Project to ease creek passage should result in greater number, variety
Eric McGuinness, The Hamilton Spectator, DUNDAS (Apr 16, 2010)
Rainbow trout and salmon that now can reach only the downstream edge of downtown Dundas may one day be able to swim all the way up Spencer Creek to Webster's Falls.
Tys Theysmeyer of the Royal Botanical Gardens believes that will be possible once nine barriers to fish passage are removed.
The first to go -- early this fall -- is a steel wall that acts like a fish fence across the creek under the bridge carrying Osler Drive over the fast-moving water.
The project is significant because experts say it will increase the number and variety of fish in Hamilton Harbour and western Lake Ontario, and because the need was identified by a multi-agency committee set up to find ways to restore Spencer in the wake of the 2007 Biedermann Packaging fire.
Hot, pesticide-laced firefighting water poured into the creek, temporarily wiping out fish, insects and other life downstream of the Head Street industrial zone. Most species have since returned to their former abundance.
Art Timmerman, who works for Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, said yesterday a screening process ruled out the need for an environmental assessment of the Osler Drive work that will replace the vertical wall with a rocky ramp for less than $50,000.
An assessment involving public consultation will soon begin to look at eight other dams, debris jams and artificial channels upstream of the old cotton-mill site at Osler Drive.
Shari Faulkenham, ecologist for the Hamilton Conservation Authority, said the barrier there was created when the bridge was built in the mid-1960s with vertical concrete walls on either side of the 12-metre-wide channel. Two parallel rows of steel piling were planted across the creek bed -- no one involved now knows why -- stopping fish from swimming very far upstream from the Cootes Paradise marsh at the west end of the harbour.
While trout and salmon are the most valued species, many others, including white sucker, are expected to take advantage.
Faulkenham said: "Ultimately, we are aiming for passage of the weakest swimming species, which is typically white sucker in a system like Spencer Creek. This goal will allow most fish to navigate the barrier that are seeking their particular habitat niche to carry out all or part of their life cycles upstream."
Faulkenham said trout and salmon will seek spawning sites. Providing access to all fish makes sure there are smaller fish to feed big ones, producing more fish overall.
photo: Gary Yokoyama, The Hamilton Spectator
Very welcome news for Spencer Creek - it will be interesting to watch these man-made barriers to fish removed and rehabilitated as they move west upstream.