Little Hands a Big Help in Habitat Restoration at Oliver Creek

Lake Cowichan Gazette
Photo courtesy of the Cowichan Gazette.

Students of Palsson Elementary School in Lake Cowichan, BC, got together to plant native trees at Oliver Creek as part of a two-phase restoration project led by our Environmental Management group. The first phase included restoring fish passage through a culvert crossing on Youbou Road. The second phase, scheduled to happen later this year, will include correcting another culvert at Grosskleg Way in Lake Cowichan, and restoring a side channel downstream. We didn’t do it alone however, some of our partners (in addition to our little friends from Palsson Elementary) included: the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society, local landowner Greg Lundh, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, to name a few.

Our challenge at Oliver Creek was to restore fish passage at the culvert crossing at our Youbou Road. The conditions at this culvert (it was too long, too shallow, too steep, and had no bed material on the bottom – to name a few) had been preventing upstream fish passage of species, such as coho salmon, for over 50 years.

We tackled the challenge in a number of ways:

  1. Construction of three rock weirs/riffles downstream of the culvert to eliminate the outlet drop and instead back flood the culvert so that fish could once again swim through the culvert.
  2. Installation of twelve culvert baffles, which slow the water down, increase water depth for passage, and help to retain gravel materials.
  3. Construction of three spawning platforms at the upstream side of the constructed weir.
  4. Installation of large woody debris for habitat diversity along the pools at the culvert outlet and downstream of the three weirs.
  5. Streamside planting.
Culvert Drop
This 0.7m outlet drop at Youbou Road was a bit of a jump up for fish to get through the culvert.
Backflooded culvert
Back flooded culvert and culvert baffles after construction
Creek bed
Upstream view of constructed rock weirs toward culvert outlet

The students and community who helped out learned that trees play an important role in restoring and protecting fish habitat by providing shade and protection for fish that are travelling through the creek. Palsson Elementary students will continue to participate in the project with things like Earth Day events, where they did up-planting of many plants for use at the Grosskleg location later this year. In addition, students are educated on things like storm water pollution prevention and oil spill response awareness, provided by the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society.

Cowichan Lake environmental teacher shares information to local kids about fish habitats
Bob Crandall of Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society explains the importance of trees for fish habitat to the students of Palsson Elementary.

Together with our project partners and the community (little and big!), we will continue to protect and improve Oliver Creek, as well as other locations in BC where streams meet our highways, for future generations to enjoy, be it for fishing, hiking through the forests of the area, or simply taking a Sunday drive along Youbou Road.

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  1. I am so happy to see the young children get involved with nature and preserving the habitat for all of us now and in the future. Iam very appreciative of the work being done and the Ministry making events and the progress for us to see and reply on. Thankyou very much for my children and all children and adults alike who appreciate natue.