Volunteers at Bell Slough

Volunteers at Bell Slough

This past Saturday, Watershed Watch staff and volunteers planted 200 native shrubs and trees along the banks of Bell Slough in Chilliwack at an event organized by Friends of Bell Slough, and attended by the City of Chilliwack, Islamic Relief Canada, and Fraser Valley Invasive Species Society.

This event was inspired by Chilliwack residents, including Marissa Klassen and her family, who have property backing onto Bell Slough. Growing concerned about the decline of the slough, the Klassens reached out to Watershed Watch earlier this year to discuss how to improve the waterway.

Roxanna and volunteers at yellowflag iris removal event on Bell Slough

Roxanna and volunteers at yellow flag iris removal event on Bell Slough

From there, the Friends of Bell Slough was formed; a group of nearly two dozen residents whose properties back onto the slough. Friends of Bell Slough has since taken on an active role as stewards of the slough, hosting several restoration events, including an invasive plant removal earlier this year targeting yellow flag iris, a plant that grows so thick it can choke the waterway, reducing flow and outcompeting native vegetation for space and sunlight. The group maintains frequent contact with the City of Chilliwack, pushing forward initiatives to improve water quality and habitat.

Bell Slough was once rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and home to other native fish and wildlife, but has been degraded over the years by development, destruction of riparian vegetation, agricultural practices and the spread of invasive plants and animals. Invasive pumpkinseed and brown bullhead are often the only fish species found in the waterway as they can tolerate lower dissolved oxygen levels and higher water temperatures.

Volunteer hauling garbage from Bell Slough cleanup

Volunteer hauling garbage from Bell Slough clean-up

Though Bell Slough needs a lot of work before it can once again be thriving salmon habitat, the willow, dogwood and other native species planted along 170 metres of streambank this past weekend will help shade the waterway, keeping water temperatures down and hopefully reduce the likelihood of future fish die-offs that have occurred in the past, including this past summer.

Friends of Bell Slough is one of many small, volunteer-run streamkeeping groups working to restore waterways for fish, wildlife, and the public. We look forward to supporting their initiatives and working to improve local waterways for wild salmon and other species. Interested in supporting a streamkeeping group in your community? Find out more about streamkeeping and how to connect with local organizations.