Pre-excavation work consisted of bird, amphibian and vegetation surveys and water level monitoring. This information gave a sense of what species were using the site prior to the restoration work. In 2016, we conducted bird, plant, and amphibian inventory surveys to get a sense of what was using the site prior to the restoration work.
The excavation phase of the work took place in 2017 and was completed in 2018. We used the same elevations as an adjacent wetland, which already had wapato (Sagittaria latifolia) and sweet flag (Acorus calamus) growing naturally. A 3-meter deep pond was created for Western Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta). The site area is completely connected from the main stem of the Alouette River to the west and around to a channel below the dyke that existed pre-excavation and is located at the south of the site. This connection allows water to flow through during high tide. The wapato garden holds water all year round and the shallow channel holding water for approximately 8 months of the year, two months fluctuating, and dry in August. We planted two BC blue listed species, Sweet Flag and Vancouver Island Beggarticks.
A shallow channel was made to create a road for the excavator, this shallow channel proved to be well used by waterfowl and Blue Herons and also created its own diversity of plant species. We planted Vancouver Island Beggarticks (Bidens amplissima) in this area in 2018 which gave us returning plants in 2019. We did not plant aquatics in this area due to a lack of water during the summer months.
The soil that was removed from the excavated pond and channels was used as berms for riparian planting and snag placement. The soil was high in clay content. Clay was placed at the bottom and water edges to minimize bank erosion and the topsoil was flipped over to suffocate the invasive reed canary grass and used for planting. Our plant prescription is different from most restoration projects, as we used shrubs of cultural value that will also provide a beneficial food source to the various birds and mammals that use the site. A few examples are trailing blackberry (Rubus ursinus), salal (Gaultheria shallon), and huckleberries (Vaccinium parvifolium). It is our hope that the trailing blackberry and salal will provide groundcover and discourage the growth of reed canary grass.
Snags and stumps were placed throughout the site for habitat enhancement. The snags provide roosting for Great Blue Herons (Ardea Herodias), owls, and birds of prey. They also provide Northern flickers (Colaptes auratus) with a great cavity nesting habitat. To date, we have witnessed the above-mentioned species using these snags. Stumps provide habitat for amphibians, fish, and waterfowl. Using aircraft wire, stumps were attached to buried road barriers to prevent the stumps from drifting out of the site during freshet.
The 3-meter deep pond was created for Western Painted turtles with a nesting site in close proximity. Although there has been no sign of Painted Turtles, we are very pleased to say that during fish surveys conducted in March of 2018, we had overwintering coho (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in the pond. Stumps were placed in the bottom of pond to provide fish habitat. Floating logs and stumps provide roosting areas for various waterfowl and Great Blue Herons, which has proven to be very successful for these species. Both, River Otters and Beavers have also been observed using the pond.
All of our aquatic plantings were species of cultural value, with the two main species being Wapato and Tule. We focused our first round of tule planting along the channel that connects to North Alouette River and around the pond. We planted 500 plugs and lost most to freshet. We have planted approximately 250 more throughout the site in September 2019. Other species of rushes and sedges were planted throughout the site, all of which hold cultural value for basket weaving. Wapato was planted in the wapato garden area only, providing the correct growing elevation and soil.
During phase two of the excavation work, a channel was dug that connects the pond to the wapato garden during high tide. Wapato grows in tidal waters throughout Katzie’s traditional territory, therefore, we wanted to create the same growing conditions as the existing wetland. We did this by digging down to the same elevation as the natural growing wapato, and by also creating tidal conditions. Approximately 175 tubers and plants were planted in 2018, and we continue to spread wapato seed and plant tubers in the deeper end of the garden.
A challenge we are facing with our wapato garden is the growth of wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus). It has become invasive and appears to be crowding the wapato plants in the shallow end of the garden. To date, it has not moved to the deeper end, and we are quite confident that it will not due to the water depth. We have recently planted slough sedge and sweet flag to accompany the deeper wapato plants. During the past 16 years of monitoring wapato in our traditional territory, we have observed that the plants grow well with these two species. This may be that the two provide a protective barrier from the elements.