Tuesday, 06 September 2016 08:00

Chipman Creek restoration initiative underway

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Volunteers and Trout Unlimited Canada staff capture fish in an unnamed tributary of Chipman Creek. Volunteers and Trout Unlimited Canada staff capture fish in an unnamed tributary of Chipman Creek. Photo by Peter DeGorter

Work to better understand the watershed around a small creek southwest of Pincher Creek is underway, and officials with Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) hope local residents will share their historical knowledge and information.

The Chipman Creek Restoration Initiative was launched in July with an electrofishing event. Funding for the project was received from the Environmental Damages Fund just this year in the amount of about $24,000.
“What began this all were the landowners living in the watershed,” says Elliot Lindsay, a project biologist with TUC.
Chipman Creek is a tributary of Pincher Creek, which is in turn a tributary of the Oldman River watershed.
“It has one major tributary that comes in from the south and these folks live along that tributary,” explains Lindsay, about Chipman Creek. “They came to us with concerns last year that the creek and watershed has been degrading over time.”
The area landowners were also concerned about a culvert in the watershed. In August of 2015, TUC Oldman River Chapter officials, landowners and a Municipal District of Pincher Creek representative visited the site to examine the culvert and the creek. There was a concern the culvert could be a barrier to fish passage during low and high flows.
“What resulted was that we don’t really know what lives in the creek anymore,” says Lindsay. “That was the first mystery. Some people say there used to be trout in the creek ... There’s not a lot of information about what is there other than people’s recollection.”
One of the goals of the Chipman Creek initiative is to gain a better understanding of the current conditions of the aquatic ecosystem in the watershed. Once it is known what exists in the watershed, then a plan can be put in place to improve the riparian and aquatic health of the area.
The July launch of the project included the opportunity for landowners to learn more about the work that TUC hopes to do, with partners which include the M.D. of Pincher Creek, Cows and Fish and the Oldman Watershed Council. There was also electrofishing of two reaches of the unnamed tributary of Chipman Creek that day.
“Different species of fish were found and they were all fish you would expect to find,” points out Lindsay.
There were a total of 455 individual fish caught, identified and released. The five native species of fish identified were Brook Stickleback, Lake Chub, Longnose Dace, Mountain Sucker and White Sucker. There were no trout species.
“The million dollar question was where were the trout?” says Lindsay. “We’re trying to figure out the character of that watershed.”
Part of that research includes monitoring the temperature of the creek. Nine different temperature data loggers have been placed in the Chipman Creek and its tributary to gather that important information. They will remain in place until late fall, and then be pulled and their data recorded.
“It will show a graph of what is going on with the temperatures all summer long. Is the creek even in the habitable range for trout?”
One interesting find the day of the launch was that a part of Chipman Creek where potentially trout could exist, was actually found to be dry.
“This is a pretty new development, but it’s happening more frequently,” he added.
While it is not uncommon for creeks to run dry because of the glacial till and rocks which drain well, it will still be important to find out why this is happening and how often.
The plan now is to continue to gather information from people who live in the area and may have some historical tidbits — including photographs — that will better explain the watershed’s history.
“We’re going to keep working with the landowners and poking around to gather more information from the people who live there,” Lindsay adds. “We’re digging for tangible stuff.
If someone could just even send us a picture. One picture could make so much difference.”
Once the research side of the initiative is complete, it may identify some areas of the creek where the habitat is not in the best shape and opportunities for some restoration work. That restoration work planning wouldn’t start until next spring, and will include the landowners.
As for the culvert that was a concern, Lindsay says the M.D. officials have been receptive to working together to find a solution to ensure the culvert doesn’t impede fish movement in the creek. The site visit also showed a section of the creek was being crossed by vehicles using a road allowance. The M.D. agreed to close and restore that area, so driving through the creek won’t be possible.
Lindsay points out that partnerships are important to any project that is undertaken by TUC.
“Without good partners a lot of these projects wouldn’t happen.”
Now he hopes landowners and people who have used Chipman Creek will contact him with their stories and share their photographs of the fish species or aquatic life they may have encountered. Anyone with useful information can contact Elliot Lindsay by phoning 403-221-8360 ext. 5 or emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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