$30M to naturalize creek

Penticton Creek used to be brimming with Kokanee salmon, and while they’ve started to reappear, they’ve had to fight against a harsh concrete piece of infrastructure.

Following a series of brutal floods in the 40s, the creek was channelized with 39 drop structures — many that are failing today.

All that concrete has done an adequate job of containing the creek, but gave little consideration to salmon trying to reach spawning grounds.

After 18 months of work, the Penticton Creek Master Plan is being presented to council on Tuesday, outlining an estimated $30M in work required over the next two decades to restore the creek to a natural state.

An 83-metre long “showcase” of naturalization efforts was completed north of the Ellis Street bridge in 2015. The concrete lining was removed, and the channel bottom widened from six to eight metres, where river cobbles were installed to create resting areas for fish.

Response to the project from both biologists and the public has been positive.

“Electrofishing of the Showcase on August 24, 2016 resulted in one salmonid per 16 m2, compared to one salmonid per 360 m2 before the restoration,” the master plan states.

The plan has prioritized downstream sections for revitalization, noting that the vast majority of salmon and almost no trout are able to get past some of the drop structures, even those with fish ladders.

“The concrete liner itself is a deterrent to fish attempting to migrate upstream, as it provides no resting places,” says the master plan, despite efforts by the Penticton Flyfishers to add depth by installing concrete parking curbs.

A 14-metre section of of creek bed, known as drop structure one, is set to be naturalized in 2018 with funds from the BC Freshwater Fisheries Society.

The staff report accompanying the master plan says that most of the $30M needed to restore the 4.46 kilometre section of creek will likely be sourced from grants and senior levels of government. The master plan may have to be tweaked, depending on the impact the freshet has each year.

Penticton residents are overwhelmingly in favour of the project, with 87 per cent of survey respondents in 2012 saying the creek should be naturalized in the next decade.

“People are very pleased to see the work, they want to see that creek naturalized,” infrastructure manager Mitch Moroziuk told council in October, mulling that the creek is one of the city’s most popular projects in years.


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