Big Day at Deer Creek

August 3, 2021 was the big day at the Deer Creek off-channel restoration project!

Valley Tank & Container Service, A.D.S Bobcat & Excavating Services, DFO, WaterWealth, and Tamihi Meadows Campground all pitched in on site, while Gerry Enns Contracting, Emil Anderson Construction and Pacific Salmon Foundation where there through funding and support. That giant HVAC truck was amazing!

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The intake to the off-channel area was cleared and water is flowing again through the roughly kilometre and a quarter of great aquatic habitat. (OK, some work still to do.)

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We’d been told by Dave Lamson, who was chair of the Chilliwack River Action Committee when it was around, that sometimes the intake took the whole stream flow. With the drought conditions we’re having (currently drought level 4) one might have expected that would happen as soon as the intake was unblocked, but it still caught us a bit by surprise.

So then we had a choice. Dig enough to split the flow between the off-channel area and the stream running straight down to Chilliwack River, or let the intake take the whole stream. Given that the drought is not expected to end any time soon, we decided it was better to let the roughly 50 metres of straight stream go dry now, while we were on hand to deal with it.

“If you see one fish, there are more.” How about if you see no fish?

In the morning Ian from WaterWealth had walked that 50 metres of stream, poking under rocks and wood and spots of turbulence to look for fish. None were seen. Not one.

But as the water level dropped, there were SO MANY FISH!

We set about catching them and moving them down to Chilliwack River. The river is low now with calm waters along the sides in that area. Lots of coho fry present, so we were confident that conditions were suitable for the many coho fry found in that portion of Deer Creek.

There were so many we weren’t keeping up so for a while we blocked part of the off-channel intake again to give the fish more water and ourselves more time. It would have been nice to measure, weight, and photograph at least a decent sample of the fish found. But we didn’t feel like we had time, and sure enough finished the last couple of pools by flashlight as darkness fell and the last water disappeared subsurface.

So no official count, but we can say there were SO MANY FISH! Also quite a few salamanders, and possibly one tailed frog but it disappeared among the rocks so we couldn’t make a positive ID. There were also astonishing numbers of freshwater invertebrates and leeches, which we moved with the fish and salamanders to the extent we could catch them incidentally with the fish. Salamanders were moved to a pool upstream.

The fish were of two types and two approximate sizes. Cutthroat trout of about 10 to 15 cm length, and coho fry that were tiny. Some smaller than the stonefly larvae! Salamanders were similarly divided by size. Either big at around 15 or maybe even 20 cm length, or tiny at around 5 cm.

Oh, and a temperature logger! We had a temperature logger in that lower section of stream. It's out now but will be placed upstream shortly. DFO is donating several more to place in the off-channel area. It was good to see from the logger data that even with the severe heat we've experienced in recent weeks the temperature in Deer Creek only got as high as 18°C a few times, and then only for a few hours at a time.

We were on site at 7 am for the Deer Creek off-channel area's big day, and packed up about 9:30 pm after we were sure we’d transferred the last fish from the last pool. All tired but content with the day’s work. A bit sad for the temporary and potentially annual loss of that obviously very productive 50 m of stream, but excited for the potential of the much larger habitat restored!

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published this page in Blog 2021-08-04 11:07:06 -0700