Restoring brook trout habitat: Kama Creek

2011-2015 Funding: $543,680, including $176,000 provided by the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund

Other Project Contributors: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Nipigon Bay Public Advisory Committee and Lakehead University.

An official "fish moving day" - where a restored creek channel and new habitat were opened up to brook trout - celebrated the completion of a restoration project on the north shore of Lake Superior, undertaken with the support of the Great Lakes Sustainability Fund.

Prior to the mid-1960s, Kama Creek, a tributary to Nipigon Bay just east of the Township of Nipigon, provided significant habitat for brook trout. However, concerns about erosion at a railway crossing led to the installation of a culvert and the straightening of the lower reach of the creek downstream of the crossing. As a result, about 300 metres of fish habitat were lost along the lower reach. The perched (or raised) culvert also served as a fish passage barrier, cutting off access for migrating brook trout to another kilometer of habitat along the upper reach. Reinstating the creek and its floodplain to a more natural, meandering configuration and increasing brook trout populations through the provision of additional spawning, nursery and feeding habitat were key objectives in the Area of Concern’s Remedial Action Plan.

Under the project, the fish passage barrier was removed and the creek channel was realigned to its natural course through digging and infilling. A cascading pool system was introduced to allow for easier passage for migrating fish and improved habitat. Riparian habitat also was created and protected with nearly 500 metres of buffer strips installed along the shoreline. Another 500 metres of stream banks were stabilized to support the development of a more natural wetland and floodplain. A follow-up study estimated that a total of about 1.6 hectares of fish habitat and .8 hectares of wetlands were created.

Over the last several years, monitoring efforts - including six fish population surveys, two benthic invertebrate surveys and six water quality samplings - have tracked the effectiveness of the project. This monitoring has confirmed that the habitat restoration work has been successful and that the creek is functioning well in its more natural state.

The project met with widespread support from local residents and cottage owners. Public outreach activities included information letters to the local campers association, a community open house in Nipigon, information kits available at the Nipigon and Red Rock libraries, and field guides to inform visitors about the changes. On the “fish moving day,” volunteers from local schools participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony and helped plant seeds for vegetation along the restored stream banks.

In addition, Thunder Bay’s Lakehead University has used the project site as an outdoor learning lab, with visiting classes studying habitat rehabilitation and monitoring. University students and instructors, as well as members of the Nipigon Bay Public Advisory Committee, also volunteered for a training session to help assess fish populations.

For more information on the Nipigon Area of Concern, please visit: InfoSuperior.

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