GBEARS has planned and conducted two habitat restoration projects in the Nanaimo area: the revitalization of fish habitat in the lower Chase River, and the promotion of wildlife-friendly private property through addition of native plant species appropriate for the site conditions and removal or control of invasive species.
In 1995 Chase River was identified as one of the 50 ‘priority’ streams within the Georgia Basin in need of restoration and maintenance to restore salmonid production. Coho and chum are the primary salmon species in this system. The river is stocked annually with Coho smolts from the Chase River Hatchery, but adult salmon returns have been highly variable.
Many landowners along the Chase River are unaware of the impact of urban development on urban streams and the importance of these streams as fish-rearing habitat, as well as the positive impact streamside (riparian) plants have on these streams by providing shade to reduce water temperature, insects for fish food, leaf litter (food for aquatic insects) and woody organic debris (pool structure and cover for fish). Therefore, in 1999 GBEARS began promoting the importance of streamside vegetation in the Nanaimo area. In 1999-2000 a landowner contact project began as well as vegetation restoration/enhancement in a 2km area along the Chase River (from Howard Ave. to Eighth St.). Over 1200 native plants were added!
In the next phase of the project, an additional 1200 plants were added between Eighth St and the estuary. Landowner involvement was excellent throughout the project, and stewardship plaques were presented to all the landowners who participated in the program. Several sites along the Chase River are monitored on an annual basis to track plant survival and increase of wildlife habitat.
Stirling Ave. Side Channel - Ditch to Brook
As part of the Chase River project, rearing and overwintering juvenile Coho habitat was restored in the Stirling Ave. side channel in 1999, at the suggestion and with the support of City of Nanaimo environmental planning staff. This stream is an unnamed tributary of the Chase River with headwaters above the Tenth St. detention pond in Harewood Plains. The side channel was built some years earlier as fish habitat impact mitigation for enclosure of an adjacent 250 m section of the original watercourse between Eigth Ave. and Nova St. in a culvert to resolve bank erosion and property damage issues with post-development high storm water runoff flows. It was designed to carry low base flows while the culvert diverted most of the higher storm flows safely downstream. However, while the straight steep-sided channel was cleared periodically to control overgrowth of invasive vegetation (mainly blackberry) and remove debris and unwanted silt accumulation, no in-stream fish habitat, appropriate gravel substrate or riparian vegetation had been provided.
The restoration began with the removal of garbage, yard waste, debris and invasive vegetation which was obstructing the water flow of the channel. Fine silt was removed in order to deepen the pools, masses of watercress were removed by hand, and several small rock weirs were added to provide pool-and-riffle structure for fish habitat. Then, native trees and shrubs were planted along the banks and large woody debris was placed and anchored in the channel as cover for fish. Gravel, drain rock, and boulders were also added to the channel. With the first heavy fall rains after completion of the initial restoration work a small 'jack' coho salmon and several juvenile cutthroat trout were observed moving up the channel from the Chase River.
The planted native riparian vegetation has since developed to provide both bank and stream shade cover, dominated by planted red alder, willows, red osier dogwood and wild (Nootka) rose and augmented by other tree and shrub species either planted or brought in by wind and wildlife. This cover has excluded the shade-intolerant invasive species formerly clogging the watercourse and the channel has continued to flourish and provide winter habitat for juvenile trout and coho fry and riparian habitat for insects (fish food) and bird and other wildlife species.
Stirling Ave. side channel in May 2006. After 7 years the planted alder and willow are well established and beginning to close the vegetation shade canopy to exclude unwanted shade-intolerant invasive species.
Stirling Ave. side channel in June 2008. After 9 years the alder and willow canopy has closed to provide both stream and bank cover, watercress and other unwanted in-stream aquatic vegetation and blackberry on the banks have been eliminated in the shaded area throughout most of the channel, and the alder are starting to self-thin.
The primary funding sponsors for the Chase River salmonid habitat enhancement project, including Stirling Ave. side channel restoration, were: Fisheries Renewal BC, Environment Canada EcoAction, Canada Trust Friends of the Environment and B.C. Hydro - Tree Canada Foundation.
Major partners providing funding or in-kind contributions of materials, labour or professional expertise included: City of Nanaimo - Development Services and Parks and Recreation, Fisheries and Oceans - Habitat Enhancement, Nanaimo Credit Union, John Barsby Community School Career Preparation Program and Nanaimo Field Naturalists, with additional contributions by many other local businesses.
In 2001 & 2002, GBEARS ran a Backyard Biodiversity project, which encouraged landowners from Duncan to Qualicum Beach to increase their backyard biodiversity by enhancing and maintaining their properties in wildlife friendly ways.
GBEARS offered landowners on-site suggestions and assistance in creating new habitat for wildlife and attracting birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. We also provided information on organic pest control, drought-tolerant plants, removing invasive species and planting native vegetation. A professional ecologist worked with each landowner to decide what was best for the property. Each landowner agreed to start or enhance a wildlife area, and made a commitment to maintain their garden for wildlife.
For more information, please see our Habitat Conservation Links
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