Newsletter October 2018

Bighill Creek Preservation Society Newsletter

It has been a busy year for BCPS. One of the things that we’ve allowed to slip is our communication with our supporters. This is our first newsletter, intended to be a regular undertaking and a brief update on our activities.

The BCPS Annual General Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, November 17th at the Spray Lake Family Sports Centre. We’ll cover some of the items below in more detail then. We’ll email a reminder and further details of the AGM as the date approaches.Many thanks to those who’ve offered your volunteer efforts. We have a number of projects coming up. Obviously much of the field work will need to wait till spring but we’ll be in touch as we get organized and set some schedules. Below are some of the issues that have kept us occupied.

Insect Study’s Spring Start

This spring, BCPS will initiate a study of what insects inhabit our environmental reserve within the Bighill Creek valley. We hope to involve local schools in the project, once it is underway. A grant from the Town of Cochrane has allowed BCPS to purchase two Malaise insect traps that will help us begin this work. We are seeking local expertise to help us.

Understanding local insect populations, including what they are, where they live and their health, is globally recognized as increasingly important. Elsewhere it is found that insect populations are equally at risk as are populations of many backboned species, in our increasingly human-dominated world. Insects are integral to the functioning of healthy ecosystems, as well as to our own food production. We need to know and understand them better.

First Year of Water Quality Analysis

A chance meeting of several BCPS board members with Georesources and soils scientist, Dr. Ymene Fouli, originally of Tunisia, proved great happenstance as she has proven a wonderful professional to conduct our first year of water quality studies.

With funds from Alberta Ecotrust, Alberta Land Stewardship Centre, Bow River Basin Council and Cochrane Environmental Action Committee, we have been able to do five sets of analysis of five sites on Bighill Creek, from Highway 567, south to the confluence with the Bow River. Generally, water quality is good to excellent throughout, attesting to healthy riparian habitats down this length. A few contaminate problems have shown up within the Town of Cochrane and higher than expected organic matter occurs above Highway 567. This matter tends to be diluted by the influx of excellent quality water entering from Big Hill Springs.

BCPS is currently applying for grants to conduct a second year of water quality studies to see if last year’s trend continue.

Electrofishing with Trout Unlimited, June 13, 2018

BCPS is excited and encouraged by the results of this first fish study undertaken at four sites along Bighill Creek. The study was facilitated by fisheries biologists Elliot Lindsay and Haley Tunna of Trout Unlimited, assisted by BCPA board member, Ken Stevenson. The lower 5 km of the creek proved to have excellent riparian habitats and harboured a surprising number and variety of fish species. Water temperatures, qualities, volume and pH were all excellent in June.

Near the creek’s confluence with the Bow River, in a space of 12 minutes of electrofishing a 100 m stretch, 23 fish were taken and measured before being released. These included 16 longnose dace, 4 brown trout, 2 native suckers and 1 rainbow trout. Near the Farmer’s Market, 54 fish were taken in 12 minutes from 100 m of water; 26 dace, 14 suckers, 8 brown trout, 4 brook trout and 2 Rocky Mountain whitefish. The next site upstream yielded only dace and suckers, but in the cold waters of Big Hill Springs, at the park, 16 brook trout were taken.

Results of this Trout Unlimited study have been published by BCPS.

Beaver Studies, 2019

Upstream of Cochrane for about 8 km, Bighill Creek is or has been, home to many beavers and their dams. In 2019, BCPS is hoping to raise grant funds to allow the Cows and Fish organization to undertake an in-depth study of the riparian habitat and beaver activities in the lower 8 km of the Creek.

Further, we are planning to test “pond levellers” in several active ponds that threaten to flood Ranche Road in particular. The levellers work to maintain beaver ponds at a certain level, allowing beavers to continue to live and work in the pond without removal and without flooding roads or pastures.

In 2019, Cows and Fish are planning a workshop on the subject of the value of beavers in the ecosystem and the role pond levellers can play.

Mapping the Watershed

Three SAIT students, as part of their studies have a created a series of maps of Bighill Creek watershed. These are very useful in allowing us to visualize various aspects of the drainage. We plan to have one of the students present their work at our AGM.

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