Radiant Creek Rehabilitation: Improving Bull Trout habitat in the Clearwater River system
A project in support of Trout Unlimited Canada’s National Conservation Mandate
BACKGROUND: Radiant Creek is a tributary of the Clearwater River in west central Alberta. The Clearwater River and its tributaries provide critical habitat for threatened Bull Trout. Radiant Creek has become degraded as a result of land use and previous flood events, which has caused some reaches of the stream to becoming overly wide, shallow, and disconnected from its floodplain. Fish habitat was limited, and some reaches were losing surface flow by late summer.
SOLUTION: Trout Unlimited Canada employed low-tech process-based restoration (LTPBR) techniques to introduce woody debris instream. In 2021, a complex of 10 “post-assisted log structures” (PALS) were installed within a 250 m reach of Radiant Creek. This included bank-attached and mid-channel PALS to force scour and create structure and habitat diversity. PALS consisted of conifer debris, pinned in place with untreated wood posts pounded into the substrate. In addition, a temporary panel fence was installed to exclude cattle and feral horses from the treatment area. Live willow stakes were planted along the bank to improve riparian health and recovery.
RESULTS: Following LTPBR installation in 2021, Radiant Creek experienced a high water event during the 2022 freshet that effectively redistributed gravels, fine sediment and woody debris. Some PALS were completely washed out but wood was captured by downstream PALS. PALS also helped to force constriction jets that scoured pools creating new habitats for fish. During electrofishing surveys in 2022 and 2023, most fish were found in areas associated with PALS, where there is increased cover and depth. Temporary fencing has also been successful at excluding livestock and feral horses from the treatment area, allowing banks to stabilize, and riparian plant communities to thrive. Thank you to our volunteers for helping make this project a success!
PROJECT PARTNERS: Environment Canada, Alberta Conservation Association, Province of Alberta, Cows and Fish, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, West Fraser