek to determine if any of the Coho observed spawning in the restored creek channel on Shelly Farm are tagged. Volunteer Rick Walz is seen in the right-hand photo holding the antenna array which is housed inside a PVC pipe to keep it dry.



The installation required digging out a small cross-section of creek bottom so the array can lay flat and be fully submerged. Sandbags filled by MVIHES volunteers Shelley Goertzen, Maggie Estok, and Dick Dobler were added on top of the array to keep it in place (see photos below).










                                                                               Making room for the array. Front to back: Dick Dobler, Rick Walz, Pete Law                   Sandbag delivery by Terry Baum


SCantennaarray4 SCantennaarray3










Sandbag Conga Line. Front to back: Bob Williams,                            Installed array secured by sandbags                                                            Thomas Negrin (BCCF),  Dick Dobler, Pete Law, Rick Walz                                

Thomas Negrin and Ally Badger of BCCF connected our array to a datalogger. You may remember Ally as the VIU student who tracked the movements of the Shelly Creek Park Cutthroat Trout using a handheld scanner and the antenna arrays for her undergrad thesis.

The antenna array and data collector are powered by four car batteries that are changed out by volunteers with a second set of charged batteries every week. Data is downloaded from the datalogger onto a laptop  and sent to BCCF by a volunteer. 


SCantennaarray6 SCantennaarray5







                     Series of 4 car batteries for powering antenna array and data logger                         Datalogger connected to laptop for downloading

Our first download on November14, showed that seven PIT tagged adults crossed the array on November 11 and 12. The fish had been PIT tagged in May 2022. I know, the math doesn't work. If Coho spawn when they are 3 year olds and these fish were tagged as one year old smolts in 2022, doesn't that make them 2 year olds? I have learned that their age is determined by 1 year spent in freshwater plus the number of summers spent in the ocean, not the number of years in the ocean. They grow up so fast, don't they?

An interesting tidbit discovered through the Marine Survival program is that some spawners stray from their home creeks. Data collected by BCCF shows that some of the Coho entering the Englishman River are strays from Little and Big Qualicum Rivers, Nanaimo River, and Cowichan River. The little rascals!

Due to the cost of the equipment and its importance to our work, it's being guarded by a gang of Hobbits in a secure location in the Shire, so those thieving Goblins can just forget about searching for it. See, there’s Bilbo Baggins in the photo below, standing  between Shelly Goertzen (left) and Maggie Estok (right). 


 I wonder what our next download will reveal. Stay tuned.




Up A Creek With Our Friends


Wow, two big projects were completed in August and September on Shelly Creek. And they were led not by MVIHES but by our friends. How awesome is that?

First, the Snaw-naw-as First Nation replaced two very old culverts, each measuring 2 ft in diameter, with a skookum 8 ft culvert in Shelly Creek on the Shelly Farm (see photos below). 












      Old culverts hanging over ridge                                                         Shazam, that's a huge culvert!

The old culverts were located on a ridge upstream of the restoration work we completed in 2021 and 2022, as seen in the aerial view below.



The old culverts were failing and causing erosion on the farm and sedimentation in the creek. Then there was the atmospheric river of November 2021.




The water rose so high that it jumped a low spot in the creek upstream of the culverts and broke through the ridge creating the erosion gully seen in the left-hand photo. About half the flow bypassed the creek and flooded the fields on Shelly Farm bringing with it soil and rock from the ridge. The rock reduced the area that could be used for pasture and growing hay. 


A result of the wide-spread flooding caused by the 2021 atmospheric river was the 2021 Canada-British Columbia Flood Recovery Program for Food Security which provided one-time funding for uninsurable infrastructure repair and cleanup costs for eligible farmers impacted by flooding. The repair of the erosion gully and installation of a new culvert met the eligibility criteria for Flood Recovery funds which were received by Murray Laplante on behalf of Shelly Farm. 

Since the culvert was being installed into a fish bearing creek, the project had to be designed by engineers and approved by Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Province of BC. Plus, the work had to be overseen by Qualified Professionals. This increased the cost of the project beyond the Flood Recovery eligible funds. The Snaw-naw-as stepped up to complete the project in partnership with Murray. 

DFO and the Province of BC required that the new culvert, along with its inlet and outlet channels, be capable of conveying the atmospheric rivers predicted to be coming our way with Climate Change in a controlled manner to prevent damage to the creek. The restoration work we completed downstream in 2021 included “boat ramps” which is a fancy term for low spots in the creek bank that are designed specifically for allowing flood waters to flow out of the creek during extreme rain events. This prevents blowing out the creek banks. The water flows back into the creek when the flooding recedes. This section of creek should be able to handle what the culvert sends it. 

Andrew McNaughton, consultant for the Snaw-naw-as, coordinated the work with Koers Engineering, DR Clough Consulting, and Parksville Heavy Equipment, and completed the permitting process with the government. Snaw-naw-as Councillor and head of the Fisheries Department Brent Edwards, and Snaw-naw-as Councillor and Fisheries Technician Chris Bob, met with Murray on several occasions to discuss the scope of the project and determine what costs would be covered by the Snaw-naw-as.

