September 08, 2016 - 6:00 AM
KELOWNA - A project that has turned back the hands of time just a little to when Mission Creek ran a more natural course has done better than well over the summer.
“It performed spectacularly,” project engineer Don Dobson says of the 570 metres of dike that was rerouted and set back to allow a portion of the creek to do what it once did before human intervention — meander through several dozen oxbows and side channels during the spring freshet.
Extensive farming in the area during the last century saw the lower portion of Mission Creek shortened from over 30 kilometres of multiple highwater channels reduced to12 km with one main channel, speeding up creek flow and destroying fish habitat.
The Mission Creek Restoration Initiative is a project that’s been many years in the making, beginning in 2002 with many partners including the City of Kelowna and the provincial government.
It took that long to assemble the land and get the various permissions needed to do any kind of work around a federal waterway, not to mention find funding for the project.
But once started, work moved quickly.
In February, crews cut down the existing dikes on one hectare of land provided by the City of Kelowna and then constructed 570 metres of new dikes around it, widening the channel from 40 m to 150 m in that section of the creek.
Spring freshet came early and big but the new floodplain and dike did precisely what it was supposed to do, Dobson says.
“It worked exactly as designed. Water moved onto the floodplain and up against the new dike,” he adds. “There’s all kinds of wildlife moving into the floodplain."
Work wasn’t finished however, and crews spent early August enhancing fish habitat by cutting “meander notches” in the plain to encourage water to flow on and off.
Dobson says this particular project has entered the monitoring stage and there are no official plans for another phase although talks with potential land donors continue.
“There’s nothing official but contact has been made with certain landowners,” he adds. “Some aren’t at all interested but others are. There is definitely some interest by other landowners, especially now they can see what we are doing."
The restoration project has multiple partners including the provincial government and the City of Kelowna and first began planning in 2002.
Plans are for a opening ceremony for the new Mission Creek flood plain on Wednesday, September 14 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. between Casorso Road and Gordon Drive on the south side of Mission Creek.
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