It was a crisp day in March last year when we began our first day of fieldwork for Resilient Waters. Our site at Yorkson Creek in Langley, where we would test water quality, assess fish populations and monitor flood control structures, was the first of about twenty sites we planned to collect data at last year. Lead by Pearson Ecological staff, the group also included a First Nations field technician, myself and a volunteer.

Meghan Rooney COVID-safe in the field

Sampling in a small waterway in an urban setting presents some unique challenges. The first challenge is often access to a site. Many of the sites we want to visit are bordered by private land. Once you find a spot to launch your canoe filled with gear, the journey to the sampling site often requires a lot of portaging (canoe carrying) to get around large trees that block sections of the waterways.

On that March day, when we finally reached our destination, the team began setting the fish traps that would be collected the following day. At the same time, across the country, the Prime Minister announced new measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Beaver Dam, Chilliwack B.C.

Within minutes of the announcement, we shut things down. We pulled the traps back up and packed everything out. The original plan was to push back work for a few weeks, and then as we (and everyone else) began to come to terms that this would not blow over in a few weeks, the decision was made to delay fieldwork until 2021. 

This month, we have finally launched the fieldwork we had to cancel last year. It will look a bit different this time around. We won’t be able to have volunteers join us out in the field and will be limiting involvement to a small crew and, of course, wearing masks.

Nelson Slough, Chilliwack B.C.

Despite the changes, I am thrilled to get out there again, collecting important baseline data on many waterways across the lower mainland. Stay tuned this spring for some updates from the field and check out Resilient Waters to learn more about the project.

Resilient Waters, a project to identify and prioritize flood control infrastructure projects in the lower Fraser River, supports our Connected Waters campaign. The goal of Connected Waters is to reconnect vital salmon habitats in the lower Fraser blocked by outdated flood control structures. Loss of habitat is a key factor in the decline of struggling Fraser salmon populations and currently, over 1500 km of salmon habitat is blocked by aging flood gates that don’t allow fish passage, and by flood pumps that literally kill fish.

Funded through the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, the Resilient Waters team includes staff from Watershed Watch, Kerr Wood Leidal, Pearson Ecological and MakeWay.