Tue, 10 Jun 2014

HCTF Announces Funding for Restoration Projects on Burrard Inlet

HCTF has announced it will provide over $200,000 in funding this year for estuary restoration projects on Burrard Inlet. Two North Vancouver sites and another in Stanley Park will be rehabilitated from their current industrialized states back into functional habitats that support many types of native fish and wildlife.

Estuaries, areas where rivers and streams meet the sea, make up only a small percentage of BC’s vast coastline, yet over 80% of coastal wildlife are dependent on them for some portion of their lifecycle. They are critical for anadromous fish as they make the adaptation from fresh to salt water. Estuaries are also gaining recognition for their incredible capacity to store carbon, at rates up to ninety times the uptake of equivalent areas of forest. Unfortunately, these habitats are among the most threatened ecosystems on the planet: in highly industrialized waterways such as Burrard Inlet, they have all but disappeared.

HCTF’s Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program is focussed on recreating at least some of Vancouver’s lost estuaries, using money from a creative sentencing award. This initiative has received a phenomenal response from local governments, corporations, First Nations, and educational institutions, who have come together to support these projects both financially and in-kind. This year’s grant recipients and funding partners include:

  • Seymour River Estuary Restoration: The Seymour Salmonid Society received a $60,000 grant to remove onsite contaminants and re-vegetate the estuary’s intertidal benches and foreshore areas with native plants. Large woody debris will be added to provide cover for juvenile fish, and to deter geese from grazing the site. The project will receive additional funding from DFO, Metro Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, the City of North Vancouver , and the Pacific Salmon Foundation, as well as receiving in-kind support from many local organizations.
  • Mosquito Creek Estuary Restoration : Northwest Hydraulic Consultants and the Squamish Nation received $88,500 for their stewardship and habitat restoration project on Mosquito Creek, an estuary that has been reduced to a 1% of its historical size by encroachment of waterfront industrial development. Activities will include creation of an intertidal reef and benches, including planting of native vegetation. The site offers an excellent opportunity for community outreach as it is located along the newly completed Spirit Trail. Key supporters of this project include the City of North Vancouver, with in-kind support provided by BCIT and the North Shore Fish and Game Club.
  • Restoring Access for Salmonids to Beaver Creek : The Stanley Park Ecology Society received a $55,000 grant to restore salmonid access into Beaver Creek, located within Stanley Park. The project will remove and modify decade-old fish barriers, as well as enhance estuary habitat. The location of this project along Stanley Park’s popular seawall, one of the most highly used recreation trails in Canada, will promote public understanding and participation in conservation. Partners include Environment Canada, HSBC, the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, Recreation Fisheries of BC and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Together, these three projects will build upon the successes of last year’s $180,000 investment by HCTF in estuarine habitat on the Inlet. You can read more about last year’s completed BIRPP restoration work here.


Mon, 5 May 2014
Tags: Fisheries

Elk Lake Enhancement Project

Elk_Lake_Volunteer_Training.jpgOn Vancouver Island, a local angling club is taking the lead in a project to improve fish habitat conditions at a popular urban lake.

The Victoria Golden Rods and Reels (VGRR)’s Elk Lake Enhancement proposal is one of 116 projects recently approved by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation . VGRR received a $5,000 seed grant to support the creation of a plan that will address the lake’s declining water quality, a problem which has impacted fish and wildlife, along with a broad spectrum of recreational users.

Concerns around Elk Lake’s water quality were most recently publicized in January, when the lake’s annual polar bear swim had to be relocated due to the presence of a toxic algal bloom. The blue-green surface scum was confirmed to be cyanobacteria, a photosynthetic bacterium that thrives in conditions where excess nutrients are present in the water.

Blooms of cyanobacteria have been an ongoing problem in Elk Lake, where phosphorous levels have been elevated through residential and agricultural development of the surrounding land. Since 2009, the lake has seen at least four such blooms, which can cause serious illness or even death in humans, pets, and wildlife. Though the events tend to be short-lived, the mass die-offs of bacteria at the end the blooms can deplete the lake of oxygen, creating dangerous conditions for sensitive fish species such as rainbow trout.

Project leader and VGRR club member Mick Collins says that, despite regular stocking by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC), there are serious concerns among anglers for the future of the Elk Lake trout fishery.

“Anglers who regularly fish the lake know it intimately. They’re among the first people to notice when something isn’t right. It is encouraging to see so much interest and involvement from the fishing and rowing communities and others in seeking solutions to improve water quality and fish habitat.”

