Most Recent Releases:
16 November, 2018
Since late Summer we’ve seen a high level of turbidity in the river, downstream from the confluence with the Slocan River.
The turbidity comes from a slide located approximately three kilometers up the Little Slocan River that occurred in 2012. The initial event brought down a lot of material (soil, trees, etc.). Efforts were made by the landowners and Streamkeepers to plant native species in the actively eroding sections of the slide, and it worked. Willows, other trees and shrubs grew very well, and many reached a height of two to three meters. Then last May the slope slid again, covering established vegetation and depositing a large amount of material in the river. The slide also grew and has expanded to reach an earlier slide that came down in 1997. Fortunately, most of the trees and shrubs, some planted by the boy scouts at that time, are still standing.
You probably recall other events like the Gwillim Creek and Mulvey Creek slides in 2013, which were bad. But the sediments in the river settled in a few weeks. Unfortunately, the May slide on the Little Slocan is very large and exposed clay and silt was deposited on both side of the channel. That clay is slowly leaching into the river (especially after heavy rain).
What causes these slides? Do they impact aquatic life and what can be done to prevent them? The south side of the lower Little Slocan River flows beside a Kame terrace. Passmore Upper Road is on top of the terrace. These formations were created after the last ice age when sediment accumulated in ponds and lakes trapped between lobes of glacial ice or between a glacier and the valley side. If you look west along the terrace, you’ll see evidence of numerous slides that have occurred over hundreds of years – long before humans settled the valley.
Hydrologists told us these slides occur when surface water seeps underground and eventually meets a layer of clay. The clay acts as a barrier and the water (and clay) begin to move horizontally. This initiates the slide. The clay/water mixture spills out into the river and, because the clay particles are so small, they take a long time to settle. This phenomenon also occurs in glacial lakes where the water is always turbid. Vegetation may slow the process down for a while, but slide activity picks up again when we get high flows & lots of rain.
The slide has greatly affected fish and fish habitat, but fish can swim upstream. Other aquatic life – insect larvae, snails, frogs, vegetation – are more stationary and suffer more from lost habitat and food. Water quality in the small pools is impacted. The sediment becomes anaerobic and toxic to life.
Does human activity make the problem worse? Of course, land that’s been logged has more exposure to water. Whenever we alter or block side channels, the river is directed to the other bank causing more erosion on the exposed side. Many years of logging and road building do change the hydrology of a river. But slides also occur naturally, and it isn’t possible to cite one cause.
This slide will take a while to recover, but the river life will return.
4 October, 2018
Slocan River Streamkeepers to screen Incomappleux film in Winlaw
The Streamkeepers invite one and all to come to Winlaw Hall on October 13 and watch the beautiful “Primeval: Enter the Incomappleux”. Audiences all over BC have described this documentary by award- winning filmmaker Damien Gillis as “breathtaking.”
Filmed deep in the heart of BC’s Selkirk Mountains, this 20-minute documentary is the story of the majesty, magic and endurance of one of the world’s last truly intact temperate rainforests — the incomparable Incomappleux!
Damien Gillis joined-in with an expedition of conservationists, biologists and wilderness explorers to document the nature and history of this unique place, replete with 2,000-year-old trees and rare lichens. The film outlines a plan to preserve the area through a new provincial or national park.
The Incomappleux River is a major tributary of the Columbia River in BC. The River issues from glaciers deep in the wilderness of Glacier National Park, and its valley is at the heart of Valhalla Wilderness Society’s proposal: the Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park Proposal. While logging has diminished much of the valley’s ancient forests, the core of the primeval forested valley is thought to have been growing undisturbed since the last ice age. So far, it has been preserved through dedicated efforts by conservationists, but activists continue to confront the possibility of industrial encroachment.
Craig Pettitt, director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society, and biologist Amber Peters will bring the film to Winlaw for the showing. The VWS initiated the making of the film “because we wanted people everywhere to experience, in some way, this ancient heritage known by our ancestors.” At 7:00 pm Craig will present, as a prelude, a slide show about the VWS’s park proposal and the state of BC’s mountain caribou before the film is run. Admission by donation. Doors will open at 6:30 pm.
1 May, 2017
Slocan River Ecology: Working Toward Our Future
Since the Slocan River Streamkeepers Society began, in 2003, the organization has pursued a mission to protect and restore the aquatic and riparian ecosystems of the Slocan River through research, monitoring, education, and restoration. Aware of critical components of a healthy functioning river system, the Streamkeepers were happy to take on a project (starting in 2004) funded by Columbia Power Corporation. Part of an approach to protecting and restoring riparian zones, it involved planting shrubs and native trees (such as cottonwoods and willows), and placing rocks and logs in the river to create habitat for trout. Streamkeepers have done the work and relied on the landowners who had offered their land for project sites to water the plants afterwards. Working with over 30 private landowners, Streamkeepers have completed 35 projects, or the equivalent of 6 km of riparian riverbank restored. These projects can be seen in various places along the river, mainly between Perry Siding and Slocan Park.
