Alex King

Alex King

Rivers Day spotlights Nanaimo’s water health

NANAIMO – Creeks piped under roads and development in poor shape in Nanaimo watersheds.

With World Rivers Day last Sunday, a Nanaimo and Area Land Trust official says piped waterways in Nanaimo are in terrible shape.

Gail Adrienne, land trust executive director, said Northfield Creek is one that is particularly bad. It starts at the top of Beban Park and is piped all the way down Northfield Road. The pipe goes under Departure Bay Road beside a church and discharges.

“The creek is dead,” said Adrienne. “When it discharges, it’s full of, what is called non-point source pollution (pollution going into creeks or rivers). We don’t know where it’s coming from and it’s coming during the leaching of all that underground from both sides of Northfield Road.

“There’s light industrial on one side and older residential on the other and it’s impossible to find.”

The bottom reach would be really good salmon spawning area, particularly for chum and maybe pink salmon, but Adrienne said they wouldn’t survive in it today.

McGregor Creek, at the top of the watershed in West Linley, which is piped all the way to the ocean, down through the Dover Bay Road area, is also “dead,” because it is piped, said Adrienne, attributing it to development in the area.

Development used to trump fish values, she said.

“The small creeks weren’t considered important because they only have, at their best, maybe a run of 200 salmon, but when you add up the number of small creeks that we have in Nanaimo, we have 10 or 12 that are active … you add up 10 times 200, you got 2,000 salmon and you do that up and down the Island and all along the coast, and that really contributes to our fish populations,” said Adrienne.

When it comes to Nanaimo River, Adrienne said it is in “pretty good health,” but it does have issues.

“Like all of the other rivers, its fish populations have dropped,” said Adrienne. “One of the one’s that’s pretty much disappeared, when they do counts every two or three years, sometimes they can’t find any, is steelhead (trout). It used to be a famous steelhead river … and they’re pretty much gone.”

Overall, rivers in Nanaimo are in relatively good shape for the population and urban area that it has, said Adrienne.