Kylye Nelson was shocked to see the condition of a popular swimming hole on Norrish Creek in late July.
When she arrived in the area, a short walk from Hawkins Pickle Road in the Fraser Valley Regional District, Nelson said other disappointed recreational users turned and left. A sign read ‘Beach closed until September 16’.
“There is nothing here. There’s not even a beach anymore, it’s not a swimming hole anymore – it’s knee-deep,” she said. “Before, I could swim completely under the railway bridge – deep enough to cover my head.”
Nelson, who has been there since he was 10, said the water was “incredibly” shallow compared to how deep it was last summer.
A bulldozer on sight appears to have dramatically altered the once-scenic area that runs under the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) bridge along the fish-breeding stream. Rocks had been pushed to one side and piled up, and a standing pool of brown water sits beside the creek.
The ongoing works, however, are not responsible for the altered hydrology of the stream; this is an attempt to repair the environmental damage caused by atmospheric river events in November 2021, according to an email from a spokesperson for the Leq’á:mel First Nation.
The project is being led by CP in consultation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the Leq’á:mel First Nation. The latter act as environmental monitors because the works are carried out on their territory and are of significant cultural and environmental importance.
Its purpose is to remove bedload and debris from the stream below the CPR bridge. Bedload is sediment – sand, gravel, rocks and other natural deposits – which are transported downstream by rolling along the bottom of rivers, streams or streams.
Atmospheric rivers have caused an “unprecedented” amount of sediment to be deposited in Norrish Creek, the effects of which “will likely be felt for years to come,” the Leq’á:mel spokesperson said.
Extreme weather has led to multiple landslides, exacerbating already vulnerable sediment conditions due to a history of poor forestry practices, clearcutting and poor road construction in the watershed, the spokesperson said. .
The amount of sediment in the watercourse not only poses a risk to CPR’s infrastructure, but also to the aquatic environment of Norrish Creek.
“Although it may appear that heavy equipment is significantly altering the site, the project aims to add complexity to the creek bed to promote biodiversity in the aquatic system,” Leq’s spokesperson said. á:mel, noting that DFO and Fish Habitat Protection Program are regularly on site.
DFO said by email that sediment removal is underway in an appropriate timeframe to avoid disrupting fish spawning cycles.
The Leq’á:mel spokesperson said he was assured that the site would be restored “as close to nature as possible to ensure the survival of a natural aquatic habitat”, following the project.
They said, however, that the watershed faces significant challenges from human activity upstream of Norrish Creek, and that removal of sediment along the creek will likely continue until slopes can be stabilized. to avoid further damage.
“Leq’á:mel advocates long-term debris and sediment checkpoint solutions that allow for regular preventative maintenance, a smaller footprint in the watercourse, and at a less environmentally sensitive location in the watercourse”, the Leq’á: Mel’s spokesperson said.