Project Summary

As part of their Reconnecting Canada initiative, Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) identified an opportunity to address an obstruction to fish passage in the Cypress Hills Uplands region of Southwestern Saskatchewan. The Frenchman river reconnection project aimed to solve the issue of lost connectivity that had been created by scour at the outlets of several hanging culverts within two tributaries of the Frenchman River: Caton Creek and Davis Creek. The purpose of the project was to increase available habitat for threatened Plains Sucker (formerly known as Mountain Sucker) populations, improving their ability to adapt to the growing pressures of climate change and habitat loss. Changes to water flow and fish passage are described as threats to Plains Sucker populations as is genetic fragmentation created by improperly designed or failed infrastructure. These fish play an important role in the ecosystems that they inhabit.

Our Role

Matrix Solutions provided water resource engineering by surveying the existing twin culvert on Caton Creek and a culvert on Davis Creek and preparing remedial designs for culvert upgrades. Our team managed critical timelines for slope and elevation surveys in early April to avoid impacting project milestones and regulatory approvals. We drew on local expertise for field surveys from our Swift Current location and our Alberta water resources team completed the culvert upgrade designs. For Caton Creek, the design included a downstream riffle crest to increase water elevation in the scour outlet pool. Matrix also completed a similar design for restoring connectivity on Davis Creek.

Throughout the project, our team provided guidance on correspondence with regulators and designed a water quality monitoring plan to ensure measures to avoid serious harm to fish and fish habitat were implemented during construction.

Outcome

The Caton Creek downstream riffle crest was installed in November 2018 as designed. The riffle crest was constructed using native substrate, effectively increasing the water elevation in the scour outlet pool in low water conditions. A part of the project Trout Unlimited Canada engaged the public by presenting to the Council of the Rural Municipality of White Valley on the project and conducting a site visit with municipal staff, council members and landowners. As a result of the project, fish passage has been restored at Caton Creek, re-opening access to over 25 km of upstream fish habitat. The work on Davis Creek was deferred due to uncertainty surrounding removal of the current species partition created by the culvert, which is potentially limiting upstream invasion of non-native species including Crayfish and Northern Pike. More data on species assemblage in the Davis Creek watershed upstream of the culvert is needed.

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