The Walley Creek Streamkeepers, in partnership with the City of Nanaimo, Snuneymuxw First Nation, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), are undertaking a restoration project this summer to make the creek healthier for the fish and other animals that live there. Walley Creek has resident cutthroat trout, and has the possibility to support Coho salmon.
In-stream work can only happen during the window of August 15 to September 15. This is to prevent damage to sensitive fish habitat. In-stream work requires a permit from the Provincial Government, and is done with the greatest amount of care possible, with the goal to leave the fish habitat better. Outside of this time, nothing should ever enter or block the water – not humans, animals, or tree parts. If branches and other “small woody debris” incidentally enter the water (through storms or getting flushed downstream) volunteers must remove blockages, with permission from DFO, the City and the Province. This work is supervised by Dave Clough, R.P.Bio.
2021 planned in-stream work:
While Walley Creek is open to the surface along its whole length, it is fed by storm drain inputs from the developed areas of the watershed, as well as groundwater seepage. To see a map of the storm drains in the Walley Creek Watershed, visit the interactive Nanaimo map - http://maps.nanaimo.ca/nanaimomap/.
Click on Themes and choose Utilities. On the left side, check the box that says Storm. (The photo below is an example.) You can also turn on the air photos, and select different attributes that you want to see as you zoom in.
Since 2019 our group has been dismayed see the creek go dry in the lower reaches (Shores Drive to the ocean) during the summer. We are desperately trying to sleuth out why this is happening, since we know it's fatal for the fish and invertebrates that depend on the creek being wet. In August and September 2019 and 2021, creek water has been present only in isolated pools in Reaches 1 and 2, if at all.
There is one pipe just south of Shores Drive that we found during our (2016/2017) stream assessment that isn't on the City utilities map. Water used to trickle out of it that we assumed was groundwater because it was so cold (<12 degrees C). In fall 2018 we walked that area to plan for some restoration work and noticed it's not providing water to the creek anymore. We're wondering if that has something to do with why the creek is dry.
In August 2021 we decided to walk the creek again from Morningside Park north, mapping storm drain inputs.
Pipers Pub monitoring site, SUMMER 2019 - 2021
Pipers Pub monitoring site, FALL 2019 - 2021
GNPCC monitoring site, SUMMER 2019 and 2021
GNPCC monitoring site, FALL 2019
Morningside Park monitoring site, SUMMER 2019 - 2021
Morningside Park monitoring site, FALL 2019 - 2021
Walley Creek at Hammond Bay (Footbridges) monitoring site, SUMMER 2019 - 2021
Morningside Park monitoring site, FALL 2019 - 2021
Map of Monitoring Sites
2020 Results Summary
On June 4 the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) Drinking Water & Watershed Protection Program (DWWP) released the 2020 report summarizing data collected by Streamkeepers groups through their Community Watershed Monitoring Program. This was the Walley Creek Streamkeeper's fifth year participating in this program! We use the data to better understand anthropogenic affects on the water quality, and to guide restoration efforts. We look at the results to see where the water quality readings are exceeding standard guidelines for temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, and turbidity.
Walley Creek had the potential to exceed the aquatic life guideline (17 degrees Celsius) in the summer of 2019 and 2020. This parameter is influenced by air temperature, upstream influence and physical stream attributes, however, it was noted that summer 2020 was wetter and cooler than previous years (see pg. 24 of the report). The report suggested restoration efforts to mediate the effects of high temperature include: groundwater conservation and riparian enhancement and restoration.
Dissolved Oxygen (DO)
The guidelines state that the average dissolved oxygen should be above 8 mg/L, and should not drop below 5 mg/L (instantaneous minimum). Dissolved oxygen is influenced by several factors, but low DO is commensurate with high temperatures. Walley Creek was below the average in the 2020 summer monitoring period, and at Morningside Park dropped below the instantaneous minimum for the first time since we began monitoring (pg. 33). *Check 2016 and 2017 reports to make sure this is true; the report states that it was above 5 mg/L in 2018, and 2019. This was most likely due to low flow.
