A project that gets underway Monday will make it possible for coho salmon and cutthroat trout to get to areas where Mother Nature intended them to swim.
Peninsula Streams Society (PSS) announced this week that the $800,000 Millstream fish ladder project will create a fishway to enable fish to swim up to and around a large culvert under Atkins Road near Mill Hill Regional Park in Langford.
PSS is working with volunteers from the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Society on the project, which consists of installing 14 step-pools up to the culvert, and 12 steel baffles within it.
The baffles will aid the passage of fish through the culvert, and the addition of concrete will improve the longevity of the culvert.
PPS executive director Ian Bruce said improving access is one of the key aspects of the project.
“It allows salmon to access habitat that is under urban stress,” he explained. “It also provides access to pristine areas further upstream.”
Another important consideration is raising awareness in more urban areas of the watershed.
“If people are aware that there’s fish in the area, they will endeavour to protect them and the environment as well.”
That may result in people forming personal connections that spawn involvement in volunteering or leads to the pursuit of careers in biology and similar fields, Bruce added.
“The project honours hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours by members of the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Society,” he said. It validates the sweat and toil of those who were unable to complete the project who reached out to PPS.” Volunteers have been instrumental in completing five other fish ladder projects downstream, Bruce added.
Coho salmon stocks have been impacted significantly by a long history of pressures, including fishing, changes to the availability of prey and oceanic conditions, as well as the degradation and pollution of freshwater habitat, Bruce explained.
“Expanding and enhancing spawning and juvenile rearing habitat will help recover populations of some of B.C.’s most iconic species and highlight their resilience in response to restoration and conservation initiatives.”
PSS is engaging with the community to discuss the project’s benefits and to deal with any concerns residents may have. There may be some traffic disruptions along Atkins Road at Mill Hill Park during construction, and public access to that area and the park may be restricted.
Construction is expected to be completed by September, followed by site restoration work.
Several trees will be removed to create access to the site, but a minimum of four trees will be added for each tree removed. The project was originally scheduled for 2018, but was delayed because of a lack of construction funds and other development pressures. PSS has since raised more than 80 per cent of the cost of the project and is fundraising to secure engineering, biological and support costs.
For more information or to make a donation, visit peninsulastreams.ca/millstream-fishway-project. Tax receipts for donations are available.