Millard/Piercy Watershed Stewards volunteers are seen checking for salmon presence in Piercy Creek at Comox Logging Road. Photo supplied

Millard/Piercy Watershed Stewards volunteers are seen checking for salmon presence in Piercy Creek at Comox Logging Road. Photo supplied

Piercy Creek habitat assessment project launched

For more than 20 years, Millard/Piercy Watershed Stewards have worked to enhance the salmonid populations of Millard/Piercy watershed. This work has included improvements to spawning and rearing areas, planting of streamside vegetation, removal of barriers to fish migration, operation of a small hatchery, water quality sampling and engagement of property owners within the watershed.

Piercy Creek, the largest tributary of Millard Creek, is subject to low flows during the dry summer months and sudden high flows following rainstorms in fall and winter. During summer, the upper reaches often dry to a series of unconnected pools causing stress and mortality to trapped fish while winter storms wash out juvenile salmon and destroy eggs in the gravel.

To help improve coho productivity, in recent years, the Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards have installed two spawning and rearing channels in the lower Piercy Creek system and planted native vegetation adjacent to streams. However, there is more to do.

This June, Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards initiated a project to assess fish habitat in the mainstem and tributaries of Piercy Creek upstream of the Highway 19 connector. Volunteers, under the direction of Current Environmental Ltd., have begun collecting data on streambed composition, riparian (streamside) vegetation and water quality. Fish surveying will determine the seasonal distribution of coho salmon and cutthroat trout. Flow monitoring will also take place. An important component of the project is to engage with people living within the Piercy Creek watershed to encourage their participation in building and maintaining a healthy watershed.

Field work will extend over several months then Current Environmental Ltd. will analyze the data and prepare a report early in 2021. The purpose of the project is to identify options for future enhancement activities, especially for coho, and to provide a basis to help guide future development within the watershed in an environmentally sustainable way.

Thanks to the financial support of the Pacific Salmon Foundation, City of Courtenay, Comox Valley Regional District, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and McElhanney Ltd. and the expertise of Current Environmental Ltd. employees, the Piercy Creek Habitat Assessment Project has been able to proceed.

To learn more about MPWS or to become a volunteer, visit www.millardpiercy.org

Comox Valley

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