Safe Passage for Fish

Road crossings over streams (often constructed using a culvert) can significantly affect fish by changing stream channel morphology, constricting streamflow, and ultimately making it difficult – if not impossible – for fish to reach upstream habitat. While it may seem like a small issue, researchers have identified ~313,000 stream crossings across British Columbia alone that are negatively impacting fish – and these are just on forest roads.

For the past year, I’ve been working with BC’s Fish Passage Technical Working Group (TWG) to share with the public their ongoing work of fixing stream crossings to enhance fish habitat. It’s been a natural fit for me, as some of the last work I did as an academic scientist focused on the interactions between hydrology and fish.

The TWG is a surprisingly effective inter-agency group that includes BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations (MoFLNRO); Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI); BC Timber Sales (BCTS); Ministry of Environment (MoE); and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The TWG also collaborates with local groups such as northern BC’s Society for Ecosystem Restoration, the Pacific Salmon Foundation, DFO’s Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, and BC Hydro’s Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

Using a combination of BC government funds and interagency cooperation, the group has thus far managed to remediate 135 stream crossings, re-connecting approximately 750 km of fish habitat. It’s not cheap, however: the budget for these remediations was approximately $11.6 million. The work itself is fascinating, incorporating advanced GIS analyses at the watershed scale, fieldwork to identify high priority stream crossings, and engineering to rebuild crossings in a way that successfully re-connects fish habitat.

To get the word out about these projects, we’ve published two articles thus far in BC Forest Professional magazine. The first article, accessible here, gives an overview of the program and successes to date. The second article, accessible here, focuses on a particular case study in southwestern BC where innovative thinking helped solve several fish- and water-related issues.

It’s been fun to work on knowledge translation projects like this one, pulling together the group’s diverse perspectives into a single article. It’s also gratifying when they’re happy with the final product.

Do you have a project that you’d like more people to know about? Consider working with a writer to put together an article and get the word out – you might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome!

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2 thoughts on “Safe Passage for Fish

  1. Sarah:
    Even today I feel Canadians are more receptive to protecting waters (and fish). Here on America’s populous Eastern Shores we waste one of the world’s once prolific fisheries. For 10 years as a citizen volunteer living on Long Island Sound hate to admit I was an ineffectual voice. How wise it’d be when we finally start rebuilding sorely needed water infrastructure, it follows the science you speak of.
    Thanks for your story,
    Steve

    • Hi Steve – I’m not sure if we’re more receptive, or maybe just more vocal. There remain substantial roadblocks to improving and maintaining fish habitat across the country – particularly since our last government weakened a lot of environmental legislation. We do what we can from a science-based perspective, and hope for the best…

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