Tuesday 14 April 2015

Workday Report - Emerson Creek - April 14, 2015


“Up is down and down is up” 

Yes, dear friends, our crew discovered some new truths about brook trout spawning habitat this week. Larry Halyk of MNR, Stewardship renown and all round great guy gave us a lesson on how turning things upside down can really pay off.

When brook trout spawn, they don’t really know or care whether the oxygenated seeping through their recently-laid eggs is coming up or down. All they want is for their precious deposit to survive and produce babies! This came as a revelation to us river “grunts”, but we believe in Larry and his experience in these matters, so….How do we do this upside –down stuff?

In order to tackle the problem of anoxic springs feeding into a nicely tumbling oxygenated trout nursery stream, we create, not “rocky ramps”, but “vortex weirs” which forces a portion of the current DOWN through the spawning gravel which is placed UPSTREAM of the weir. This may be hard to follow, but our upcoming video of the process will show the process. (It may need to be on DVD, since the process and explanations took a lot of Larry’s time.) In summary, it debunks the premise of upwelling oxygen-rich spring sources as an absolute necessity.

What a learning experience!! We will keep it in our archives, as we did many years ago when Larry conducted an Electro-fishing session on Bronte Creek. (It is still in use as a training video by several interested groups) This process bodes well for expanded use here on the Mill Creek, Cayuga watershed, where similar opportunities exist for expanding our spawning potential.

Our day was eventful in other ways as well: Our intrepid ex-DFO experts, Scott Millard and Vic Cairns investigated the insect life while waiting for Larry to arrive. They found extensive populations of various types of “baby trout food”, such as isopods, mayfly nymphs, and other species of benthic life (can you spell black flies?) to provide a vital food web for our impending brook trout plantings. All is good.

The day’s activities attracted, not only 5 TUTKC and 7 Habitat Haldimand workers, but a total of four local land owners visited, keen to see the progress we were making. One of which was 150+ year ascendant who owns countless acreage around the site. Brian Vanderberg, (who caught “specs” at Taquanyah 50 years ago) offered to provide heavy equipment needed to transport more large rock to our site in the future, since our field rocks are upwards of 60 lbs. How many Kgs is that?

We followed Larry’s guidance in completing our first spawning bed and recorded his advice on how to create four other sites, some similar and others easier. We have lots of work to do within a tight time frame, since we understand that the wild trout fry could be transferred in mid to late May.

As usual, the feeling of real accomplishment was enjoyed by all 13 of us, including Larry He too, senses the value of what we are doing and the ground-breaking steps we are taking.

Vortex Spawn Site

Vortex Weir Done

We did learn to have our gravel delivered “unmixed”, since each size is used at different times in the installation. A big part of our team had the tedious, yet critical job of sorting gravel by size as required. Their diligence paid off, since we were never short of whatever size was needed as we worked through the process. Moral: NO job is unimportant to the success of a project! Our diggers and dumpers can say “Thank you, crew!” for the timely supply of the right materials.

We had not realized the need for large “Keystone” boulders, so our local wonder boy, Wade took off searching for such materials and returned with our first 60 lb. + rock cradled in his arms “Call the chiropractor” we shouted, but he and several others went rock hunting and provided the necessary aggregate. We will need more, but at least the transport part has been prearranged.

We cannot close without expressing our sincere appreciation to Larry Halyk. He gave us the guidance and his physical supervision to create something remarkable indeed and we all were delighted to see just how it worked. Each of us has learned a wonderful lesson in resourcefulness that will pay off in the future. Larry, you have created another group of admirers! THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Total Project Volunteer hours to date: 2,538.25

Bill Christmas, President, Ted Knott Chapter, Trout Unlimited Canada

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Workday Report - Feb 7 & Feb 10, 2015 - Emerson Creek


Here is the latest in the story of Mill Creek, Emerson tributary and the dauntless volunteers who hang on every syllable of the experts when it comes to disappointment or success.

When Larry Halyk and Warren Yerex, friends of us, each other and our recovering watershed, arrived on January 30th, they shared our enthusiasm for the potential of the Emerson Creek “Nursery” channel. All this was tempered by the concern we all held for the amount of “Upwelling, oxygenated spring water” we seemed to witness. Suggestions were made about how this water could best be used to produce excellent spawning sites. There was, however, the ongoing concern about whether this water was, as at the Mill Creek source, Anoxic, or lacking in dissolved oxygen. Testing is needed. No oxygen. No survival!!