Elk Lake remains an important resource for local anglers, with an estimated 14,000 angler days per year, the most heavily fished lake on Vancouver Island. It is also hosts FFSBC’s popular Learn to Fish program, which teaches basic angling skills to youth and adults. And the lake’s appeal is not limited to anglers: it’s popular with swimmers, dog walkers, and is home to Canada’s National Rowing Team. Through their HCTF-funded project, VGRR is committed to bringing together the many stakeholders to find feasible, scientifically-sound solutions for the lake.

Volunteers from the club have already began working with the Ministry of Environment to carry out a regular water quality monitoring program to provide the data necessary for deciding on the best course of action (watch the video of highlights from the volunteer training session below). VGRR is also planning to establish a lake stewardship group and organize a public meeting to allow stakeholders to come together to discuss the issue – and explore potential solutions.


The water quality problems facing Elk Lake are not unique: there are numerous examples of relatively shallow, nutrient-loaded lakes in BC that have faced similar issues and overcome them. The project team will be looking at these case studies when designing the plan for Elk Lake. Restoration options that will be considered include weed cutting, reduction of nutrient inflows, and lake aeration. Once the initial planning stage is complete, the club will be able to put forward a full proposal to HCTF and other potential partner organizations requesting funding to execute the plan.

The Victoria Golden Rods and Reels club is a great example of anglers working to protect the trout fishery resource, to the benefit of other species and recreational users. If your club or organization is interested in working on a conservation project, visit our Grant Overview page to learn more about available funding.


Mon, 18 Nov 2013

Build It and They Will Come

HCTF has received news that salmon have returned to MacKay Creek! Shown in the photo below, chum salmon were seen making their way up the creek to spawn. Previously, a large concrete weir prevented fish from accessing the upper estuary and creek during low tide. The weir was removed in September and replaced with a naturalized creek outlet as part of the site’s restoration under the Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program. Project leaders are hopeful that cutthroat and rainbow trout will also return to the creek in future years. You can read more about the improvements made at MacKay in our recent blog post.


Fri, 8 Nov 2013

Students Help Transform MacKay Creek

Bodwell High School Students Planting

Over the past two months, MacKay Creek estuary has undergone an amazing transformation. The estuary’s revival is the keystone project in HCTF’s Burrard Inlet Restoration Program, a pilot created using funds from a creative sentencing award and designed to maximize habitat benefits through innovative partnerships. One of the project partners is Bodwell High School, located just steps away from the MacKay Creek restoration site on Vancouver’s North Shore.

The restoration of the MacKay Creek estuary began in September with the removal of a large concrete weir which had previously prevented migrating chum salmon, coho salmon and cutthroat trout from entering the creek. Next, the elevation of the estuary’s tidal benches was re-graded, creating a substrate that could support saltmarsh vegetation such as eelgrass and sedges. Large pieces of wood were strategically placed in the water and the tidal benches, both to provide refuge for fish and wildlife and to help discourage Canada geese from
Bodwell_Students_Planting_MacKay_2.jpgovergrazing the new vegetation. Once the heavy equipment work was complete, it was the students’ turn to start planting native species along the banks of the estuary. Bodwell’s Green Team, mentored by teacher Bianca Ferrajohn, had previously been involved in removing invasive plants from the area, and students were eager to get on with the restorative phase of the project. Julia Alards-Tomalin, who had been coordinating a recently graduated team of Squamish Nation ecological restoration students planting within the estuary, showed the Bodwell students how to pick a good location for their seedlings: for many of them, it was their first experience planting. Because the students routinely walk by this area on their way to and from school, they will have the opportunity to see their work flourish in the coming months.

The Green Team includes 33 students representing many different nationalities; Bodwell prides itself on being incredibly diverse, with current students originating from 38 different countries. School President Paul Yuen sees the MacKay Creek project as an excellent hands-on learning opportunity, an experience that could potentially inspire similar work abroad.

“Most of these students come from developing countries and they have a lot of challenges in their environment,” said Yuen. “We are going to mobilize the whole school community to be taking part, to be observing, to be helping, to be getting their hands dirty, and hopefully they can bring this back to their own country.”

Improving the functionality of estuaries such as MacKay Creek undoubtedly provides significant ecosystem benefits, but the added value in these urban restoration projects is their potential to inspire future conservation efforts, far beyond Vancouver’s North Shore. The opportunity for students and adults alike to so readily experience even a small taste of what these landscapes were like pre-development and degradation is a vital step in moving towards urban landscapes where nature and people can co-exist, and even thrive.

The success of the MacKay Creek Restoration Project was made possible through the contributions of the many organizations who partnered with HCTF on this project: Northwest Hydraulics, Seaspan, Squamish Nation, City of North Vancouver, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Living Rivers, Bodwell International School and BCIT.




