Many hands in habitat project

French Creek restoration project didn't happen by magic, but rather, by hard work

Hof Waldeck Farm owner and operator Claudia Bruyckere with Department of Fisheries and Oceans Technical Support consultant  Jack Newman pleased with the restoration job on French Creek.

Hof Waldeck Farm owner and operator Claudia Bruyckere with Department of Fisheries and Oceans Technical Support consultant Jack Newman pleased with the restoration job on French Creek.

After a summer of back breaking work by volunteers, the bank stabilization project on a section of French Creek that runs through the Hof Waldeck farm is complete. In the months to come, when fish begin spawning, the true success of the project will be seen.

Members of the Friends of French Creek Conservation Society (FFCCS) joined with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the land owner to undertake a fish habitat restoration project. By all accounts the hard work has paid off.

Sandy Robinson of the FFCCS was in charge of organizing the project and said many groups came together to make it happen and together they have accomplished so much.

“The work went really well. It was a hard, sweaty job packing all the sand bags,” he told a gathering of volunteers at the site on October 4.

The sand bags were used during construction to stabilize a section of the bank along the creek to contain sediment.

DFO Technical Support Consultant Jack Newman, who was overseeing the project, said the work done will stop erosion of the bank and retain sediment which is important to the fish spawning grounds in the creek.

He said there are three components of a stream — the pools, the shallow and riffle.

In the section of the creek where work was done, Newman said the riffle looks good and in November that is where Coho, Chum and Steelhead will lay their eggs.

He said at this point the structural changes made to the creek should make for healthy spawning grounds.

What is good for the fish is also good for the farm.

Owner and operator of the farm near Morningstar Golf Course, Claudia Bruyckere said the area where the erosion was taking place was near her irrigation site. Had the project not gone forward, installing rip rap and securing large woody debris, it would have meant huge structural changes at the farm, she said.

“The work provides fish habitat and protects my bank,” she admitted.

She said when a big maple tree blew down last winter on the edge of the creek, not only did it block the creek, it changed the way it flowed and that was causing a lot of erosion.

Ray Tinkling of R T Excavating, in charge of placing the giant boulders along the creek bank, was referred to as “The Artist” of the project.

He said he was humbled to be given such a title and really enjoyed doing his share of the project.

Tinkling said it wasn’t the biggest project he has worked on but one of the most satisfying.

“This was a pleasant project. Coming down and seeing it is very rewarding,” he said.

One of the excavator’s other projects includes the rock walls at French Creek Marina.

In order for the project to get off the ground close to $40,000 was needed and thanks to grants from a number of agencies not only was the work completed on budget, there was even a little money left over for a maintenance fund.

Robinson said putting the funding together was huge and he is impressed with how many groups stepped up financially.  They include — Pacific Salmon Foundation, Fortis BC, Epcor, BC Hydro, Parksville-Qualicum Fish and Game Association, Coast Capital Credit Union, BC Wildlife Federation, Habitat Conservation and Trust Foundation and Island Timberlands.

The hard work which began on July 28, 2011 is now a shining example of community members coming together for a good cause. Over over time volunteers will plant trees and native plants to re-establish a healthy riparian cover and effect further bank stabilization.