"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"

General - News

Salmon and Bill 44

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It’s well-known there’s a housing shortage in BC and that it’s impacting people and our communities. Bill 44 was passed in November 2022 by the BC Legislature in response to this shortage. The Bill requires municipalities to amend their zoning bylaws by June 30, 2024 to allow small-scale multi-unit housing on single dwelling lots. What this means is that landowners can build triplexes and fourplexes on single-dwelling lots without having to apply for a zoning amendment or holding public hearings. You can see how this streamlined process could add much-needed housing in a relatively short time.



It also means that small-scale multi-unit housing could be built on the single-dwelling lots along the Englishman River and other sensitive ecological areas without a zoning amendment, and therefore, without the public hearings that zoning amendments require. That is, unless protective measures are already in place. Without public hearings, protection of Environmentally Sensitive Areas will depend on the Official Community Plan (OCP) and Bylaws. Parksville’s current OCP, written in 2013, contains Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs) that are assigned Development Permits Areas (DPAs), shown in the map below. These DPAs contain conditions for protecting the environment during development. The OCP has seventeen DPAs with those for ESA's accounting for eight. For a definition of a DPA, and a list of the City's DPAs with their development regulations and guidelines, click on this link.  

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Since  Bill 44 requires municipalities to update their OCPs with the amended zoning bylaws by December 2025, there will be an  opportunity to ensure DPAs provide adequate environmental protection measures in response to the new zoning bylaw.

MVIHES made a presentation at the March 4 City of Parksville Council Meeting encouraging the City to start updating the ESAs and DPAs now so they are ready for the OCP update. Councillor Amit Gaur, also concerned with the implications of Bill 44, made a motion at the same meeting for single-dwelling lots in riparian areas to be a minimum of 4 ha in size and that development within the lots be low impact to protect rivers and creeks. The motion has been deferred until 2025 when the City will be working on the OCP. Both our presentation and Councillor Guar’s motion were highlighted in this PQB news article.

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We would like to see  the Englishman River floodplain (in the left-hand diagram) included as an ESA in the OCP. It's true that the Englishman River floodplain is already on a map in the OCP identifying Hazard Land Areas, and this imposes certain restrictions on development. But the DPA’s for Hazard Lands are written for the protection of property and human safety, not environmental protection.



Bill44 4Floodplains are essential for preventing serious erosion and destruction of fish habitat during extreme flood events, which will be coming more often with climate change. They provide a place for some of the roaring flood waters from rivers and creeks to escape, literally taking the pressure off the channels where fish and other wildlife live. If a floodplain is filled with buildings and roads, there is not enough space for all the water that would have filled that area so that water stays in the rivers and creeks causing serious damage to fish habitat....and possibly flooding of neighbourhoods. 

Floodplains are also areas where floodwater is filtered and recharges groundwater. Some of that groundwater supplies flow to rivers and creeks in the summer, thereby maintaining streamflow during drought. If floodplains are filled with impervious surfaces like roofs, driveways, concrete patios and roads, this ecological function is disrupted.

We also encourage the City to include the recent Coastal Floodplain produced for the Regional District of Nanaimo for sea level rise and storm surge (seen below) as an ESA, even though there is already a DPA for Coastal Protection.  One of the environmental protection measures in the Coastal Protection DPA is the use of Green Shores methods for minimizing environmental impacts of shoreline development. With predicted sea level rise, the boundary in some sections of the current Coastal Protection DPA will need to be updated in OCP amendments as the shoreline moves inland. If the floodplain is an ESA for Coastal Protection, protective measures can follow the shoreline as it encroaches inland in a proactive manner and without having to draw a new boundary in an OCP update.

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So why is using Green Shore methods so important? We have learned what hard armouring and retaining walls do to the intertidal zones of marine shoreline environments. Not only do they cause scouring away of sand that supports eelgrass, forage fish and other marine organisms, when sea level rises, they prevent sea water from moving up the shoreline to create new intertidal zones. This is called Coastal Squeeze. If the Coastal Floodplain were made an ESA, a DPA could ensure Green Shores methods continue to be applied as the shoreline moves inland and as new intertidal zones are created by sea level rise.

Fortunately, updating an OCP requires public consultation. The City announces when public consultations are coming up and we'll let you know as well. We encourage everyone who is concerned about the environment to participate in the OCP public consultation process when it happens. Your input could make a big difference. The salmon will thank you.


The Shelly Creek Dozen

In our last article, we learned that 7 of the approximately 20 Coho Salmon observed spawning in Shelly Creek in November 2023 had been PIT tagged as smolts in our smolt trap in 2022, while on their migration to the ocean. Woohoo, they came home to spawn! The excitement continued throughout December.



Our last data download (left-hand photo) from the antenna array that detects the tags was on January 3rd. We sent the data to Thomas Negrin of BC Conservation Foundation (BCCF) so he could identify the fish from the tag data. And what interesting results.



A total of 12 individual tagged fish crossed the array in November and December.

10 were Coho spawners and 2 were Cutthroat Trout parrs (< 1 year old).

8 of the spawners had been tagged at our smolt trap in May 2022.

The ninth spawner was an adult that was tagged off Entrance Island (near Gabriola Island) in 2023 during the marine micro-trolling program. BCCF micro-trolls using miniature trolling gear (hooks, spoons, flashers) to capture juvenile fish for PIT tagging (right-hand photo). Except this wasn’t a juvenile. It was 21 inches long. And it had been clipped so it was a hatchery fish and therefore, not from the Englishman River. Thomas Negrin tagged that fish so we’re sure he’s thrilled to see it in Shelly Creek. You can watch a video on micro-trolling here.

The tenth spawner had been tagged in Centre Creek in 2022 at the BCCF/Snaw-naw-as smolt trap.

One Cutthroat Trout was tagged at our smolt trap in 2023 but the second was tagged in 2023 in Centre Creek. Centre Creek flows into the South Englishman River 250 m upsteam of where the South Englishman enters the Englishman River, as seen in the map below.  Those little guys sure can boogie. Mind you, the Flow is with them.


BCCF will be PIT tagging the fish we capture in our smolt trap again in 2024. And we'll be tracking them! May the Flow be with you.

Many thanks to the land owner and his tenant who allowed us to install the array, batteries and datalogger on their property, as well as giving us access for downloading data and switching out the batteries several times from November to January. 







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


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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. 


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                     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.