Thank you to the generous organisations and individuals who supported our efforts, with project funding, unallocated donations and in kind contributions. Without these, what has been accomplished would have been impossible.
Alberta Land Stewardship
Bow River Basin Council
Cochrane Environmental Action Committee
Dr Dick Pharis
Town of Cochrane
Rocky View County
Spray Lake Sawmills
Ann & Don Ferrier
BCPS AGM 2019
Thanks to everyone who came to our AGM. Your support is appreciated. Once again we were a little too ambitious in trying compress too much information into too little time. We attempted to deal with the standard General Meeting items efficiently and then get to the more interesting topics.
Thanks especially to our generous sponsors: AlbertaEcotrust, Bow River Basin Council, Land Stewardship and CEAC who allow us to conduct our scientific studies. We thank you also our private donors, who allow us to exist as a society in helping for insurance fees and other cost. Thank you to MDL, Town of Cochrane, Cochrane Foundation , Ed, Blaine and many more for our trail maintenance project.
Thanks to Lyse for efficiently describing our finances and audit.
Kathryn Hull and Kristina Boehler of Cows and Fish provided an enlightening description of riparian health in general and the results of their 2018 work on our drainage (mostly good news) . Dr. Ymène Fouli updated us with her most recent water and sediment analysis.
Ken Stevenson informed us regarding his work on instream temperature loggers, the aquatic insect study he managed and the fish inventory he completed with Trout Unlimited.
Vivian and I briefly described trail use and maintenance program on the reserve lands.
Our 2019/20 objectives include commencement of a hydrology study of the drainage and a demonstration project for a beaver pond leveler.
Although the applications for the gravel pits immediately upstream of the spring at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park have been aside by judicial order, we expect that the proponents will reapply in the near future requiring our response.
Thanks again for your support. Please feel free to contact any of our Board Members if you have any comment or concern regarding our activities.
BIGHILL CREEK PRESERVATION SOCIETY
TEMPERATURE LOGGERS FOR THE CREEK 2019-2020
In 2017, Elliot Lindsay – Trout Unlimited Calgary – suggested to our Bighill Creek Preservation Society (BCPS) that monitoring the creek water temperature year-round at several locations in the valley would gather vital data on the creek waters within the drainage. This is particularly critical during the summer and fall months when water temperatures in the creek could rise to levels detrimental to most fish in the creek and certainly trout. Such temperature studies would complement well our existing studies on water quality/sediment studies, riparian assessments, aquatic insect studies and electrofishing studies.
The temperature loggers (14) were purchased in 2019 for BCPS by the Cochrane Environmental Action Committee (CEAC) and subsequent work by BCPS has now readied the temperature loggers for stable placement in deep pools in the spring of 2020 following the spring freshet.
The loggers have a stream life of 4-5 years and can be monitored while in location in the creek.
The longer-term plan is to initial the re-introduction of the original native Westslope Cutthroat trout through work with Alberta Environment – Fish and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited – Calgary and likely the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Along with these projects would be the new work envisaged by BCPS to have a thorough hydrology study of the watershed which would also involve an in-depth study of the beavers and their habitat currently in the Bighill Springs Creek Watershed.
Dear members of Bighill Creek Preservation Society,
Thank you to those who attended our Annual General Meeting last Saturday. We meant to sincerely thank those of you who have been so generous these past few years. Your contributions helped with our cash flow. Without you, we could not cover the cost of insurance, postage, advertisement, website fees nor the odd prints we need. The funds we received from other grants are restricted to the water analysis project. The other ongoing projects we have (trail maintenance and insect studies) are also restricted funds.
Thank you again for your past valuable contribution.
Bighill Creek Preservation Society
Cost not covered by grants:
- Any operating cost
*We had one grant from Rocky View County to cover some of these operating costs; but it was a one time in our ”life” as a society.
- Any workshops
- Business cards
We were able to cover these costs last year, but will be unable to make ends meet this year!!? We do need some help!
In follow up to our earlier communication regarding potential impacts of proposed gravel extraction near Big Hill Springs Provincial Park: attached is a recent update from Gravel Watch regarding the judicial review of the County approvals process. In short the County has been told their process is significantly inadequate. We expect the proponents will reapply under whatever new guidelines are established.
Subject: Residents Win Judicial Review of Hwy 567 Gravel Pit Approvals – County Appeals
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruled in favour of the residents in the judicial review of the gravel pit applications along Hwy 567. The applications had been approved by Rocky View Council in 2017.
The judge’s ruling included the following key points:
- That “no reasonable council would proceed in the circumstances of the obviously deficient applications.”
- That Rocky View Council erred in failing to consider the cumulative impacts of gravel extraction in the area when it made its decisions;
- That the magnitude and obviousness of the defects in the applicants’ Master Site Development Plans were a “very serious and patently unreasonable departure” from what the County Plan requires in MSDPs; and
- That the Council could not comply with its obligations to consider relevant factors by deferring decisions to the development authority.
