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Interior First Nation restores fish habitat

The Bonaparte First Nation has revived and lengthened a refuge for juvenile coho salmon between Cache Creek and Clinton

A once-dilapidated refuge for young coho salmon has been restored and doubled in length.

Located on the Campbell Hills Ranch on Loon Lake Road between Cache Creek and Clinton, the channel now runs along the floodplain of the Bonaparte River for a full kilometre.

It features more than 4,000 new willow cuttings, woody debris, and boulders designed to recreate the coho-friendly habitat. Three kilometres of fencing has been erected to keep livestock out of the riparian area along the channel's sides and for one kilometre of the adjacent Bonaparte River.

It was product of two years of work primarily by the Bonaparte First Nation with support from the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which directed $135,000 to the project.

“The fencing was basically rotten, the channel was starting to infill, and all the cuttings and trees they planted had grown in so thick it was just kind of clogging the place up,” said Bonaparte CEO Sean Bennett. “It was reducing and restricting the groundwater flow coming up into the channel.” 

Juvenile coho are notoriously fussy about where they rear. The channel is fed by groundwater, which makes it a little cooler in the summer and keeps it from freezing when temperatures drop in the winter.  

“When juvenile coho come out of the gravel in the spring they like to hang around for a while, so they seek out these groundwater refuges,” said Bennett.

This summer a flow gate will be installed that will allow river water to flow into the channel when needed to flush and clean the channel or to simulate a spring freshet.

"It's going to increase the number of coho in the channel, which is going to hopefully realize benefits for sports fishermen, commercial fishermen, and First Nations fishermen," Bennett said.

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