River stewards spruce up Beck Creek

Friday the 13th was a lucky day for coho fry in Nanaimo's Beck Creek.

Katie Davidson

Katie Davidson

Friday the 13th was a lucky day for coho fry in Beck Creek with the delivery of spawning gravel to spruce up their living quarters.

Beck Creek is a five-kilometre stream that flows out of Beck Lake, under the Island Highway and past the Sea Breeze Mobile Home Park in Chase River to the ocean near Maki Road.

The lower two kilometres are good salmon habitat, but the fish needed a little more gravel to spawn in.

The Harbour City River Stewards took up the cause, helping place 26 tonnes of custom-mixed gravel into a spawning channel on  July 13.

The channel was built in 1995 when the Island Highway was widened. Beck Creek was moved and rebuilt to make way for the road and included the channel for coho and chum salmon.

Over the years, some gravel was washed downstream and some embedded in sand, so the channel needed refreshing.

Four months in the planning and approval stage to fit in a Department of Fisheries and Oceans  instream work window, the project required an engineer to design a series of spawning grounds, with just the right mix of river rock for the fish.

More than 1,000 salmon and trout fry were captured from the 100-metre section of the stream and placed in a nearby pool before a Graf Excavating gravel slinger truck began throwing rocks into the channel.

“Nanaimo residents are going to have to get used to seeing fish in the streams again,” said Charles Thirkill of the stewardship. “Since the coho collapse in 1993, salmon numbers have been quite low, but community stream stewardship initiatives are paying off and we will be seeing more in the next few years.

“Counting returning spawners is one of the jobs the group does every fall and this will be an interesting year.”

The Harbour City River Stewards is a group of community members, fisheries biologists and technicians who work on Departure Creek, Beck Creek, the Millstone River and the Chase River.

For more information, please call 250-729-4928 or e-mail thirkill@telus.net.