Elphinstone: Streamkeepers test Chaster Creek

I recently visited the Chaster Creek “classroom” of beginner Streamkeepers taught by Angela Kroning and Dianne Sanford, who have taught successive groups of people (for 19 years!) interested in caring for the many streams and creeks on the Sunshine Coast. The tributaries of Area E’s most notable stream creek – Chaster Creek – have been largely altered, and in some cases diverted, leading to significant habitat loss for returning salmon. The culvert under the highway that Chaster Creek flows through west of Henry Road is impassible for salmon, so much spawning habitat has been lost. Although resources were put back into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the last few years, it still remains underfunded especially in monitoring capacity, which is where citizen science comes in. 

The recent group included four Elphinstonians who are keen on helping monitor Chaster Creek, the first time that a Streamkeepers course has focused here. Angela credits the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association for providing assistance this past year, with grants obtained by program manager Naomi Fleschhut, to offer the federally recognized Streamkeepers training courses. The day I met them at Brookbank Farm, just above the highway, the creek was not flowing very high, but only a week earlier, due to strong rains, they had been unable to get into the creek to conduct the measurements and stream assessments. 

Angela told me that there were huge numbers of salmon spawning in Chaster Creek historically, especially in the pre-WWI years and that, “In 1947, DFO began counting the returning salmon, and that year there were 400 chum, likely a decrease from the turn of the century, as surrounding lands had been logged, roads, mills and farms established and, in one case, water diverted to supply the cannery on Henry Road.”

By 1974, the number had dropped to 75 chum and this year to date they have only seen four. Angela attributes losses to ongoing development in the Chaster Creek watershed, including the tributaries, and says, “Now more than ever, it is important that folks are mindful of what they do around creeks. Pesticides, for example, can unintentionally kill the insects that young salmon (and cutthroat trout) depend on for food.” 

Natural and native plantings are best and anyone considering development activities in and around creeks should contact the SCRD to ensure that they’re in accordance with the Riparian Area Protection Regulations and the Fisheries Act. Interested in counting spawning salmon or helping evaluate Chaster Creek below the highway? Contact Angela at 604-886-8441. The newly formed Sunshine Coast Streamkeepers group (scstreamkeepers@gmailcom) is co-ordinating future training courses. 

This is my 50th Elphinstone Chronicles column! I started penning it in May 2018 and would like to thank everyone for their feedback and comments. In addition to community news, I’ve reported on Elphinstone’s history including Chaster House, how Mount Elphinstone got its name and the Pioneer Cemetery. I’ve spoken to old-timers like Budd Fisher and Murray King and the daughters of Frank and Maryanne West. Guest columnist Marilyn Giesbrecht wrote about local farms. Your feedback and community news is very important to me, so keep them coming at: elphin@coastreporter.net

A reminder that the ECA November Social will be at Chaster House on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 5 to 9 p.m. It’s always fun – bring a dish to share and your own cup, plate and cutlery. The ECA supplies tea, coffee and juice. Hope to see you there!

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