The funder’s objectives have been met and that particular Riparian Restoration Program will gradually wind down. At present, there is still some funding available to restore riparian areas along Slocan River. So if you own riverfront property you can get in touch with the Slocan River Streamkeepers’ restoration ecologist to request an assessment for possible restoration work.
Or call Greg: 250-226-7302
Among the results of work done in the valley by Streamkeepers and numerous scientists are the many studies and various monitoring projects that have provided biologists with valuable information on the health of the Slocan River and adjacent lands. The accumulating data and understanding have widened the scope of the Streamkeepers’ projects, with wetlands emerging as an area of practical interest. From 2012 onward, ortho air photos of the entire Slocan riparian corridor enabled mapping and identification of critical habitat and potential projects, in turn making a Sensitive Ecosystem Inventory possible. Slocan River Streamkeepers invite you to look at some of the studies and updates on their projects on their website: http://www.slocanriverstreamkeepers.com
Slocan Valley residents know their valley is special, and part of what makes it so is the valley’s riparian land naturally supporting cottonwood groves integral to river health. Once abundant, cottonwood forests have shrunk to mere fragments of their previous extents. This is partly due to human habitation – many people have understandably wanted homesites near the river. At the regional scale, another factor is that major rivers have undergone channeling and diversion. (Much of the original riparian cottonwood forests on the Columbia and upper Kootenay rivers, for example, have been drowned under reservoirs.)
Cottonwoods grow quickly and, when they fall into the river, the wood provides shelter and habitat for fish and aquatic animals. They also provide nutrients to microorganisms and insects, which in turn nourish fish and other animals. Both living and dead trees on land provide food and homes to insects, birds and many animals. Cottonwoods and other vegetation store carbon and keep air and water temperatures cool in summer (trout, for instance, prefer colder water), and help stabilize slopes and stream banks along the river.
There is both need and opportunity for new projects. The Slocan River Streamkeepers have ideas, but they also want to hear from you. As a valley resident, where do you feel things need to go? Share your thoughts via the email address given above (there is also a “Contact” link on the Streamkeepers’ website).
And please note: everyone is invited to the Streamkeepers upcoming AGM, May 18th, 7:00pm at Passmore Hall.
17 March, 2017
Don’t Drain the Swamp!
Wetlands are an important part of our ecosystems. They provide habitat for a diversity of species of plants and animals (including rare species) and also store, filter and purify water. There are many types of wetlands: swamp, bog, fen, marsh and shallow water wetlands.
The Slocan Valley has a diversity of wetlands from the bottom valley to the mountain slopes and ridges, and the Slocan River Streamkeepers have been studying, assessing and mapping many wetlands in the Slocan Valley by initiating and being a part of the Slocan Wetlands Assessment and Monitoring Project (SWAMP). Many wetlands were identified and mapped and the health of those wetlands was also assessed.
Wetlands (including swamps) have often been seen with a negative eye throughout the ages. We have feared them and have drained, cleared and filled the wetlands for many years in most part of the world, for agricultural, industrial and housing purposes. In the Columbia Basin we have lost many wetlands following the building of large dams for water storage and electricity production.
Recognizing the essential role of wetlands in a fully functioning ecosystem, an increasing number of people are looking at restoring the many functions of wetlands.
Many wetland restoration projects have evolved in the last few years across the Columbia Basin and other parts of the province. Many of these projects have been initiated by BC Wildlife Federation with assistance and training from Tom Biebighauser, a wetland restoration expert from Kentucky.
At least three projects have been initiated and are evolving in the Slocan Valley.
The most recent one, on a small organic farm in Winlaw, is coordinated by the Slocan River Streamkeepers with funding from Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and The National Wetland Conservation Fund administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Other local funders and organizations have also contributed in kind to the project.
The main goal of the project is to create habitat for a diversity of species including amphibians such as Columbia spotted frog, western toad, painted turtles, and for a diversity of birds, bats and other animals, as well as macroinvertebrates that will provide food for the birds and for the fish living in the river. Some of those species are also allies to the organic farmers, amphibians, birds and bats that will also help control insect problem on the farm.
Many aspects of the restoration project will also benefit landowners (organic farmers), by mitigating climate extremes as a result of holding and storing water on the land for a longer period of time. The extreme temperature and cycles of flooding and drought will be mitigated in both the medium and long term.
The soil that was excavated during the project was used to raise the level of the land that was subject to seasonal flooding allowing the farmers to start planting earlier in the season. Other benefits may include the possibility of growing edible and medicinal plants in the wetlands.
Long-term benefit includes carbon storage, climate mitigation, reduction of extreme flooding and drought, water storage and purification, etc.
If you’re a landowner and you’re interested in the possibility of creating or restoring a wetland on your property you can come to our Open House or contact the Restoration Ecologist of the Slocan River Streamkeepers: Greg: 250-226-7302 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Slocan River Streamkeepers are inviting everyone to join us for a presentation and Open House about the Wetlands and Wetland Restoration in the Slocan Valley on Sunday March 26 (1-3pm) at Winlaw Hall on Hwy 6 in Winlaw.
The Slocan River Streamkeepers Society’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held May 18th at 7pm at Passmore Hall. Everyone is welcome!