River Gravel Put to Bed

DAN MacLENNAN, Courier-Islander
Published: Thursday, August 06, 2009

Another Campbell River spawning gravel project has been going well this week in the upper river says Mike Gage, chair of the Campbell River Salmon Foundation.

Over the last week, crews from Uplands Excavating have been hauling the double-washed rock while A. Wood Bulldozing has been loading the rock into the river near First Island. A total of 2,800 cubic yards (2,100 cubic meters) of spawning gravel has been added to make up for a loss of spawning gravel over time.

“It’s the second time we’ve done this area,” Gage said Wednesday. “It appears to be a favorite for chinook. The last time we did it, in 2006, 400 fish went to it within six weeks of us completing it. Of all the areas we’ve done in the entire river, we’ve finally hit the right spot where they really want to be.

“There’s lots of velocity there, a fairly rough bottom, but it’s the velocity and the depth of the water that seem to attract them. A lot of the other areas of the river that we’ve done have been of high value to dog salmon (chum) but not to the chinook which we were trying to cater to.

They’ve told us now that they want to be here so we’re going to concentrate more on this in the next four or five years.” Funding for the project comes from BC Hydro’s Bridge Coastal Restoration Program (BCRP).

“It’s going really well,” said Breanne Patterson, BCRP biologist. “It’s been proven that it’s a really productive area and they’ve got great operators and staff in here doing the work. I’m glad to see it go ahead.” Tons of gravel have been placed in the river in recent years after it was realized the river had a shortage of spawning gravel.

Gravel was gradually washing out while the dam prevented more gravel from washing down from upstream. Gage said there has been lots of gravel movement in this specific area because of the strong current and fish digging their spawning beds or ‘reds’.

The movement is a mixed blessing. It means more gravel will be needed in future, but the gravel is migrating “into an area where we wouldn’t be allowed to go with heavy equipment,” Gage said.

“So it’s all become fully utilized.” The project required some rerouting of the Canyon View Trail and restrictions to upper river use.

© Courier-Islander (Campbell River) 2009, reproduced with permission