Saanich Parks has been busy restoring sections of the fish-bearing Colquitz River, providing habitat and shelter for returning salmon and trout.

Saanich Parks has been busy restoring sections of the fish-bearing Colquitz River, providing habitat and shelter for returning salmon and trout.

Fish-friendly restoration taking root along Saanich’s Colquitz River

A lot has been happening along the Colquitz River in Cuthbert Holmes Park, and it’s not only Saanich residents that will benefit.

In fact, much of the work currently under way has the needs of fish specifically in focus!

The Saanich Parks team has been busy restoring sections of the river each year along this fish-bearing waterway. Currently they’re working on a 200-metre stretch behind Silver City Theatre that will include two off-channel habitats cut into the stream bank to provide habitat and shelter for returning salmon and trout, with four more coming in 2022, says Rick Hatch, Saanich Parks Assistant Supervisor of Natural Areas.

The measures aim to return the river to what it would have been like before European settlement. Over the years, deforestation and removal of the rocks and plants have also removed shelter and habitat for fish, insects and other vital elements of the ecosystem.

“The Colquitz River is one of the few urban salmon-bearing streams around the south Island,” Rick says. While it’s too early to tell if the measures will significantly boost salmon numbers, by working with biologists and conservation teams, “we know we’re creating the best habitat possible,” Rick says.

Among the planned additions is an under-water camera that will allow volunteers to count salmon without physically removing them from the water – definitely an easier approach for the fish.

Part of a five-year project, the multi-faceted initiative also involves restoring the forest canopy with native trees, thanks in part to a provincial government grant to replace trees removed during the McKenzie overpass construction.

Relocating the main trail will avoid seasonal flooding and allow for replacement of invasive English hawthorn trees with native tree species.

The resulting 30m native plant buffer will improve river health with high-quality habitat, including a trembling aspen woodland that will bring a longer blooming period, more habitat options and increase the number and variety of birds and insects the park can support – a boost to the local area’s biodiversity.

“Within three to five years, it will look like a whole new forest, a much healthier, diversified ecosystem more like it would have been pre-development,” Rick says.

Last year, Saanich Parks, with the help of community volunteers like Salmon in the City and Peninsula Streams Society, restored a section of river in Copley East Park, including adding several river viewing areas to further boost the community’s Natural Intelligence – and the idea that by giving back to nature, nature takes care of you.

As we head into fall, it’s the perfect time to check out the restoration of Saanich’s urban waterways, stop by those viewing areas and see how many fish you can spot!

Learn more about Saanich Parks’ restoration efforts here.