Recent reports from a stream restoration project at Kama Creek in Nipigon Bay, ON, undertaken by Lakehead University academics and students, have shown positive results over four years of monitoring.
Kama Creek is a historically significant habitat for coaster brook trout, and the stream was realigned (or diverted) from its original channel in the 1960s. The realignment project was undertaken to address erosion concerns. However, an unintended consequence was that it created a barrier to fish passage into the upper reaches of the stream, which then caused fish numbers to decline dramatically. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry estimated in 2001 that this realignment caused the loss of approximately 600 m of brook trout spawning habitat.
In response, the Kama Creek restoration project set out to reposition and re-route the current delta and channel of Kama Creek. A riffle-pool (or cascade-pool) system was used to provide the fish with easier passage and navigation through the creek. The project was conceived and recommended by the Nipigon Bay Remedial Action Plan team and its Public Advisory Committee. The aim was to restore Kama Creek to its original, pre-1960s state.
The restoration project itself was completed between October-November 2011, but years of monitoring was required to gauge its long-term success. To do so, Lakehead University academics and students tracked brook trout habitat and spawning habits in chemical, biological, and physical assessments. The assessments were completed before and after the restoration, and the success criteria were based requirements two factors: brook trout health, and overall function and stability of the stream. Monitoring was done on a weekly basis in 2011, just after the project’s completion; bi-weekly in 2012; and monthly in 2013 between May-November; and sampling was done in September 2014.
Fortunately, the restoration program showed overall improved stream condition and habitat. The project resulted in masters (Kady Kaurin, Lakehead University MES 2015) and undergraduate theses (Kara Cox, Lakehead University HBSc 2015), and the site is used by Lakehead’s faculty for various outings: field schools, 4th year geology/geography course trips, and conference trips.
In the future, the Kama Creek project will still be subject to monitoring to ensure the results are consistent. Dr. Rob Stewart reports that: “We will continue to monitor Kama for another 4 year cycle to ensure that the creek maintains its ecological integrity and provides numerous public and educational opportunities. We have noticed that some of the pool riffle sequences are degrading as the infrequent discharges of the creek push boulders and cobbles downstream and this may have to be mitigated in the next few years. We are also keeping an eye on the water loss through the berm that exists to block off the old channel as it still allows a small trickle of discharge into the old creek and we want to ensure that does not increase. We will continue to update with future monitoring results.”
The Kama Creek project was undertaken with support and funding from the following sources: Canada Ontario Agreement Respecting the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem (COA); Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Foresty; Environment and Climate Change Canada; the Nipigon Bay Public Advisory Committee (PAC) to the Remedial Action Plan; and Lakehead University.