PHOTOS: Highway 1 improvements restoring fish habitat in Glacier National Park

Danielle Backman, impact assessment scientist for Glacier National Park, checks for bull trout on Connaught Creek. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)Danielle Backman, impact assessment scientist for Glacier National Park, checks for bull trout on Connaught Creek. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
When Highway 1 was built 57 years ago, little regard was given to fish. The culvert near Rogers Pass Discovery Centre was considered a high priority as fish could not pass through. In 2017, Parks Canada built a new culvert that was longer, wider and had a ground bottom. For the first time in over half a century, bull trout can cross Highway 1. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)When Highway 1 was built 57 years ago, little regard was given to fish. The culvert near Rogers Pass Discovery Centre was considered a high priority as fish could not pass through. In 2017, Parks Canada built a new culvert that was longer, wider and had a ground bottom. For the first time in over half a century, bull trout can cross Highway 1. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
This is called a box culvert. The Government of Canada pledged almost $3 billion in infrastructure funding to Canada’s national parks. The funding allows projects like this said Blackman to merge engineering and ecological integrity. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)This is called a box culvert. The Government of Canada pledged almost $3 billion in infrastructure funding to Canada’s national parks. The funding allows projects like this said Blackman to merge engineering and ecological integrity. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Last summer, Parks Canada improved the river’s bank. Making the river meander, built pools, planted vegetation that will eventually shade the creek and drop leaves, providing nutrients downstream. “It’s not easy to build a creek,” said Backman. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)Last summer, Parks Canada improved the river’s bank. Making the river meander, built pools, planted vegetation that will eventually shade the creek and drop leaves, providing nutrients downstream. “It’s not easy to build a creek,” said Backman. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Building the culvert. (Submitted)Building the culvert. (Submitted)
The old culvert ended with a high waterspout which did not allow fish to pass. (Submitted)The old culvert ended with a high waterspout which did not allow fish to pass. (Submitted)
Native species, such as fireweed are now growing along the bank, adding vibrance. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)Native species, such as fireweed are now growing along the bank, adding vibrance. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Parks Canada planted native seeds and willows to revegetate the bank. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)Parks Canada planted native seeds and willows to revegetate the bank. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
This is the end goal. To eventually have plants and willows tighly growing above the creek, providing shade and nutrients in the water below. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)This is the end goal. To eventually have plants and willows tighly growing above the creek, providing shade and nutrients in the water below. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The old creekbed has been kept as water seeps from the forest and mountains above. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)The old creekbed has been kept as water seeps from the forest and mountains above. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The old culvert. Parks Canada hopes it will be used as a corridor for animals, such as bears, to safely pass underneath Highway 1. So far, wildlife cameras have only captured pine martins using itl. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)The old culvert. Parks Canada hopes it will be used as a corridor for animals, such as bears, to safely pass underneath Highway 1. So far, wildlife cameras have only captured pine martins using itl. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The new culvert and the old. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)The new culvert and the old. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

When Highway 1 was built over Rogers Pass 57 years ago, the watershed was changed.

Creeks that once flowed unfettered, were now funneled through slick metal culverts, making it impossible for fish to continue upstream and spawn.

“Fish are an indicator of habitat health,” said Shelley Bird, communications officer for Parks Canada in Glacier National

Park.

In 2014, the Government of Canada announced almost $3 billion to build and renew infrastructure in Canada’s national parks. Part of that funding is being spent to improve and reduce vehicle congestion on Highway 1 through Glacier National Park.

READ MORE: Upgrades coming to Highway 1 between Glacier National Park and Golden

Since the highway is under construction, it’s allowing Parks Canada to make ecological changes, such as building fish-friendly culverts.

The culvert on Connaught Creek, near Rogers Pass Discovery Centre, was identified as a priority. Before the construction of the highway, bull trout would spawn in gravel flats, which are roughly seven kilometers upstream.

The old creek bed and culvert still remain as water seeps from the forest. Blackman said it’s good habitat for salamanders. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

The old culvert underneath Highway 1 was narrow and had a metal bottom, which channeled the water into a fast current – too fast for fish to swim against. Also, the old culvert ended with a high waterspout which did not allow fish to pass.

“Bull trout need pools for resting and a mix of fast and slow water, which is good for bugs. And the bugs feed the fish,” said Danielle Backman, impact assessment scientist for Glacier National Park.

It’s a delicate cycle.

Regardless, making the creek suitable for bull trout again required hard work, such as creating pools and planting willows, which shade the water. The vegetation eventually drops leaves, providing nutrients downstream.

“It’s not easy to build a creek,” Backman said.

Bull trout are the primary fish species in the Rogers Pass area. While they are not a species at risk in Glacier National Park, they are threatened in areas of Canada due to poaching and encroachment of non-native species like Brook trout.

“We want to maintain habitat to not put them on the path to at risk,” Bird said.

READ MORE: To fish or not to fish: proposal to re-open Revelstoke Reach to angling

The new culvert that was built-in 2017, is wider and has a ground bottom.

Last summer, Parks Canada confirmed that bull trout were using it.

“For the first time in 57 years,” Bird said.

Bull trout. (File)

Parks Canada is evaluating culverts throughout the park, determining if they should be changed even if they do not have fish.

“Water is important, regardless if it has fish in it,” said Backman.

The creeks provide habitat for insects, birds, mosses and plants.

Without the large federal infrastructure investment, Backman said, projects like this would not exist. She continued that the investment provided us with opportunities and was a way to merge engineering and ecological integrity.

“It’s a win-win.”

She said that many Canadians think the funding was just for roads and buildings, but it allowed Parks Canada to construct infrastructure that was not as disruptive as before.

“People drive along the highway and don’t even know what’s happening underneath,” said Backman.

Bull trout do have one more obstacle before getting to the gravel flats – an old weir that was used for drinking water roughly 700 metres upstream from the highway. Parks is in the process of removing it.

“At the end of the day, the creek is better than it was and will get even more so,” Bird said.


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Okanagan’s first virtual wedding fair will be held Saturday, March 27. {Paul Rodgers photo)
Okanagan to host virtual wedding fair

Okanagan wine country is No. 1 destination for weddings - online event set for March 27

Illuminate Spirit Revelstoke Society said Revelstoke’s dark downtown core is unwelcoming. Lighting would make it more inviting and a point of interest. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
New community group hopes to ‘light up’ Revelstoke

Illuminate Spirit Revelstoke Society aims to purchase decorative lights for the downtown core

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
Kootenay-Columbia MP supports motion condemning Uighur genocide

Rob Morrison says labelling Uighur persecution as a genocide sends a message to Chinese government

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

(Contributed)
Kelowna flight potentially exposed to COVID-19

Third case on a local flight this month, compared to 14 through January

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Most Read