Little Qualicum Bridge: A River Runs Through It

Oceanside Route on Highway 19A near Qualicum

The Little Qualicum River has been hard at work recently, scouring away the river bank near the bridge of the same name. This means that we have also been hard at work to stop the erosion, because, if the river was allowed to continue on its course, it would eventually hit the Oceanside Route on Highway 19A near Qualicum. Just because a river runs through it, doesn’t mean the river should also rule the road; at least, not where the Little Qualicum River and Bridge are concerned.

Normally, we install rip rap to stop the erosion under bridges and along river banks. In this case, we constructed rock spurs to jut out into the river flow and divert the energy of the water away from its current course. Large, woody debris is being placed in between the spurs to create fish habitat; while a side channel is being developed to provide shelter for rearing juvenile salmon and resident trout. The spurs and banks of the river have also been heavily planted with native species and when the landscaped area is established, it will provide a fully integrated habitat for wildlife. And look good doing it too.

Of course, the river would rather be left alone to its own devices – but we can’t go with the flow on that one. By taking proactive steps to create a stabilized bank with sufficient habitat complexity, we hope to help that river run a safer, new course; and keep local traffic running smoothly too. Local stream keepers commend the work as a good compromise between letting the river run its own course and more traditional types of intervention. The integration of environmental features directly into our infrastructure protection works is a real benchmark in that regard. Balancing the environment and progress can be challenging but it is something we always try to put first.

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