CULVERT WORKS AND SALMON CREEKS!!

By now most people will be aware that the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure (MOTI) will be shortly replacing the aging culvert at Basil Creek, Squirrel Cove in early September. MOTI recognize that the culvert has become a public safety issue with the serious deterioration of the culvert, and are being proactive in replacing it as a scheduled work project, rather than waiting for a collapse and the possible safety & logistical complications which could ensue.

Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) and Cortes Streamkeepers are thrilled that MOTI has also acknowledged that the existing culvert has been presenting an increasing fish barrier to spawning salmon as water levels in Basil Creek are becoming noticeably lower with the drier summers we are experiencing. Salmon are finding it very difficult to pass through the culvert. Basil Creek is the biggest salmon creek on Cortes.

The great fish news is that MOTI will be replacing the Basil Creek culvert with an open-bottom culvert that will be fish-friendly and will offer a natural streambed with a more gradual gradient, which work better with low water levels. The extra bonus is that MOTI also recognize that a similar issue is facing the Whaletown Creek culvert, which they also plan to replace this fall, and will piggy back on the equipment & personnel already on Cortes. We are incredibly fortunate that Basil & Whaletown Creeks, and their fish populations and respective salmon runs, are being given this fantastic opportunity for revival!!!

This has been a huge team effort by a number of professionals including MOTI fish biologist Sean Wong, DFO Community Advisor Stacy Larson, Klahoose Fisheries Officer Tina Wesley, site engineers, Emcon representatives (including our local Emcon person, John Messent), and FOCI working in collaboration with Cortes Streamkeepers.

One of the tasks that Emcon is responsible for is public communication about road closure and road signage when the work begins. There will be a full road closure at Basil Creek, west of the Squirrel Cove Store, on September 5, which is expected to continue for between 2-3 weeks. There will be a partial road closure at Whaletown Creek, where the main road makes an ‘S-curve’ above Whaletown Lagoon, towards the latter part of September.

FOCI has been the successful recipient of 2 grants through the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Department of Fisheries & Oceans towards stream restoration at Basil Creek. This will include developing better instream spawning beds and bankside planting of native plants to improve bank stabilization and provide better shade & protection for fish.

MOTI project manager, Sean Wong, has been a strong proponent of Cortes involvement in the works when possible, wherever the appropriate professional certification is in place. This has also included working with the Klahoose Fisheries Officer and Klahoose involvement when possible. MOTI also recognize that impact will be felt by the Cortes community, and will be taking steps to minimize inconveniences. Perhaps, islanders might consider extra effort to patronize the Squirrel Cove Store during the road closure.

Cortes Streamkeepers expect to be present on site on a regular basis to facilitate any communication between the project and the Cortes community, and to advocate for fish, if needed.

FOCI and Cortes Streamkeepers wish to thank MOTI representatives for their recognition and support for the Basil & Whaletown Creek restoration projects, and also John Messent of Emcon who has advocated for this work for years.

FOCI and Cortes Streamkeepers

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