Eyes on the Elbow

 Vol. 2017 (4) December 2017

Studying Sedimentation to Protect Native Trout

by Ann Sullivan

Conservation biologists tend to be a grumpy bunch, according to Dave Mayhood. But with help from stewardship organizations like the Elbow River Watershed Partnership, maybe Mayhood and his colleagues will start feeling positive about changes in Alberta’s water bodies and riparian zones.
Mayhood, an aquatic ecologist and president of FWR Freshwater Research Limited, has been working to bring attention to the state of Alberta’s native Westslope Cutthroat Trout as their population declines and sedimentation of their habitat increases. He is currently researching sediment loading to several streams in the McLean Creek Public Land Use Zone (PLUZ), one of the few remaining areas with genetically pure stocks of Westslope Cutthroat Trout. 

Click here to continue reading about sedimentation and native trout.

Above left: A heavily-used but undesignated (illegal) trail drains silt steeply downhill to a known cutthroat trout spawning site, Silvester Creek. In partnership with the Westslope Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team, this trail was decommissioned by the ERWP in October 2017. Dave Mayhood photo

Above right: In 2018, the ERWP plans to work collaboratively with Shell Canada and the Alberta Westslope Cutthroat Trout Recovery Team to restore this site near Silvester Creek.  Dave Mayhood photo


Canada 150 Photo Contest: And the winner is ... ! 

Congratulations to Dave Klepacki, winner of the ERWP's Canada 150 photo contest. Klepacki's award-winning photo, titled Autumn Sunset Elbow River, is pictured at left. Klepacki will receive a framed print of his photo, inclusion of his photo in the 2018 ERWP calendar, and a copy of Mountains to Metropolis: The Elbow River Watershed by Diane Coleman.  

Two runners up will also receive copies of the book. The  top 12 photos will be included in the 2018 ERWP calendar.
1st place Dave Klepacki
2nd Runners up are Bryan Mercer's Morning at Elbow Lake and Eric Lloyd's photo Great Grey Owl
3rd-5th are  Heinz Unger's Early Spring over Elbow River Highway 22 Bridge, Keith Bagnall's Elbow Lake and Mount Rae and Don Mickle's Elbow River from Powderface Ridge.  

Congratulations to the top 5 and thank you to all who entered the contest. Many thanks also to Bob of Branded Visuals for assisting with the judging and for providing the top prize together with Angelo from Art Country Canada!

Beavers - our natural river stewards

ERWP member Mary Reid attended a beaver symposium on December 7, hosted by Cows and Fish and Miistakis Institute.  The “Putting Beavers to Work for Watershed Resiliency and Restoration” collaborative has been exploring the role that beavers can play in watershed restoration in Alberta. To date, the collaborative has focused its efforts on generating awareness about the role of beavers as ecosystem engineers and promoting coexistence through the demonstration and implementation of various coexistence tools.

Through this work we have identified the need to bring stakeholders together to reflect on and highlight some of the great work that has been ongoing within the field of beaver coexistence in Alberta and surrounding regions. A variety of groups—from municipalities to environmental non-governmental organizations to land owners and researchers—are doing important work to advance the use of beavers to realize watershed health. These efforts were highlighted and celebrated at the “Putting Beavers to Work for Watershed Resiliency and Restoration” symposium in an effort to pass on knowledge of lessons learned and new research to those working to see beavers and humans mutually benefit from coexistence.

Citizens can help monitor Calgary's riparian health 

As part of The City of Calgary’s Riparian Action Program, a 5-year Riparian Monitoring Program is currently under development. A key outcome for this program is to explore ways to involve and engage citizens in the collection of riparian health monitoring data.  This type of program, known broadly as citizen science, would provide meaningful, long-term opportunities for citizens to contribute to the assessment and monitoring of riparian health in Calgary. The ERWP was identified as a key stakeholder for this citizen science workshop, so we attended and provided input.