When Jack Imhof and Beth Anne Fischer arrived (along with 9 of us volunteers) on February 7th, we showed them the biggest two springs first and hoped for the best. “Not to be”, said Beth Anne: “Little or no dissolved oxygen in both springs”. Devastating news, but not the end of the world, says Jack. “Many of the most productive brook trout streams and rivers have anoxic spring sources”. Really? We asked. Yes, and in fact, the total dissolved oxygen content and all the other positive elements had both Jack and Beth Anne enthusiastic about the next steps for us in Emerson Creek. Could it be that all is not lost?

Their advice is to allow all the streamside springs to cascade into the stream, and in the process aerate the adjacent waters. The main flows proved to be well above the necessary levels for the hatching and healthy growth of baby brookies. As Larry had advised earlier, he selected prime areas where spawning will occur successfully and what we should do to enhance the conditions to optimize both hatching and fry survival. We went from agony to ecstasy in a matter of a few minutes, while Jack expressed high optimism for our project.

Jack then advised that he would convene a meeting with MNR officials for Tuesday, February 10th to propose a double edged program: The planting of adult, track able fish this coming fall AND the stocking of wild (not hatchery) fry this coming spring. After discussion of all the pros and cons, the group agreed with this plan.

What a wonderful feeling to have come this far: Eight years and 2,400 volunteer hours $40,000 in donations have brought us to this “Alpha Test” of our watershed. The professionals are taking the calculated risk that the work we have all done has created a viable brook trout habitat. It will now be up to the little “fishies” to prove we are correct…and successful.

It is a testament to all the 120+ volunteers who have given of their time and energy to reach this stage. We share your relief and in the optimism for the results we will achieve in the year 2015. It is already a great year, in my book! I hope you will agree.

Friday 30 January 2015

Workday Report - Emerson Creek - January 30, 2015


We all knew we had a hidden gem in Emerson Creek, near Cayuga, but it took two old friends of mine from many years ago to give credence to our hopes.

We hosted Larry Halyk, former senior MNR manager, Stewardship director and current president of Trout Unlimited Mid Grand Chapter president, and his good friend, Warren Yerex, retired long time biologist from GRCA. They provided the professional opinion that we have an exceptional stream here and all that’s needed is the final confirmation of the level of dissolved oxygen in the several spring sources they identified.

Seeing two senior experts so enthused was a delightful feeling that we all didn’t even notice the -14C temps, In fact at one site, the steamy mist on the stream was clear evidence of the difference in stream and spring water temperatures. The pair quickly went through the process of replicating the very successful system currently in use at Marden Creek, near Guelph (a project that earned Larry a National Environmental Award). It is so simple and inexpensive and non-invasive from a stream flow perspective, that we are anxious to get started, but we must wait a week for oxygen tests. Rats!! That’s a whole week away…like waiting for Santa Claus!!

In preparation, and to make smaller in-stream flows more easily identified, we have already purchased the digital temperature probe and extension. It will quickly identify “warm” flows within the base gravel and should speed up discovery of smaller springs we may have missed.

Wade and Mike are out there almost daily, scoping out even more of the creek, just in case we missed something. Calculating how much river gravel needed depends on the number of springs and their sizes; the sediment fence has to wait till spring, since wooden stakes cannot be driven into frozen soil.

I thought I would never be so anxious for winter to hang on, but our ability to complete this job hinges on ease on access. In the summer, it is nearly impassable. That’s what makes it an ideal nursery site; little or no human intervention all summer.

We feel very fortunate to have uncovered one of nature‘s hidden jewels. With a little TLC, we will reap the rewards of an indigenous species of fish being re-established in Haldimand County THIS YEAR.

We invite all environmentalists to keep visiting our blog at www.tutkc.blogspot.ca to follow the history of this project. A pair of new videos will soon be available for your enjoyment. To take part in this and other activities of our Chapter, either workdays, money or materials, please contact Doug Whitford at: dwhitford@cogeco.ca. Our volunteers enjoy great satisfaction by improving our local waters.

