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North Saanich’s Chalet Creek getting a fish-focused atmospheric river repair job

Larger culvert aims to create a more natural creek bed after last fall’s collapse
Photo shows a section of Chalet Road that was washed out by Chalet Creek during intense rains on Nov. 15, 2021. (Courtesy of David Tonken)

In November of last year, Chalet Creek provided one of the most memorable scenes in Greater Victoria when an atmospheric river pummeled B.C.’s infrastructure.

A portion of Chalet Road and the North Saanich creek’s culvert were washed out on Nov. 15, 2021 when the intense rains hit – which the district said led to significant erosion, damage to the downstream creek bed and the loss of a watermain.

But construction going on right now by North Saanich and the Peninsula Streams Society includes installing a larger culvert at the damaged Chalet Road site and restoring the lower portion of the creek to create a healthier habitat for its travelling native fish.

“For years it had been this very small culvert, which meant any salmon or fish that needed to go through it were sort of being thrust into a very artificial-feeling environment, so it didn’t replicate a stream bed at all,” said Erik Lambertson, North Saanich’s communications manager.

“Now with a much larger arch, the stream bed beneath looks much more like their habitat.”

Chalet Creek begins at a pond near Tatlow and Alder roads and mainly runs through farmland before draining into Deep Cove. The waterway has historically supported several salmon species, but the Peninsula Streams Society has cited access issues contributing to disappointing fish returns in recent years.

North Saanich said it approached the road and culvert fix as an opportunity to improve the fish-bearing environment of the creek bed. The district said the larger culvert enables a natural stream bed that supports fish passage in all flow conditions.

“It’s just a much more hospitable environment for them,” Lambertson said.

The district is also collaborating with its consultant and the WSIKEM (Tseycum) First Nation to monitor the work as the construction falls within a registered archaeological site.

The cost of the work, which is expected to be complete by the end of September, comes in just shy of $583,000 and is being done by Northridge Excavating.

The society has been restoring the creek for two decades. One of its founding groups, the Friends of Chalet Creek (formerly Chalet Creek Streamkeepers), is focused on returning the channel to a more natural state on the private properties it traverses, in an aim to support a more diverse suite of native plant and animal species.

Thousands of Deep Cove elementary students have released more than 10,000 salmon fry in the creek in recent decades and have also planted more than 150 trees in the surrounding area. The society has observed a cutthroat trout and four juvenile coho salmon there so far this year.

READ: Chalet Road damaged as municipal crews tackle flooding across Saanich Peninsula

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