by KORIE MARSHALL
Some 27 new structures have just been installed along the banks of Swift Creek, mostly above the Village’s water intake, to help lessen erosion and improve salmon spawning habitat.
The rock that is spread just below the intake, near the Golden Year’s Lodge may look a little rough, but the point is to get the creek flowing in a more natural state again.
In years past the creek would have changed its path in the alluvial fan where it comes out of the mountains between Swift Mountain and what’s now known as Five Mille Hill. In the early years of the railroad, the creek was secured in one spot with an artificial rock bank, but in a heavy freshet in 2012, Swift Creek nearly switched its path again. Valemount nearly lost its village water intake, and Chinook salmon nearly lost many of their prime spawning areas in the creek, because of new deposits of rock and silt, washed down from severely eroded banks.
Since then, the Swift Creek Watershed Society and Mike Wallis of Wallis Environmental Aquatics, with funding from the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Trans Mountain Legacy Fund have been working to secure the banks of Swift Creek through the village, and create a more natural flow with more areas suitable for salmon spawning.
“Swift Creek is a prime spawning area for the salmon that return here,” says Bruce Wilkinson, president of the Watershed Society. He says the work being done has followed a long-term watershed plan written by Mike Wallis for the entire stream.
“The work and structures are to create a long term sustainable working channel in the stream that will improve every spring freshet, by making sure the sediments that come down the stream will deposit in a natural way,” says Wallis.
He says the work done on the stream bed last year and completed this spring will help dissipate hydraulic energy and erosive forces of the stream at key locations. That in turn will help create and maintain more fish habitat by creating more natural pool and riffle characteristics in the stream.
Some of the work will take a few years to show its full effect, but one of the banks worked on two years ago is already showing how the work is helping. A steep, sandy bank where a small shed used to stand, (pictured above) both of which washed downstream in 2012, now collapses harmlessly behind a rock bank Wallis built, secured with layers of various fabric and willows. The fabrics will eventually decompose, but they hold the bank in place until the willows and the roots of other natural plants grow in and take over.
Wallis says many of the structures installed this early spring were stored over the winter on Stu and Geno McKirdy’s property; he also got help from the Village of Valemount, Monashee Motors, Big Iron Transport, Lordco, Jerry Plummer, and Andreas Thoni, who is continuing to help plant willows along the banks of Swift Creek to help secure them.