Grant assists Penticton Creek rehabilitation

Floods, like this one in 1948, which destroyed the bridge at Nanaimo Avenue and an earlier one in 1942, led the city to channelize Penticton Creek to prevent a reoccurrence. - Penticton Museum and Archives
Floods, like this one in 1948, which destroyed the bridge at Nanaimo Avenue and an earlier one in 1942, led the city to channelize Penticton Creek to prevent a reoccurrence.
— image credit: Penticton Museum and Archives

After 63 years, the City of Penticton is looking at rehabilitating Penticton Creek, which was channelized in 1950, after the river flooded destructively two years before.

The city has received grant approval from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation in the amount of $63,680 to begin planning the rehabilitation of the creek, which is the third-largest tributary of Okanagan Lake.

“It’s the beginning of a project that’s been needed in the city for a very long time,” said acting Mayor Garry Litke. “We finally have some funding attached to the restoration of Penticton Creek.”

The goal is to restore or improve kokanee and rainbow trout habitat in the creek, to increase the production of fish production, both for the recreational fishery as well as enhancing the economic and natural values.

While flood control principles have evolved significantly since the 1950s, the city plans to work with senior level governments and non-government organizations to develop and implement a long-term restoration plan for Penticton Creek, in the quest to restore a higher level of fish production without compromising flood protection.

Fisheries biologist Paul Askey will be representing the provincial Fish and Wildlife Branch on the newly struck Penticton Creek Revitalization Committee, along with representatives from stakeholder groups, including the Penticton Fly Fishers, the Penticton Indian Band and the Okanagan Nation Alliance.

“Penticton Creek is in terrible shape. Its basically a concrete flume, which is unusable habitat by fish. There is a small remanent kokanee population in the stream due to a couple of spawning beds that are maintained by the Penticton Fly Fishers,” said Askey. “There is still some spawning stock there, but a lot of fish don’t make it up to the spawning beds. It’s just a small fraction of what the potential of that stream is.”

In the past the creek would have been a major producer of both kokanee and rainbow trout, according to Askey. There are some isolated spots, he said, where brook and rainbow trout can be found, cut off from the normal spawning travels, but the natural spawning stock of rainbow is non-existent.

“There are some naturalized bottom portions there and in there you’ll find small rainbow trout and brook trout that aren’t native species, but they live there all year round and basically there is enough bug production there for them to survive,” said Askey. “The rainbow trout are just extirpated because the ladders aren’t maintained during the freshet period. So that stock has been totally lost. But it could be brought back if there was some proper passage and they were able to swim up to spawning areas in the spring.”

Given the large scope of the project, the first year of the initiative will focus on restoration design development and finalizing an implementation strategy under the guidance of a stakeholder committee.

All designs will be guided by current and projected flood control requirements and current best practices in restoration.

“You’re balancing off some very important ecological, recreational and even economic values with restoring the stream against real risks of flooding,” said Askey. “If it was a straightforward easy thing, it would have been done already.”

The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation is a non-profit charitable foundation with a mission to invest in projects that maintain and enhance the health and biological diversity of British Columbia’s fish, wildlife, and habitats so that people can use, enjoy, and benefit from these resources.

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