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Give fish in Millstream Creek a step up

Groups hope to build fish ladder on Atkins Road culvert
The Atkins Road culvert is close to 3.5 metres above a pool of water along Millstream Creek. A new project hopes to make it easier for fish to get upstream. (Peninsula Streams photo)

Groups around Greater Victoria are hoping to give fish a step up in the West Shore.

Peninsula Streams Society, along with the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association, are hoping to build a fish ladder to help fish travelling through Millstream Creek, which runs through Langford, Colwood, View Royal and the Highlands.

Currently, when fish such as salmon and trout enter the Millstream Creek, they swim upstream, but once they reach the culvert at Atkins Road – a structure 3.66 metres high that allows the creek to pass under the Road – the fish cannot get past it, forcing them to find another place to spawn.

The goal is to build a so-called fish ladder to allow the fish to hop up the steps and access another eight kilometres of habitat for spawning and rearing.

“Even little fish can migrate up and down it as well,” said Ian Bruce, executive co-ordinator with Peninsula Streams.

“With climate change, the challenges to pacific salmon are going to be greater and greater. By opening up new habitat that is not available to them currently, it provides more opportunities for them to adapt and survive in uncertain environments in the future. It provides more fish and in an urban area.”

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The ladder is part of the society’s Millstream Creek Fishway Project. In September 2017, the first phase of the project got underway, and included design and engineering work at the Atkins Road culvert.

The second phase – which includes the construction of the ladder – is expected to cost around $420,000.

Peninsula Streams, working with Langford, View Royal, Colwood, Highlands, the province, federal government, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and others, applied for and received a $245,000 grant from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The money will have to be matched by donations.

So far they’ve raised roughly $100,000 of its $205,000 goal. But donations are still needed in order for the project to proceed. The society is selling steps in the fishway for $5,000 each, or residents can adopt 10 metres of habitat for $100, but all contributions help.

“We have to raise part of that $100,000 in the next two weeks so we can go ahead with the project,” Bruce said.

If all goes according to plan, Bruce hopes to begin construction on the steps in July.

It will take roughly six to eight weeks to complete, followed by a test run before fish can begin using the steps when they return to spawn in November.

Peter McCully, technical advisor with the Goldstream Hatchery, said the Goldstream Volunteer Salmonid Enhancement Association has been making improvements to the creek since 1992.

The new ladders will be of huge benefit to the fish.

“It means that more fish can be accommodated up stream and it’s really good habitat too. The Highlands hasn’t been developed to any great degree, so it’s quite pristine. It’s good quality habitat,” said McCully, adding in recent years, with the exception of last year, there were more than 800 salmon who make their way from the ocean to the Millstream Creek for spawning.

“It just offers a great deal more survival . . [The steps] make the climb that much easier.”

For more information on the Millstream Creek Fishway project or to volunteer visit

– With files from Steve Haywood

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