Saturday 10 January 2015

Workday Report - January 10, 2015 - Emerson Creek

Winter Water Work

Note:  The video at the end of this article is a little long (approx 14 minutes) but it's well worth the time to watch because of the unique nature of this "long forgotten" stream and its future value in the restoration of the Mill Creek watershed.

We began our day by gathering our eight volunteers at Indiana Road West, near Cayuga, where we loaded all our equipment onto two 4WD trucks. Frozen ground can be a blessing, saving us a mile-long hike in the open. Bill Christmas was finally able to attend after a long absence for health issues, to take videos and give some guidance.

We quickly realized that one of our volunteers, local landowner Matt Lessard, who became available on short notice, would be an important addition to the crew. Matt’s profession requires him to operate a chainsaw and it was he who did most of the heavy lifting here. Matt owns the section of Mill Creek on Town Line Road West at Taquanyah.

We proceeded to clean out several stream blockages and relocate the materials to best advantage, while exploring and rating the various spring sources for suitability as spawning sites. Most of these “upper” stream sources will need some technical adjustments to enable their use by the brook trout for spawning.

Two of our volunteers had never seen this stream before and they were amazed at the value of this small creek “That nobody even knew about locally”. Seeing all these springs popping up out of the ground in winter was exciting. Another newcomer was impressed at how much was accomplished in such a short time. “Hey, it’s cold out here and we work hard just to keep warm” was the reply. What a wonderful group to be a part of, he told us. He wants to come back for our next work day.

As an interesting side note: We told several others to stay at home and keep warm, because we had enough manpower already committed. Such enthusiasm is contagious, like a good disease! We hope you like the photos and the video. We had fun, especially Matt Burley, local Ted Knott Chapter member, who took a spill while moving a heavy log in the water with Wade. Chest waders helped keep him dry. At least we all had a good laugh.

We will schedule another day while we can still drive to the site, to repair and upgrade our successful sediment fencing. We will also be assisting TUC technical staff in measuring the oxygen levels in all these springs

We will let you know the date. Thanks for helping,

Wade Dowling Habitat Haldimand co-author with Bill Christmas TUTKC

Sunday 12 October 2014

Saturday 19 April 2014

Workday Report - April 19, 2014 - Mill Creek, Cayuga


That’s what we thought as we looked at the huge load of Christmas trees piled up at the side of Rodney Fox’s barn on River Road, Cayuga. Our son, Brian had picked up the load from Kent Rundle at the Mountsberg Quarry near his home. Now we had to consider dragging them about a mile down the rail trail to the Indiana Blue spring site, where they would be an integral part of the project to scour the sediment below the spring at our trout-spawning channel. It would be a time consuming job for our eight determined volunteers.

As we gathered at 9AM Saturday the 19th to sign in the insurance/photo permission forms, who should drop by in his BIG shiny tractor, but the new owner of part of Rodney’s farm, Greg Deckers. He had a 1,000 lb roll of hay in the bucket, as he asked us what we were doing. After we had given him a short rundown about what we have accomplished, he asked: "What can I do to help?" How about moving those Christmas trees down to the "crick" was our bucolic reply, to which he said "Done". That was it job done.

With a major time consuming problem solved in a few seconds, we had again experienced the Haldimand County phenomenon; everyone we meet is anxious to contribute in any way they can. The support we get is simply amazing and more than we could expect.

As for amazing, our relatively new Chapter member Ken Long, had his first look at the project and repeated "Amazing".  Enthusiasm turns into energy and Ken was as involved as our most experienced crew members. As a result, we completed the fascine/christmas tree combo installation so quickly we had time and materials to spare. Erin Fraser suggested we tackle an erosion problem on the main stream. This too was quickly done, providing bank stabilization.

Still with energy to burn, we placed the balance of the trees into the upper spring flow, to be staked in place later. We now have planned to plant shade-providing "Swamp oaks" on the south banks of his flow to reduce the algae formations caused by phosphorus and sunlight. We are putting this algae factory out of commission, we hope.

We all left at noon with a sense of satisfaction, knowing we had made another step towards a self-sustaining brook trout population in this badly inured stream.  We hope you will take the time to explore this outstanding stream undertaking. You will meet some remarkable new friends.

Bill Christmas