It seems so long ago, but it’s only been six years since a few of us in Fanny Bay began wondering how climate change might affect our water supply. This idle pondering led to the formation of a watershed stewardship group. At first, we thought the Wilfred Creek Watershed Stewards was the obvious name for our new group. But someone pointed out the importance of Cowie Creek. And what about the Tsable? And Waterloo Creek and Mud Bay Creek watersheds, we decided, must have an effect the water table in south Fanny Bay. Finally, a wise, retired geologist pointed out that all of our water, ultimately, flows from the Beaufort Range. The Beaufort Watershed Stewards (BWS) was born.
BWS early days were filled with expeditionary hikes up our local creeks. We explored where creeks crossed under highways and logging roads. We bushwhacked up hills to find the ideal sampling site and the best path into each site. We got to know the local wildlife, from bears and weasels, eagles, and dippers, to small frogs and wireworms. We studied where natural erosion has created huge cliffs of exposed aggregate and where water rushes over flat expanses of shale and sandstone with only caddis fly larva to provide visual detail. We learned the fine art of measuring the water volume as a stream moves along its course. We had a blast.
And then we began collecting data. Data and empty beer cans. Data because that is the only thing that will answer our original question and beer cans because refundables have become a significant BWS revenue stream. Of course, to have any value, data and refundables must be processed. Now, BWS tasks include crunching numbers and sorting empties. This tends to take away from our time in the woods. So, when our friend, Arin Yeomans-Routledge, owner of Weaver Technical, Corp. invited several BWS members to join him and his colleague, Katie Schulze, to assess stream conditions in one of our larger creeks, we jumped at the chance.
It was a sunny, hot day but there was lots of shade and the water was cool. Despite the low water, there were no spots so dry that adult salmon couldn’t make their way upstream. Indeed, we counted about 380 Pink Salmon. (Arin will report this number to Jacob Merville, Community Advisor for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.) We saw lots of small cutthroat trout, a few sculpins, and one crawdad. There were the usual avian delights – dippers, kingfishers, and eagles. We also saw an ammonite in fossilized form. (Though we missed the living version by a few million years.) This time of year, there are often dead salmon on the banks, dragged out of the creek by bears. Once, as we came around a bend in the stream, we scared an eagle off a carcass. We witnessed the awe-inspiring sight of the great bird flying straight towards us and then up and over our heads, the sound of its wings full in our ears.
Our path was tracked by a GPS recorder, and this allowed us to create an updated map of the creek. Existing provincial maps were created in 1998 using aerial imagery and things have changed a lot since then. We noted two new side channels in the creek and a large mid-channel gravel bar.
But what made this outing truly special was that we remembered what it felt like when we first started this crazy project. Just six short years ago.