View of the completed crossing. (Photo by KGS Group)

View of the completed crossing. (Photo by KGS Group)

Fish Benefit from Award-winning Design

ACEC-MB Awards (Photo by Christine Chilton / NCC Staff)

ACEC-MB Awards (Photo by Christine Chilton / NCC Staff)

When human infrastructure encroaches on the natural environment, it often results in damage to wildlife habitat or the disruption of important ecological processes. However, the crossing enhancements at Beaver Creek are an exception, thanks to the combination of engineering and environmental stewardship.  

Engineering firm KGS Group works to build things that last. By pairing its mission with the Nature Conservancy of Canada's goal of conserving important natural areas, fish migration at Beaver Creek was restored while limiting damage to the surrounding environment. This partnership saw the KGS Group recognized for their work by the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (Manitoba), securing the Award of Merit (Small Projects).  

Beaver Creek lies within NCC's Fort Ellice property and joins the Assiniboine River downstream of the property. This spring-fed creek is home to a wide variety of native fish species and other aquatic wildlife and provides annual spawning habitat for large-bodied fish species from the Assiniboine River. 

These fish species, however, were threatened by a concrete ford crossing that was in place when NCC purchased the property.  NCC staff and partners rely on the use of this shallow crossing by vehicles to maintain access to much of the Fort Ellice property, however the original crossing was identified as a barrier to fish migration within the creek. With funding from the province of Manitoba's Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, NCC contracted KGS Group to provide potential solutions, while maintaining the structural integrity of the ford crossing.  

The now award-winning project began with a look into the diverse swimming abilities of local fish to ensure that the passing was accessible to all of the varying species that would use it. KGS compiled a detailed report that sought to minimize ecological disruption by taking into consideration information on historic hydrology, local topography, local species at risk, the individual requirements of fish species within the creek identified through fisheries surveys, and legislation relevant to the project.  

The completed modifications to the crossing restore access to approximately 28 hectares of aquatic habitat and potential spawning grounds for large-bodied fish, including white suckers and northern pike, that are commonly found in Beaver Creek downstream of the crossing.  

Additionally, it provides a potential opportunity to increase habitat for aquatic species at risk, including the endangered Mapleleaf mussel. In their juvenile stage of development, Mapleleaf mussels attach themselves to the gills of their host species: channel catfish. Channel catfish are known to be in the Assiniboine River adjacent to the Fort Ellice property and can be found in clear-running streams with deeper pools, like those found at Beaver Creek. Removing the barriers to channel catfish accessing upstream portions of Beaver Creek could provide more habitat for the host species and this means more opportunities for Mapleleaf mussels to establish new habitat, within an extensive track of conserved habitat, ensuring the resilience of the species.  

Restoring aquatic diversity within Beaver Creek doesn’t just benefit aquatic species. Helping restore balance to the ecosystem has a positive impact on all species, from large mammals to threatened birds, that use the Fort Ellis property. The completed modifications allow NCC to continue using the crossing to access the otherwise inaccessible native grasslands and other habitat. 

The work done on the crossing at Beaver Creek is a testament to the favorable outcomes that can be achieved when big thinking and innovation come together with people who are determined to make a difference!

To learn more about this exciting project, click here

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