Barbara Cantelon surveys a section of West Creek, which runs along the back of the property where she lives in the Gloucester Industrial Estates area of east Aldergrove. Troy Landreville Langley Times

Fish sightings encourages protectors of West Creek

Township wetland ‘constantly under pressure from aggressive development’

A local environmental group is concerned about the danger development poses to the survival of fish in West Creek.

But they’re not entirely without hope.

“The very good news is that there are definitely coho in the creek — lots of them judging by the recent feeding frenzy of the Kingfisher and Herons,” West Creek Awareness Group member Lynda Lightfoot wrote, in an email to the Times.

“They were identified by local biologists and the DFO as two-year-old coho smolts ready to return to the Fraser River and appropriately enough, on Earth Day, they had all vacated the creek and detention ponds.

This is nature at work, no intervention by us, and proof that West Creek as a salmon bearing creek is alive and well, the young thriving on the nutrients provided in the wetland, and most deserving of our protection.”

Lynda’s husband Ted Lightfoot said the group “suspected (the fish) were here because we had evidence when they pumped out one of the control valves and it spewed out some of the salmon, and really that was the first indication that we had trout and salmon in West Creek.”

Lynda said, however, that the future of the wetland is “constantly under pressure from aggressive development.”

Fellow group member Bob Armstrong agrees.

As a retired DFO employee, Armstrong conducted DFO studies on a number of B.C. coastal streams, as well as the Fraser River area including the Vedder, Harrison, Shuswap and Thompson rivers. Armstrong has published several DFO technical reports on trapping and tagging adult and juvenile salmon and salmon egg collection methods.

He describes West Creek as “one of the most important streams for coho salmon, steelhead and trout on the south side of the Fraser from Ladner to Abbotsford” and believes the spawning and rearing capability of the Upper West creek is being threatened by diverting the creek through a pipe, thus eliminating several kilometers of spawning and rearing area.

Coho, steelhead and trout spawn in late fall and winter during high discharge water flow and Armstrong says they will not be able to migrate through a 100-metre-plus pipe.

“Furthermore, coho, steelhead and trout juveniles rear in fresh water streams after hatching for one to two years and require a natural food supply from a riparian area on the streamside to survive,” he added. “An earth-covered pipe will not enhance the survival of juvenile fish. The result is that the upper reaches of the West creek would be eliminated for spawning and juvenile rearing for all three species.”

Chum salmon spawn in the lower reaches of the creek and are not affected because chum fry migrate downstream after hatching and don’t rear in the creek, according to Armstrong.

The creek is a special place for Armstrong. He was raised nearby and spent time at the creek and as a result is familiar with the area from the Fraser River to Coghlan where his grandfather had a 160 acre farm encompassing West Creek.

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