Earlier today two colleagues and I went out to visit a stream because a grant was awarded for its restoration. The stream was constructed over 70 years ago next to a wetland that is periodically drained for agricultural purposes. The stream was used largely for flood protection and irrigation. On first glance, this stream can be considered ‘functioning at risk’. ‘Functioning at risk’ is term that can be more confidently applied after a Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) assessment is conducted. A PFC assessment is a thorough, qualitative method created by the U.S. Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service for the purpose of assessing either lotic or lentic areas. This assessment will be conducted in length at a later date. PFC is an important method and will likely be discussed in future posts.
A plan for restoration by another firm was originally accepted months ago, but was eventually deemed unfeasible during early stages of construction. With the grant in-hand and no feasible plan, a previous Aqua-Tex client advised the project group to seek the help of our office at Aqua-Tex to move the grant and restoration forward.
It’s common practice at this office not to plan or design anything until the potential site is observed in-person on the ground, or in this case- in the water. Though this is some of the best farming land on the island, the pictures below show that the land would obviously rather be a wetland. However, to my surprise the landowner informed me that if he felt so inclined this land could be ready to farm within two weeks time. He also briefed me on food scarcity of Vancouver Island and that if the island were cut off from imported food, their current supply wouldn’t last more than three days. Part of the project will seek to drain this wetland seasonally to coincide with the 100-day/ year window during the region’s dry season. But what makes this restoration even more complicated is that the grant received is for the purpose of rehabilitating fish habitat and more specifically, Coho Salmon runs. Professor Paul Brown often preached the message of how a project should never have only one purpose and this project most certainly holds that ideal.
Before any suggestions weremade after the walk-through, Patrick Lucey, head of Aqua-Tex, posed two questions that should be asked before the development of any project. 1.) How does this project relate to its place in the watershed? 2.) Will the project, if done properly, enhance the overall health of the watershed? Considering these questions will greatly increase the probability of any project’s long-term success. What was ultimately suggested after a discussion with Aqua-Tex, the landowner and the president of the non-profit responsible for obtaining the grant, who happened to be a retired biologist, was to construct a second ‘creek’. This ‘creek’ will technically be a long, thin, constructed wetland, right next to the ‘functioning at risk’ creek and the wetland with channels in between the creeks giving the project the shape of a latter from an aerial view. Some of the ecosystem services that will be gained from this design are increased water storage, biodiversity, food production and Salmon runs to name a few. It should also be noted that this project has striking similarities to Aqua-Tex’s Blenkinsop Creek Restoration project, which won the Federation of Canadian Municipalities-CH2M Hill Sustainable Community Award in 2002.