Prairie Creek is located in west-central Alberta. The creek has been beloved by anglers and recreationists for decades but is also in the heart of an industrial area. In the 1960’s, a culvert was installed along Prairie Creek when a road was constructed to Husky Energy’s Ram River Gas Plant. Over time, high flow events in Prairie Creek led to erosion at the culvert outlet eventually resulting in the culvert becoming perched, limiting some fishes’ ability to migrate upstream into and through the culvert.
Husky began looking for options to improve fish passage and asked Trout Unlimited Canada to partner with them to find a solution. TUC was successful in receiving funding for the project through the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans through the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnership Program.
The project was a huge undertaking. First, it was decided that removing the culvert was not feasible and other options had to be explored. Ultimately, the project team decided to retrofit the existing culvert as well as the culvert inlet and the outlet pool.
In order to do the work effectively and safely, and to avoid environmental impacts, the construction area had to be isolated and the stream diverted around the construction area. A section of the culvert outlet was removed and a new, larger diameter section of culvert affixed to the existing structure. Baffles were secured within this new section of culvert, to break up the flow of water and make passage easier for fish. The outlet pool and downstream riffle was also re-built to withstand high flow events and raise the elevation of the pool so that fish would no longer need to jump into the culvert to move upstream. Several tonnes of large angular rock was provided by a local supplier, Fish Creek Excavating, for this purpose. This large rock was then covered in native bed material, to maintain habitat value for the aquatic community.
Finally, hundreds of willows were planted in brush layers at the outlet area to enhance the riparian health of the area and stabilize the slopes.
In 2016, Trout Unlimited Canada received funding from the Alberta Conservation Association and will again work with Husky to evaluate the fish passage potential at the site. Fish will be captured within Prairie Creek and PIT tags will be implanted within captured fish. As fish move past the PIT tag readers, or arrays, we will be able to determine if the project is meeting the design objectives. TUC will also conduct additional willow and poplar staking at the site to improve slope stability and riparian health. TUC and Husky will also work with Clearwater County to hold an open house for the local community to inform residents about the project.
Partners and Sponsors
This project illustrates a successful partnership and collaboration between industry, government and an NGO to improve stream health and functionality. This project was completed thanks to funding from DFO as well as a significant contribution by Husky. Fish Creek Excavating provided a large portion of the rock material used and Nilex also donated supplies. TUC will continue to work with other partners to implement more of these valuable projects throughout Canada into the future.
Thanks to Alberta Conservation Association and Let’s Go Outdoors for creating videos of the project to help tell the story: http://letsgooutdoors.ca/blogs/item/145-making-a-difference-husky-oil-trout-unlimited