Mon, 7 Oct 2013
Tags: Fisheries

Restoring Nature’s Curves

Aerial Photo of Okanagan River, with overlay showing difference before and after channelization.

As part of HCTF’s project site evaluation program, staff recently visited a restoration project on the historically channelized and straightened Okanagan River (“Okanagan River Restoration Initiative – Phase II). HCTF (along with a number of partner organizations) is currently funding the reconstruction of a side channel to improve spawning and rearing habitat for trout and salmon. This project will also benefit wildlife species by increasing riparian habitat.

In the early 1900s the Okanagan River was re-engineered from a meandering stream to a channelized and diked waterway for the purposes of navigation, flood control and irrigation. This reduced much of the fish and riparian habitats along the river. The Okanagan River Restoration Initiative (ORRI) is an alliance of government and non-government organizations dedicated to restoring portions of the river to its original configuration, providing habitat for sockeye salmon, rainbow trout and wildlife species at risk such as, Yellow Breasted Chat, Great Basin Spadefoot and Western Screech Owl.

This HCTF project is being undertaken by the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) and project leader Camille Savois-Rivard proudly showed HCTF staff the new side channel which was still under construction at the time of the site visit. HCTF Project 8-391 Okanagan River side channel

This work had been delayed for several years due to unusually high streamflows impeding the instream activities, so it took teamwork, ongoing commitment to ensure partners and landowners remained on-side and perseverence for it all to come together – thank you Camille, for helping to make it happen!

The Okanagan River Restoration Initiative was a 2010-11 BC Premier’s Award Regional Finalist. You can learn more about the project by watching the video below:





Thu, 22 Aug 2013
Tags: Fisheries

New Docks for Urban Lakes

The new fishing dock at Durrance is already proving popular with anglers.


A joint venture between HCTF, FFSBC and the Province is making angling more accessible to families who may have previously found going fishing a challenge. By installing docks and making site improvements at stocked lakes near urban centres, the Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program is providing new opportunities for anglers young and old to experience great fishing close to home.

Urban lake infrastructure programs have been created to help reverse the trend of declining angler numbers across BC. Research by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC (FFSBC) indicates that one of the best ways to increase angler participation is through creation of new fishing opportunities for youth. By constructing family-friendly fishing sites that don’t require a boat and are within easy driving distance of urban centres, project leaders hope to eliminate some of the hurdles that may have previously discouraged families from fishing.

The Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program began in 2009 with seed funding from HCTF. Project leader Scott Silvestri and his team carefully selected project sites that would both maximize potential angler benefits and minimize expenditures through partnerships with local clubs and municipalities. The project has already received over $75,000 in HCTF grants, funding the completion of seven angling infrastructure projects at urban lakes on the Island. These include:

• Newly-constructed fishing floats, ramps and trails at Durrance Lake, Diver Lake and Westwood Lake.

• A new fishing float at Mayo Lake.

• Repairs to the walkway of the fishing float at Chemainus Lake.

• Development of a car-top boat launch for Quennell Lake.

• Improvements to the boat launch at Spider Lake.



Above: Map showing the location of projects completed under the HCTF-funded Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development/ Improvement Program.


The program has received an additional $56,000 in grants from HCTF for 2013-14. This money will be combined with other partner contributions to fund a number of infrastructure additions from the following potential project list:

• Construction of wheelchair-accessible fishing dock at Blinkhorn Lake.

• Construction of fishing floats at Colwood Lake and Thetis Lake.

• Creation of boat launches and fishing docks at Prospect Lake and Echo Lake.

The response to these improvements has been overwhelmingly positive. Observations of increased angler use at sites where infrastructure work is complete suggest that the upgrades and additions are working: by making fishing more accessible, this project not only has the potential to inspire new groups of conservationists through participation in angling, but also increase funding for fish enhancement and restoration projects through additional licence sales.

The success of the Vancouver Island program has paved the way for HCTF to support similar dock installation projects in the Thompson-Nicola, Cariboo and Skeena Regions. Over the past few months, new docks have been constructed at Yellow Lake (between Keremeos and Penticton), at Edith Lake (approximately 18 km south of Kamloops) and Greeny Lake (north of 100 Mile House). These docks will be used for FFSBC’s Learn to Fish programs in subsequent years, further increasing opportunities for new anglers.

The Vancouver Island Urban Lake Fishery Development & Improvement Program was presented with an HCTF Silver Award in recognition of its efforts to increase angler participation by improving fishing infrastructure at lakes near urban centres. In addition to this award from HCTF, the program has also been named a regional finalist in the BC Premier’s Innovation and Excellence Awards. The awards, which will be handed out in September 2013, recognize exceptional work by B.C. public service employees and teams whose contributions have made a positive difference in the province. You can watch the project’s award finalist video below.