Specific Conductivity (SpC)
Walley Creek is typically well above the guideline of 80 microsiemens(uS)/mL of SpC, the measure of dissolved ions in the water. We believe this to be due to significant groundwater influence, as well as road runoff from the many storm drains that feed Walley Creek from adjacent residential areas. The report states that Walley Creek was above 130 uS/cm on all 10 sampling dates (pg. 49). I don't see our data values on the graph, so I'll inquire whether there was a big difference between our summer and fall readings. We are curious whether mitigating/absorbing road runoff would bring the SpC down, and if this would be a worthwhile activity to improve the overall water quality of Walley Creek.
Measurement of suspended particles in the water exceeded parameters three times in the summer (pg. 57) and twice in the fall (pg. 58). The fall turbidity readings correlate with significant rain events October 13 (67.3 mm) and November 3 (46.2 mm). The report states that increased turbidity can increase temperature (pg. 51), and thereby lower dissolved oxygen. High summer turbidity can be a result of contaminants, storm water, and erosion. All of these are potentially true in Walley Creek.
2011 - 2020 Data Analysis Report
Broader Recommendations, pages 28 - 30 of Community Watershed Monitoring Network Data Analysis (2011 - 2020) prepared by Ecoscape Environmental Consultants Ltd. 2021
Several of these recommendations were provided by Plewes et al. (2018) (2011 - 2017 CWMN trend report), but are included again, as they remain relevant and are important to properly document water quality conditions and to ensure watershed health.
Since this watershed has very gradual elevation change, there are several important wetlands associated with Walley Creek. In the past this land was considered poor for development, or at least costly to develop. With increased development pressure in Nanaimo, and the north end in particular, we are worried that the integrity of the wetlands could be compromised. They are important buffers during significant rain storms, and provide slow release of ground water over dry summer months. In addition, their ecological value as habitat for plants and animals, plus the benefit to human health of green space and fresh air is beyond measure.
Our group came together partly over a development on Hammond Bay Road north of Entwhistle Drive that was allowed to encroach on the wetland at the headwaters of Walley Creek, where the picture above was taken in June 2016.
The Nanaimo & Area Land Trust hosted Wetlandkeepers training on June 13, 2021 and part of the workshop was held in the marsh behind Piper's Pub in the Walley Creek watershed. The reason the water is so high right now is the activity of a busy beaver damming the flow! We were concerned to notice flagging tape in this area noting the high water mark, and have since seen the property put up for sale. The blue polygons on the map below represent wetlands in the Walley Creek watershed. The City of Nanaimo outlines its watercourse protection measures here.
Again this year we deferred our annual invasive removal with Ecole Hammond Bay students, since the public health regulations aren't changing to allow large outdoor gatherings until after June 15. For now, we're working with our small group of volunteers to remove invasive plants in the riparian area between the gravel path and Walley Creek adjacent to Ecole Hammond Bay.
Last year we almost eradicated the thistle that had completely overtaken the area. That allowed other invasive plants to thrive, so this year we are tackling Himalayan blackberry, Daphne (Spurge-laurel), English Ivy, and Bur Chervil. (To identify invasive plants in your area check out the Invasive Species Council of BC website.). These plants are competing with native baby Fir, Cedar, Arbutus and Maple trees, and Salal, Oregon grape and Ocean Spray shrubs for space, light and nutrients.
Our hope is that this concerted effort will eventually allow the native plants to become established, creating a more biodiverse and healthy riparian ecosystem.
May 2021, nursery for long-toed salamanders
Volunteers from Walley Creek and Departure Creek Streamkeepers pulled off a small project in the "salmon window", so that we could follow Covid protocols.
Today we did an invertebrate study at our lowest monitoring site on Walley Creek. We haven't sampled for inverts since a Junior Streamkeepers Day with Dave Clough in 2017, but we read over Module 4 of the Streamkeepers manual and even checked out the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation YouTube page to get ready.
We sampled three times and found many mayfly and stonefly larvae, which are both intolerant to pollution. So, the presence of these fragile organisms in the creek means the water is clean and clear, with sufficient oxygen for aquatic life. It was exciting to find these important little insects!