Aquatic species in the Athabasca River will have more space in which to swim now that an improved fish corridor has been built in Whistler’s Creek.
The project, which wrapped up October 24, saw specialized contractors build a stepped fish ladder downstream of the Whistlers’ Creek culvert beneath Highway 16.
“The culverts create a velocity barrier [for fish],” said Resource Conservation Manager John Wilmshurst. “The idea is to allow fish to move upstream through the culvert.”
By using special excavators, pumps and screens to protect aquatic species, contractors created a series of pools which fish—primarily bull trout, but potentially native Athabasca Rainbows, Rocky Mountain Whitefish and (invasive) Eastern Brook Trout—can use to climb upstream. The stepped pools will slow water flow enough to reduce the drop from the culvert, allowing for fish to pass through.
“The objective is to have no aquatic crossing barriers,” Wilmshurst said.
Edmonton-based Farlinger and Associates led the project. The waterway construction specialists said the challenge was to minimize the impact on the environment while moving 1,500 cubic metres of material.
“We’re trying to recreate what’s in nature,” said Mike Farlinger.
The job also included riverbank restoration.
Parks Canada used money provided by Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Legacy Fund to do environmental work above and beyond the remediation required from 2008’s Anchor Loop pipeline project. Two million dollars was set aside for a multi-stakeholder steering committee, administered by Alberta Ecotrust, to provide environmental benefits to Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park.
“It’s a matter of determining where you get your biggest bang for your buck,” said Wilmshurst, who sits on the committee.
The Whistlers’ Creek monitoring team included aquatic restoration specialists Triton Environmental Consultants, as well as Parks Canada. All parties were involved in similar connectivity construction at Mile 9 Lake, near Snaring Pond, in May.
Wilmshurst said the success of the step pools will be evaluated when water levels rise.
“It’s difficult to evaluate until next spring,” Wilmshurst said.