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Whistler waterways get top marks



Stream quality good, although more work is needed

Whistler’s network of creeks, rivers and other waterways got a passing grade from the Whistler Fisheries Stewardship Group, as the organization put together data assembled by volunteers monitoring water quality.

"The water quality is really pretty good," said Tobin Seagel, volunteer co-ordinator for the WFSG. "We’ve never been able to monitor as many creeks as we have this year, but because of the great volunteer turnout we’re getting a pretty good picture of what’s happening in the valley."

The recent flooding events had a significant short-term impact on the water quality, although less than expected, said Seagel. The flooding may have also had an impact on spawning as the rushing water likely washed away some of the gravel beds that protected rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon eggs.

Both species also spawn in lakeshore areas, which weren’t as affected by the flooding, and it could take years to discover what the event will mean for local fish populations.

The hot summer and a relatively dry winter also might impact on fish populations, said Seagel, which will make it harder to pin any population changes on the flood.

Still, Seagel sees the flooding as a natural, if unusual, event that most creeks handled quite well, and he is confident that fish habitat will bounce back.

"In the long run, we might actually see that the flood had a beneficial effect on the rivers because it re-deposited logs and other features in the water, and pulled in nutrients. The more diverse a river is, the better it is for the fish," said Seagel.

Prior to the flooding, volunteers monitoring rivers counted an average run of trout and a lower than average run of salmon.

Because the program to reintroduce salmon in the area is only four years old and fish counts only began in 2001, a lower than expected salmon run is no reason to worry, said Seagel – it could take a decade or more before runs become regular and the WFSG has enough baseline data collected to make comparisons.

Seagel credits a strong core of 22 volunteers checking water quality and counting fish for the success of this year’s study. "Because of the support we were able to look at more rivers and collect more data," said Seagel.

The data will be used to determine where in-stream and edge-of- water projects may be needed in the future to improve fish habitat.

The volunteers measured water temperature, dissolved oxygen, acidity and turbidity (clarity) on different waterways to come up with an overall water quality index number for each water.

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