Whirling disease threatens sustainability of Alberta's fishery

Whirling disease affects trout, including brook, bull, brown, cutthroat and rainbow trout as well as mountain whitefish and salmon.  It is caused by a microscopic parasite called Myxobolus cerebralis. This parasite requires two hosts to complete its life cycle and become a threat: a healthy trout or mountain whitefish and a Tubifex worm, which is found in the sediment of water bodies.
The parasite hitches a ride on birds, bears, wading boots, boats, and fishing equipment from one body of water to another. It is then ingested by the bottom-dwelling Tubifex worm.  Within the worm, the parasite transforms into an alternate form called Triactinomyon (TAM). TAMs are then released by the worm into water, where they find juicy young trout in which to burrow. Once inside the fish, TAMs attack the cartilage near the spine that can result in a blackened tail, spinal deformities, a loped nose and/or a whirling swimming pattern.
Whirling disease in Alberta was first confirmed in August 2016 at Johnston Lake in Banff National Park.  Since then it has been confirmed in the Oldman and Bow River watersheds, including the lower Elbow River in Calgary. 
Concerns are high for the healthy sustainability of Alberta’s world-class fishery, including the threatened Westslope Cutthroat Trout. In some fish populations, mortality rates have been as high as 90 percent.  Poor spawning habitat and species susceptibility play a role in mortality rates.
Currently there is no cure or treatment for whirling disease.  The best that WE ALL can do is CONTAIN AND PREVENT. This means CLEAN, DRAIN and DRY all water-contacted equipment, in situ, before moving to another water body.  Never move live or dead fish or fish parts between water bodies.
Find more information on whirling disease here or call 1-855-336-BOAT (2628).

Article contributed by the S2G+ Preservation Society. Join their stewardship network or follow them on Facebook


Watch for BRBC science forum's call for abstracts 

The Bow River Basin Council will host a full-day science forum in spring 2018 (date and location TBD).
The purpose of the Forum is to increase awareness of watershed-related research and projects in the Bow River basin. We encourage submissions on all research topics of relevance to the Bow River basin. Stay tuned to this site for the call for abstracts!


Riparian Restoration

ERWP Coordinator Flora Giesbrecht, together with Ghost Watershed Alliance Society's Executive Director Marina Krainer presented to the Bow River Basin Council December Educational Forum on Dec 13. The topic was Bio-engineering Projects in the Ghost and Elbow Watersheds. Here are some highlights from the five project sites in 2017: an estimated 6,020 square metres were restored, 1,550 willow stakes planted, 70 volunteers involved, and 1,850 volunteer hours were recorded.
Flora and Marina provided a list of 9 ingredients to make a successful volunteer restoration recipe. These include: 1. Financial and in-kind support 2. A suitable site 3. Necessary permits 4. Baseline photos 5. Workday plan 6. Volunteers 7. Work day(s) 8. Evaluation and measurements 9. Continued monitoring and maintenance of the site.


ERWP Projects

Thank you to our casino volunteers!

The ERWP would like to thank everyone who is taking a shift -- or two! -- at our fundraising casino December 15th and 16th. We appreciate that you are taking the time during the busy month of December to help out. Casino opportunities, which come up every 18 months or so, provide much-needed funding for programs such as our Freshwater Field School, riparian restoration projects and much more. Thank you! We did have a last-minute cancellation tomorrow (Friday) during the day and on Saturday's night shift. If you are available, please let Flora know as soon as possible:

West Bragg Interpretive loop

The 1.5-km interpretive loop starting near the West Bragg Creek day area parking lot is still in the approval stages. Through one of our project partners, the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association, we will build approximately 300 metres of trail and install signs next spring. The all-season loop will include educational signs designed to increase awareness and understanding of the Elbow River watershed as well as stewardship and the various land uses in the area.  We are seeking volunteers to provide some assistance on the messaging and design of two of the signs. Please contact Flora if you are available to help. This project is made possible through grant funds we received this summer from the Land Stewardship Centre

Interesting Links

From laggard to leader? Find out how Canada is doing 

This report by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) examines Canada's performance relative to other countries in protecting our land and freshwater, as well as the progress we've made toward our international commitments.

Access the latest agricultural news from Rocky View County

Rocky View County’s AgReview is an online news blog that provides timely farm and ranch information, resources, opportunities and general posts relating to the agriculture industry. At the end of each month we send out an email with a summary of the blog posts for that month and a link for subscribers to access the posts. Subscribe to these emails with the work “subscribe” in the subject line.

Canada 150 Photo Contest 2nd Runner up Brian Mercer's Morning at Elbow Lake
Eric Lloyd's Great Grey Owl
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