The judge’s decision makes it very clear that cumulative impacts of multiple gravel pits located close to each other must be considered and that future MSDPs need to include sufficient information “for meaningful decision making and public input”. The victory means that before any new gravel pits go ahead on Hwy 567, the gravel companies have to reapply and new public hearings have to be held. This would not be as significant an outcome except for the fact that the judge’s decision means that any reapplication needs to address the identified shortcomings. If they do not, any subsequent approvals would be unlikely to withstand a future judicial review.
Before you get too excited about the residents’ win, it is important to know that the County is appealing the decision. This seems to be Rocky View’s strategy for dealing with legal disputes. The County doesn’t take defeat easily; however unreasonable the court concluded the County’s decisions were, the County is willing to use taxpayers’ dollars to continue to defend its decisions.
If you haven’t yet signed the petition asking the Province to inspect Rocky View’s operations, the County’s decision to appeal this case should be enough to get your signature on the petition. Visit www.rockyviewsos.com for more information.
All the best,
Rocky View Gravel Watch
BCPS –AGM Nov 17, 2018
AGM started at 13h40
1. Confirmation of a quorum: we had 31 persons in attendance. The quorum was met.
3. Approval of the Agenda
4. Presentation/approval of the minutes November 2017
5. Reserves update: maintenance, erosion/weevils, pictures.
6. Grants – Thanks to Sponsors! Showing their page on our website.
Rocky View Operational Fund=$2,500.
* Town of Cochrane=$1,000. For insect study + donation of $164. * Cochrane Environment Action Committee=$2,000.
* Alberta Ecotrust community grant= $7,000. + $500. (administrative cost of Cows & Fish)
*Alberta Ecotrust major grant= $12,165. + $1000. (administrative cost of Cows & Fish)
*Bow River Basin Council= $10,000.
* Land Stewardship=$10,000.
* Restricted funding to pay for watershed study
7. Watershed Study Update- Dr. Fouli
8. Beavers- Dr. Stevenson
9. Mapping Project: Geomatic Study data management
SAIT’s students created a project of mapping our watershed through 21 maps.
Bighill Creek watershed is 43,049 acres /174 km210.
10. Stewardship Committee Volunteer Request/Insect Study
11. Financial statement –
12. Future Projects:
Water analysis year 2 Insect study
Continuation of trail maintenance Cows and Fish Riparian Health Study
13. Nominations/Election of Board Members (E)
President: Gerry Bietz, vice-president: Vivian Pharis, secretary-treasurer: Lyse Carignan, directors: Ken Stevenson, David Reid, Ed Fedosoff, Mike Foster. Elected by acclamation.
You are invited to our Annual General Meeting on November 16th, 2019
at the Seniors on the Bow Auditorium, located on the second floor, at the east end of Spray Lakes Sawmills Family Sports Centre at 14h00.
- Financial update
- Overview of ongoing projects:- aquatic and terrestrial insect studies, temperature loggers, trail maintenance, water analysis year 2
- Guest speaker: Kathryn Hull from Cows and Fish will present the results of the Riparian Health Assessment conducted in 2018
- Future plans
We look forward to see you there!
Cows and Fish/Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Society has completed their study.2018 BCPS communty report_final
Prepared for the Bighill Creek Preservation SocietyFebruary 201912018 BCPS communty report_final
Bighill Creek and its Watershed Plans
By Vivian Pharis, VP, BCPS
Bighill Creek’s Watershed and Early Planning
Bighill Creek’s 174 sqkm watershed begins as a classic fan, a gathering of slow waters from sprawling, open, cattle lands. There isn’t much water in the upper reaches of this basin. But, when the creek accepts a burst of pristine water from the nationally significant springs at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park, it becomes a bold flow. Below the park, the robust creek enters a narrower valley. Confined by a high sided coulee it descends to Cochrane and the Bow River, gliding past sandstone cliffs, some of which served ancient peoples as buffalo jumps, and slips past steep, forested slopes hiding deer and cougar. Interestingly, the coulee is a remnant of glacial times when impounded meltwaters broke free in a dramatic flood that carved a path to bedrock, in their escape to the Bow River.
In 2007 a tri-creeks watershed initiative was launched by the Town of Cochrane and Rocky View Council, to better understand the three waterways entering the Bow River at Cochrane. Bighill was the last of the three to inspire a group of people to begin planning. Bighill Creek Preservation Society was registered in 2015 and announced a Board of Directors, developed a mission statement, a set of six objectives and began work on four actions aimed at understanding and preserving the watershed.
