Bowker Creek has a history of bursting at its seams, particularly in the open Oak Bay section, as soon as a heavy rainfall hits.
It’s a sign the creek that flows through Saanich, Oak Bay and Victoria isn’t as healthy as it could be, and testing the flow of the stream is a consistent effort for those working to rehabilitate the waterway.
“We need to know the flow measurements because that’s really the measure of how well we’re doing upstream from here, managing rainwater. If we get better at getting rainwater into the ground instead of into the storm drains the flow will be more moderate,” said Gerald Harris, Friends of Bowker Creek Society director.
Currently, Bowker tends to flash, rising quickly during heavy rains and high tides, with a low trickle trickle in the summer
“It’ll be a healthier stream,” Harris said.
So seeing a woman in waders in the middle of the waterway at the end of Armstrong Avenue the morning after heavy overnight rainfall isn’t that odd.
Volunteers take measurements, using several tools including a float and measuring stick, to gather information for a mathematical curve to calculate flow.
Restoring salmon, in the long run, relies on restoring the health of the whole stream ecosystem, including a more moderate water flow. Friends and the Peninsula Streams Society plan to place chum salmon eggs in the creek come February, in hopes of restoring salmon stocks.
The poor health of the creek now results from 20th century stormwater management, Harris said.
“We saw rainwater simply as a problem and built our cities to get rid of it as quickly as possible. We converted the creek into an efficient storm sewer. A raindrop falls on our street, roof or parking lot and we can send it to the Salish Sea within minutes, along with whatever chemicals it can wash along with it.”
In the first rain after a long hot summer, he noted that the creek ran “black” for a full day.
“Water quality likely dropped to a deadly level for salmon or trout. That’s why we chose to start by restoring chum salmon; they enter the creek after that first fall flush and the juveniles leave the creek before summer low water,” Harris said.
Other work continues, including expanding native species’ plantings along the shores. “A raindrop that falls in a natural ecosystem is put to work for life, cycled and recycled. It might take months to move through the soil to the creek and to the sea as clean water,” Harris said. “In the long run, restoring salmon in Bowker Creek depends on how we handle the raindrops that fall in Bowker Creek’s valley. For a healthy creek, we need green rainwater infrastructure throughout the catchment area.”
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