Peninsula Streams’ Ian Bruce, left, is pictured inside the large Atkins Road culvert. (Peninsula Streams)

Something fishy going on near Langford’s Mill Hill Park

$500,000 project will help open up more habitat for fish in Millstream Creek

If all goes according to plan, there will soon be more room near Langford’s Mill Hill for fish to find places to live, eat and have sex.

Design and engineering work has begun on an estimated $500,000 Millstream Creek Fishway project at the Atkins Road culvert to create a way for salmon and trout to access more of Millstream Creek. Where the creek reaches the culvert — a structure of 3.66 metres in height that allows the creek to pass under Atkins Road — there is currently no way for salmon in the creek to access its upper reaches. Ian Bruce, executive director of Peninsula Streams, says creating a way for fish to get there, will give migrating fish the ability to reach eight kilometres more habitat.

Bruce said that for the last 25 years, organizations like the Goldstream Hatchery and municipalities of Langford and View Royal, have been working in the lower reaches of Millstream Creek to improve salmon habitat. He said a camera in the area recorded around 700 Coho salmon having reached the pool below the culvert in 2016.

From there, they can go no further.

Above the culvert, Bruce said, there are Cutthroat trout and creating access will allow those and all fish the ability to move freely in additional habitat. To get them there, Peninsula Streams is spearheading the program to build a fishway and place baffles inside the culvert. That would allow fish to move up into the culvert and swim to the other side. They are hoping to use a similar design as the fishway built in Tod Creek near Butchart Gardens in 2015, which allowed fish better access to the upper portion of the creek as they arrived from Tod Inlet.

“This is the next big step,” Bruce said.

He added this would be an introduction of salmon into the creek’s upper reaches and a continuation of work down downstream to increase the numbers of returning salmon to area streams.

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, under the DFO’s Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, will have to be matched by donations. Bruce said fundraising is going on for that right now.

The first phase — the design and engineering this year — will cost an estimated $90,000. Once that’s done and plans are set, construction is hoped to begin in 2018 and cost around $420,000.

Peter McCully, technical advisor with the Goldstream Hatchery, said their organization has been working on Millstream Creek since 1992, when they introduced Coho into the waterway. For a few years, he said they used volunteer labour to catch returning adult salmon, placing them above the falls at tidewater.

“Doing that convinced us that Coho survival in the creek was viable,” McCully said.

Over the years, he said they sought permission from DFO to build fishways in the creek, allowing salmon and trout to reach the pond under the culvert.

“The old culvert was built at a time when there was no consideration of fish movement,” he said.

Goldstream Hatchery currently feeds juvenile salmon into an upstream pond at Bear Mountain.

McCully said he feels if there was better access at the culvert, the creek could become self-sustaining and eliminate the need for the Hatchery to keep feeding it young fish.

“That is always our goal,” he continued. “We use the Hatchery as a tool to improve waterways to the point where they can sustain themselves and there’s no more need for human interventions.”

People are invited to see what the project is all about at an open house Sat., Sept. 30 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Mill Hill Regional Park parking lot.

There will be stream tours available and information on hand, describing the scope of the project and Peninsula Streams’ fundrasing efforts.

editor@peninsulanewsreview.com

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This CRD map shows the outline of Millstream Creek (in blue) and some of ther trails at Mill Hill Regional Park. Plans are to make it easier for fish to get through the Atkins Road culvert.

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