PENTICTON - With more work left to be done on the Penticton Creek restoration project, one group is stepping back from the aging river channel just long enough to admire the view.
“I like looking this way — not behind me,” Penticton Flyfishers club spokesperson Bruce Turnbull says as he surveys the 80-metre completed portion of the channel east of the Ellis Creek bridge.
Turnbull is referring to the creek-like look the newly built portion of the river now has, compared to the lined concrete ditch running to Okanagan Lake on the other side of the bridge.
Finishing touches continued on the project Saturday, Sept. 19, when volunteers with the Toronto-Dominion Bank met at the site to replant native species of trees along the riverbank’s edge in one of the final finishing touches to the project.
Turnbull says he’s happy to see the project get underway. Liability issues cropped up when plans were first put forward to rebuild the channel in 2006.
“It’s nice to see it get going, nice to see the city on-side,” he says, noting the numerous funding contributors to the first 'showcase' phase of the project.
Turnbull was part of Penticton River Channel Restoration Committee discussions which took place Friday morning, Sept. 18. He says the group is now working on completing a master plan for the creek to rebuild the concrete lined section completely from Okanagan Lake to Nkwala School.
“There’s less work to be done the further upstream we go,” he says.”This was a big first step — to convey to citizens the benefits of doing this. It’s a huge enhancement to the city — it’s a park.” Turnbull says, adding the new section has also been built to withstand a 1 in 200 year flooding event, compared to the original concrete lining’s 1 in 50 year specification.
The new section is not only functional, it’s pleasant to look at. Engineers created a more river like setting that will also enhance efforts to restore kokanee and other species to the creek. Turnbull says when the original concrete lining was poured, little thought was given to fish habitat, and the resulting wide, flat concrete river bottom often meant fish attempting to make their way up the creek were under constant stress.
“They had no means to rest after fighting the current all the way, and often the water was so low in the channel, their fins were out of the water,” Turnbull says.
The new section has built in pools, with strategically placed rocks to allow fish an opportunity to rest while fighting their way upstream.
Turnbull says the fly fishers club has been counting kokanee at a trap located at the mouth of Penticton Creek. The Freshwater Fish Hatchery Society and the fly fishers club captured fish for the last two years, for a small hatchery located up the creek, and collected eggs that will be used to restock both Penticton and Ellis Creeks.
“Our counting methods are more accurate this year. So far, 2,700 kokanee have come up the river, and we’re still counting,” Turnbull says.
Previous counting methods averaged counts of 1,200 fish per year.
Turnbull says the committee hopes to have the master plan completed this winter. Following that, they will start to pick the sections of the creek to work on, based on funding levels.
“It’s the start of what I hope is a lengthy project,” Turnbull says, adding enthusiasm shown by city employees for the project has been 'magnificent.'
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