Calgary’s Fish Habitat Enhancement Program – Update Fall 2020
Following the 2013 flood, The City of Calgary undertook several projects to repair and reinforce riverbanks along the Bow and Elbow Rivers. These projects helped protect critical City infrastructure but had adverse effects on fish and sensitive fish habitat.
With support from both The Government of Alberta (AEP) and Fisheries & Oceans Canada, (DFO) the City developed a plan to offset the loss of fish habitat and restore these vital habitat areas. Four projects have been proposed to offset the habitat loss:
- • Phase 1 – Quarry Park Side Channel Project – 2017
- • Phase 2 – Bowmont West Side Channel Project – 2018
- • Phase 3 – Elbow Park Gravel Bar Enhancement Project – 2019
- • Phase 4 – Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Habitat Enhancement Project – 2021
The program was developed in consultation with AEP and DFO to monitor gains made in fish habitat and increased productivity of key indicator species that represent the fishery management objectives of the region: brown trout, rainbow trout, and mountain whitefish. Local consulting engineers, Klohn Crippen Berger (KCB) were contracted to manage the monitoring program. The monitoring program consists of sampling at 1, 3- and 5-years post-construction:
Habitat Suitability Mapping and Modeling
An evaluation of change in habitat suitability was a key method used to assess progressive development and performance of the offset habitat relative to design expectations using a novel Habitat Suitability Index (HSI)
Biological Indicator Sampling
Biological data was collected through targeted sampling to provide the support that aquatic organisms and fish are using the new habitat. In addition to sampling fish populations, benthic invertebrates, periphytons, and macrophytes species were assessed.
Fall Spawning Survey
A fall spawning survey was conducted in November to assess sessional habitat use.
Discharge and Water Quality – Summer and Winter
Physical and chemical parameters were monitored to support the suitability of the new habitat within each project. Water depth, velocity, temperatures, oxygen content, pH, electrical conductivity, and oxidation-reduction potential were measure during summer and winter flow conditions.
A Summary of the first 2 years of the monitoring program was generated from reports supplied by The City of Calgary for the Quarry Park and Bowmont West projects as a review of the potential use of the data for inclusion in future Bow River fish population research initiatives.
Moving forward, the expansion of the City of Calgary Fish Compensation Program from two to four sites and a total of 5 years of monitoring data offer a unique opportunity for future long-term research initiatives that would give a unique understanding of the changing fish populations dynamics. An inter-discipline approach to future investigations would yield the most useful management tools to enhance fish populations.