The photos below, most of which were taken by Andrew McNaughton, show the great work conducted by Parksville Heavy Equipment.


 Shellyfarmculvertinstallation2   Shellyfarmculvertinstallation1Shellyfarmculvertinstallation2







 Digging out old culverts and constructing outlet channel                           Adding boulders to outlet channel for new culvert





                            Backfilling culvert and compacting fill                                                       Construction of concrete plug for culvert 




                               Inlet channel for new culvert                                                                     Repaired erosion gully. Acts as emergency overflow


The next step is to restore fish habitat upstream of the culvert, especially the low spot, but that's for another day. Many thanks to the Snaw-naw-as and Andrew McNaughton who are our partners in fish habitat restoration, and Parkville Heavy Equipment for the excellent work they did. And of course, thanks to fish-friendly Murray Laplante who has been supportive of fish habitat improvements on Shelly Farm for several years and contributed Flood Recovery funds to this project.


The City of Parksville was removing an old culvert and replacing it with fish habitat. Blower Rd (off Stanford Ave in Parksville) ends about 30m before Shelly Creek, yet a culvert had been installed in the creek decades ago, the origin of which is unclear. The culvert was immediately upstream of some fish habitat restoration work we completed in 2015.

The culvert had not been installed properly and was impeding fish passage and creating sedimentation problems. In 2020, the City contracted Northwest Hydraulics Consultants Ltd (NHC) to assess the culvert and develop mitigation options. The photos below are from the NHC report and confirmed our concerns.



We were very pleased the City chose the option of removing the culvert. NHC was hired by the City to design and oversee the work. Our biologist, Dave Clough, and MVIHES volunteer, James Craig, worked with NHC on the design of the instream fish habitat and riparian planting program. Magnum Project Management conducted the earthworks seen in the photos below. Most of the photos were taken by Robert Downs from the City of Parksville.









 Removing old culvert                                                                                     Pool lined with rock. Blue pipe allows creek flow to bypass                                                                                                                                     construction zone


                                                          Pool with large woody debris. The fish are gonna love it!

The next step was the riparian planting which included the following species purchased by the City from Streamside Native Plants and delivered by Robert Downs:

          - Pacific willow: 15
          - Scouler’s willow: 15
          - Hooker’s willow: 15
          - Sitka willow: 15
          - Red osier dogwood: 50

          Upland plants (1 gal):
          - Douglas fir: 10
          - Western red cedar: 10
          - Dull Oregon grape: 5
          - Red osier dogwood: 10
          - Salmonberry: 15
          - Pacific ninebark: 15
          - Sword fern: 5

Planting was scheduled for October 18 but was postponed to October 20 because of the heavy rain on the 18th. MVIHES volunteer, Shelley Goertzen, went to the site in case people showed up and a good thing she did. Four very hardy volunteers who had not seen the email postponing the planting to October 20, along with Dave Clough who was not sent the email (oops), showed up. Luckily the rain subsided enough for them to drive the willow and dogwood stakes into the ground at the creek edge. Dave Clough distributed the potted plants around the site for the second planting session on October 20, when the rest of us showed up. 


                                                       Planting willow and red-osier dogwood stakes into the creek bank                            


 The Hardy Gang. Left to right, Chris Smith, Dave Clough, Barbara Wildman-Spencer, Tom Whitfield, Deidre Howie, Shelly Goertzen



 Planting the potted plants                                                                                               And some more


The ones who got the email. Left to right, Robert Downs, Kerry and Marilyn Foster, Jo McIlveen, Barb Riordan, Doug Herchmer, Maggie Estok, Shelley Goertzen, Cathy Kuntz, Martin Yeo, William Kuntz.


Thank you to all our volunteers. And many thanks to:

Nathan Valsangkar and Evan Arbuckle of Northwest Hydraulics Consultants Ltd.

Robert Downs, Engineering Technologist, City of Parksville

Shawn Bowen, Director of Engineering and Technology, City of Parksville

Joe Doxey, Manager of Infrastructure, City of Parksville

Dave Clough, DR Consulting

Annual General Meeting 2023

On September 16 we held our Annual General Meeting at St. Edmund’s Church at 407 Wembley Rd in Parksville from 10 am to noon.

During the business section of the meeting, we elected officers to the Board for the coming year and received the President’s Report summarizing our activities from September 2022 to the present.

Our guest speaker was Jamieson Atkinson of the BC Conservation Foundation and co-manager of the multi-year Bottlenecks to Marine Survival Program funded by the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund. The program is investigating the cause of recent drastic declines in Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead populations in the Salish Sea using PIT tags, antennae arrays, and scanning technology to track individual fish to determine their fate. Jamieson provided preliminary results in his presentation:

Examining Survival Bottlenecks for Juvenile Chinook and Coho Salmon and Steelhead in the Salish Sea.