Upstream, downstream: Fish get a step up in Langford

 

Some Langford residents could have salmon spawning near their backyards once a habitat-enhancement project goes ahead in Millstream Creek. 

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The Millstream Creek Fishway Project aims to give fish a boost into an additional eight kilometres of creek habitat suitable for spawning.

For now, fish can’t get past an Atkins Road culvert that is close to 3.7 metres in diameter.

Volunteers have carried out considerable work over the past 20 years to help fish get through four smaller impediments along the creek, said Ian Bruce, project manager and executive co-ordinator of the Peninsula Streams Society.

“They’ve got them all the way up to the base of the culvert, it’s just that now, it’s the big one.”

The fishway is, in effect, a fish ladder that will get fish up and through the culvert.

“It’s a step-pool-type fish ladder up to the culvert,” Bruce said.

The fish will make their way through a series of pools and the culvert and into the next part of the creek.

A side benefit is that the work being done should extend the life of the culvert, which is showing signs of decay.

The creek had a return of more than 700 adult coho in 2016.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is contributing $245,000, while a matching total is being fundraised.

The project is being co-ordinated by the Peninsula Streams Society, and could potentially include municipal partners, the Ministry of Transportation, the Capital Regional District, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, the Goldstream Volunteer Salmon Enhancement Society and others.

The current phase of the project includes an engineering study, with work around the culvert likely to start next July.

Fish will be able to migrate both upstream and downstream, Bruce said.

“It’s not just to get some salmon up,” he said.

“The sea-run cutthroat will have an opportunity to move in and out, and coho will be able to move up.”

He said the hope is that the completed project will lead local citizens to get involved in preserving the stream habitat.

“It’s very much getting the fish there and raising awareness about fish habitat in urbanized areas.”

Bruce said existing trails in the area will provide good opportunities for the public to see what has been done, and also what has happened beyond the creek improvements.

“Minks and otters will be present,” he said. “Everything follows the fish.”

The project area will be showcased 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday with information sessions and tours, starting from the Mill Hill Regional Park parking lot at 490 Atkins Ave.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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