BCPS begins stewardship work and watershed studies
One BCPS objective is to encourage stewardship, another is to educate about the natural and historic features of the valley. To these ends, BCPS accepted stewardship of a 40 acre RVC reserve in the creek’s bottom, most of it designated “environmental”. Trails through the reserve had suddenly been “discovered” by new Cochrane residents and heavy use began around 2015 – walking, dog walking, running and cycling. There was a sudden need to build a footbridge over the creek, to develop a loop trail, and begin diversions and rehabilitation on the steep, forested side where soils are thin and erodible.
A grant from the Cochrane Foundation allowed BCPS to buy three motion sensor cameras. These were set to work understanding wildlife use in the valley, but one was devoted to monitoring human trail use to enhance stewardship work. BCPS has also set up 7 sites along the trail that are measured and photographed each year for erosion, widening, deepening and root exposure. These will help guide our maintenance program.
Funds were raised in 2016, to begin collecting baseline data through studies towards a watershed plan. The first undertaking was to monitor the quality of stream water. A scientist, Dr. Ymene Fouli, was hired in 2017 to test waters at five sites on the creek and at two springs. These studies are to be repeated in 2019, with, hopefully, the addition of more sampling sites in the upper reaches of the basin.
Another set of funds allowed BCPS to commission a Riparian Health Assessment of the creek in the early summer of 2018. The expertise of Cows and Fish was hired to survey the creek for riparian cover, invasive plants, tree and shrub establishment, state of vegetation and human or livestock damage to stream banks. While provincial waterways score on average, 70% – healthy but with problems, Bighill Creek scored 87%, or generally healthy. We are in great shape, but it will take work to maintain this record in light of increasing recreational pressure on the creek.
The springs contributing most of the flow to Bighill Creek are nationally significant because of their constant year-around flow rate and temperature, as well as their uncommon tufa formations. Of great concern to BCPS are applications for three new gravel mines on the very aquifer of this unusual set of springs, and the lack of responsibility so far shown by Rocky View County for the springs and the provincial park they support. This situation has occupied much of BCPS’s efforts in the past two years.
This valley, so close to a town nearing 30,000 people, is surprisingly full of wildlife. Our cameras helped to show Bighill Creek as home to healthy populations of moose, white tail and mule deer, cougar, fox, coyote and beaver. Our blue heron colony has been hatching up to 8 nests of eggs continuously for at least 100 years. More rarely seen, but caught on camera were a bobcat and a racoon!!! Mink and muskrat are in the creek, along with chorus frogs, wood frogs, tiger salamanders and there used to be a good population of western toads. Garter snakes are abundant. In spring and summer the valley rings with bird calls. Red tailed hawks, horned owls and prairie falcons all nest and hunt in the valley.
A reason for the variety and numbers of wildlife in Bighill Valley is the proximity of the Bow River and the large Glenbow Park along the river. Right now, there is still enough undeveloped land between these two natural valleys to allow a free-flow of wildlife. The main barrier between them though is Highway 1A, with its reputation for killing more wildlife/km than any other highway in Alberta. Plans for vastly increasing residential development on both sides of the highway between Cochrane and Calgary, bode ill for maintaining wildlife numbers.
We are especially interested in fish populations and on a day in June, 2018, at 5 sites on the creek, Trout Unlimited, along with board member Ken Stevenson, caught and released 40-50 fish of a wide variety of species including trout (but not Cutthroat Trout), in the space of 12 minutes, in the lower reaches of the creek. Fish were found in all sites tested. Cochrane Environmental Action Committee has committed to buying temperature loggers that will be placed in the creek this winter/spring in order to better understand if the creek could again support endangered Cutthroat Trout.
Grant funds have been applied for to begin assessing beaver habitat throughout the creek. Funds are also being sought for the purchase of “pond levelers” or “beaver deceivers” to better control water levels in several downstream dams that have been flooding Ranch Road.
Reserve as Laboratory
The small natural reserve so close to Cochrane, is increasingly being seen as an outdoor laboratory for school groups. BCPS is also increasingly asked to talk about the creek and its ecology at Cochrane schools. To better understand the importance of natural areas, BCPS will begin studies of local insect populations on the reserve. Knowing that the world’s insect populations are disappearing at alarming rates, we consider it timely to learn about populations nearer home, and perhaps find out if ours are also in decline. This spring and summer will see a University of Calgary student assess the creek’s aquatic insects. A small grant from the Town of Cochrane has allowed BCPS to purchase two Malaise insect traps from California and these will be tested in the spring of 2019 to begin an educational investigation of terrestrial insects. Several schools have already indicated interest in being involved. Anyone with knowledge of how to undertake such studies is invited to help us.
Another buggy undertaking in the little reserve, is to see if we can naturally control invasive Canada Thistle. To this end, BCPS bought a packet of tiny thistle-eating weevils from Alberta Agriculture and released them in an infested area in 2018. Apparently it can take up to 4 years to see if there has been survival and results.