A project to restore Vedder River salmon and trout habitat will soon see a stream meander through the middle of the Vedder River Family Campground where no stream meandered before.
Slated for completion in December, the new waterway will create 42,000 square metres of new habitat for Chinook, chum, coho and pink salmon as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout.
The project is one of three fish-habitat conservation projects planned in the Chilliwack-area, and Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl was on the banks of the Vedder River by Hopedale Slough Thursday to announce $318,500 in federal grants to support the work.
"The Fraser River, the Vedder River are things that people identify with when they think about Chilliwack, and we want to make sure that those resources are in those rivers for generations to come," Strahl said.
The funds are coming from the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, a federal initiative established after the last budget to protect and improve recreational fisheries habitat.
For the Vedder River project and another project at Elbow Creek (a tributary of the Harrison River) ,$174,500 is being funneled through the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF).
The federal government will partner with Ducks Unlimited for another $144,000 to rebuild the Cheam Lake Water Control to restore access to Cheam Lake and upstream habitat for spawning coho and cutthroat trout.
The federal funds are critical, according PSF director of salmon recovery Dianne Ramage.
Watershed groups, like the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition (FVWC), which is leading the Vedder River project locally, are already doing all they can in terms of small-scale projects with volunteer labour, shovels and small machines, she said.
"The projects that need to be done now are like this, where it takes multiple levels of government to come together. It takes more than one stewardship group and it takes big amounts of money." Before Labour Day, heavy machinery was on site at the Vedder River project laying a water intake system through the dike that will wet Hopedale Slough through the summer months and feed the new stream soon to be dug through the Vedder River Family Campground.
"The whole idea is to recharge the area, bring the water levels up, add channels, pocket habitat for coho, for all the little guys, so that they can mature," FVWC project manager Natashia Cox said.
Spawning and juvenile salmon don't survive well in the main stem of the river, Department of Fisheries and Oceans senior biologist Matt Foy said. During some parts of the year, they have to take refuge in calmer, more food-rich off channels.
"When you have dike systems, you don't have a lot of choices," he said.
The Vedder River project, which will cost a total of $250,025, will connect the river with the slough, which is currently isolated by the dike.
The project is scheduled for completion in December, but FVWC is looking for volunteer help to plant the banks of the new stream Nov. 9, 12 and 13.
For more information, visit www.fvwc.ca.
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