Assessing Fish Restoration in the Puntledge River Watershed

Project Year: 2016-2017

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Chinook Salmon: James Baxter

Project Lead

K’omoks First Nation


Coastal Region


Project Type

Monitoring & Evaluation

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Puntledge Salmonid Action Plan

Project ID


Assessment of Past Puntledge River Restoration Projects

The K’ómoks Guardians will assess the physical and biological performance (juvenile use, adult spawning and incubation survival) of side-channels and restored habitat in the Puntledge River, to determine whether they are continuing to provide stable and high-quality spawning and rearing habitat for Puntledge River priority species (Coho, Chinook, Pink, Steelhead Salmon, and trout). The project will focus on three side-channels that were the focus of past FWCP projects in the watershed: Powerline, Forbidden, and Bull Island side-channels.

The project will provide the opportunity for the K’ómoks Guardian Watchmen program to develop and improve the technical skills in conducting stream monitoring and assessment of salmon populations in the Puntledge Watershed, and build capacity within the K’ómoks First Nation for FWCP project delivery. Monitoring and assessment activities in these side-channels will provide information on whether these restored and enhanced areas continue to provide valuable spawning and rearing habitat for the target and non-target species they were originally designed for, and whether past maintenance at these sites has resulted in improved conditions. Minor maintenance issues that require immediate attention can be identified during surveys, and where possible, remedies can be applied immediately, resulting in immediate short-term benefits.

Final Report: Executive Summary

A monitoring program was implemented to assess the physical and biological performance of past side-channel development and rehabilitation projects in the Puntledge River. The program focused on investigating juvenile use, adult spawning and incubation survival in Powerline, Forbidden, and Bull Island side-channels to determine whether they are continuing to provide stable and high quality spawning and rearing habitat for Puntledge River priority species. This project addresses ‘Research and Information Acquisition’ and ‘Habitat’ based priority actions in the Puntledge River Salmonid Action Plan (BC Hydro 2011) by assessing the efficacy of habitat enhancements undertaken by the FWCP program.

Coho salmon was observed spawning in all side-channels whereas Chinook were counted in Forbidden and Bull Island only, and chum and pink salmon in Powerline only. High discharges and poor visibility during peak spawning impeded surveys and collection of accurate data.

Hydraulic sampling methods were employed to evaluate incubation success in Bull Island and Powerline side-channels. Overall survival at Bull Island was 99% and consistent with expectations that the high quality screened spawning gravels would provide optimum incubation conditions as demonstrated in past studies at this site. Overall survival at Powerline side-channel was 51% possibly due to the greater incidence of fines at this location.

Mark-recapture surveys in the Forbidden (and Wong) side-channel complex were conducted during unseasonably cool conditions resulting in low population estimates compared to biostandards. Total coho population was estimated at 0.18 and 0.14 coho fry/m2 in Forbidden and Wong side-channels, respectively. Routing monitoring in this side-channel complex is recommended to inspect intake function, beaver activity and fish access during the juvenile outmigration and adult spawning periods.

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View more about this project on the provincial database