Fish and tidewater started returning to part of Delkatla Slough last week thanks to restoration work by Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Bruce Harrison, a biologist with the wildlife conservation group, says they replaced three old culverts under the east side of the emergency access road that connects Trumpeter Drive and Cemetery Road.
“The culverts were definitely undersized, and one of them was absolutely plugged and collapsed,” Harrison said, adding that very little tidewater or fish could pass through before, and when tides were three metres or higher.
Working with a Ducks Unlimited supervisor and biologist, Masset Services was contracted to dig out the old arched culverts and replace them with wider, oval-shaped ones that will allow water to flow even when the tides are lower.
It may take two years or so to see, but Harrison said eventually plants and animals in the 10.5-hectare section of upper marsh will switch back to more tide-loving species. More regular flooding should also thin out the red alder trees that were starting to take over the area.
“We’re trying to take it back to what it would have been prior to that road going in there,” Harrison said.
A final budget wasn’t ready at press time, but the project will likely cost between $100,000 and $250,000. It was funded by the Prince Rupert Port Authority, which was obliged to restore a wetlands area to offset some wetlands lost on Ridley Island during a recent expansion.
Ducks Unlimited will send a biologist to monitor the Delkalta Slough every few years to see how the restoration takes shape.
Since 1994, Ducks Unlimited and the Village of Masset have agreed to restore and protect Delkatla Slough, following the replacement of the former causeway to Masset with a $1-million bridge that allowed tidewater to flow into what is now a 290-hectare wildlife sanctuary with some 150 species of birds. Efforts to replace the causeway were led by the Delkatla Sanctuary Society, and supported by Ducks Unlimited, the provincial and federal governments, and other partners.
“It’s a unique salt marsh on the coast,” Harrison said.
“It’s got a very cool mix of birds that come in — not just your typical coastal birds, but a lot of what we call ‘vagrant’ species that get blown off-course from Asia or the Arctic that wind up there from time to time.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the role of the Delkatla Sanctuary Society and other partners in the replacement of the former Masset causeway.