The city is working with the Ministry of Environment to find a solution after a resident raised concerns over murky conditions in the Hays Creek salmon habitat.
Potential impacts of silt runoff from Wantage Road was reported by the Joseph Lewis to the City of Prince Rupert in late November. Veronika Stewart, the communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert responded to the issue in an email.
“This runoff was a result of the movement of silt/dirt materials from the former King Ed school site to an approved dump site at Wantage Road. Once the runoff was reported to the city, the contractor was informed about the potential impacts, and silt mats were laid to protect the banks of the creek near the dump site shortly thereafter.”
Stewart explained that the work was completed in December and done with permission from the city. The Ministry of Environment is also aware of the activity at the site.
“After reviewing photographs that were recently brought to the city’s attention, city staff will be strategizing on a remediation plan for the area with input from the Ministry of Environment,” she said.
Lewis started the Hays Creek Habitat Restoration Facebook page on Jan. 9, after contacting the city about the creek’s eroding state. The water source feeds into North Coast salmon habitat.
“It all began in October. I was doing some volunteer work for the local Oldfield Creek Hatchery. While we were doing the egg collection, I pulled out an old bicycle and all kinds of debris out of the creek. I noticed how poor the water quality was. It was full of silt, mud, there’s an iron oxide bloom from silt and contaminants,” Lewis said.
Even more alarming, he said, was that they were only able to catch one male and one female salmon during the egg collection — the first salmon they’ve seen there in years.
“They could very well be the last salmon in that creek,” Lewis said.
Lewis began looking at the tributary creeks that flow into the main watershed.
“At the same time, they were excavating the old King Ed school site,” Lewis said. “They had one truck every five minutes — heavy, loaded trucks with mud driving up and down that road all day. There were rainy days, there was just a river of mud and silt flowing right down the bank and into the creek.”
Storeys Excavating was the construction company tasked with clearing the former King Ed school site. James Storey, the company owner, said that none of the material they hauled came into contact with the creek.
“Not one piece of anything left the truck on that road to the old landfill,” Storey said. “It is a dirt road. It was heavy rains and truck traffic” that caused runoff from the road itself. He clarified that they monitored the situation the whole time, putting up silt mats and the city asked them to do road maintenance.
Storey added the company hasn’t hauled any material on Wantage Road in the past two or three weeks, and that Storey Excavating trucks are not the only ones that use that road — it’s open to the general public.
On Nov. 26, Lewis went to city hall to share what he’d found. The next day, silt mats were placed along the troubled areas. Lewis said the public works office was very cooperative, but he said there are a few places that were missed and some of the mats aren’t effective.
“Some of the silt is really just bypassing the silt mat and flowing down into the watershed. Then, I started looking into other things like where they were taking the fill, how they were handling the fill because the Ministry of Environment has protocol for road and ditch maintenance and construction. In Section 46 under the Water Quality Act, it talks about what they can and can’t do. There’s mass amounts of silt and pollutant, mud entering the creek. So I started documenting everything and taking photographs.”
On Jan. 22, Lewis will present the issues Hays Creek faces and how to work on them to the Prince Rupert Environmental Society at the Fisherman’s Hall. In the meantime, he hopes that community members will use the Hays Creek Habitat Restoration Facebook page to become more aware of how to help the creek.
“It’s a great little creek and ecosystem flowing right through our community. It’s salmon and trout habitat — it’s very valuable. It’s like a home to keystone species. It’s very important that we maintain it and preserve it and enrich it for future generations,” Lewis said. “I think it’s a very important part of the community.”
Storey applauded Lewis’s concern for the creek, and said, “We all take that very seriously.”