Maple Ridge’s ‘Rocky’ fish fence survives pummeling

The fish fence completely submerged after record rainfall. (KEEPS Facebook/Special to The News)The fish fence completely submerged after record rainfall. (KEEPS Facebook/Special to The News)
The fish fence survived a battering as Kanaka Creek hit a rare high water mark. (KEEPS Facebook/Special to The News)The fish fence survived a battering as Kanaka Creek hit a rare high water mark. (KEEPS Facebook/Special to The News)
Logs and debris got hung up on the fish fence, but damage was minimal. (KEEPS Facebook/Special to The News)Logs and debris got hung up on the fish fence, but damage was minimal. (KEEPS Facebook/Special to The News)

Ross Davies was scared for the fish fence at Kanaka Creek Park as the creek swelled, and logs and debris pummeled it.

“It looked more like Hell’s Gate than Kanaka,” said Davies of the river, as he looked down from the bridge over 240th Street.

Amazingly, it held up.

“That fish fence is the Rocky Balboa of fisheries infrastructure,” said Davies, who is the education coordinator for the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership (KEEPS).

Davies has worked on the Kanaka since the 1990s, and this was just the second time he has seen the river so huge. The last time was in 2007.

This time, the waterway was draining record rainfall that saw 178 mm fall over Nov. 13, 14 and 15. A normal rainfall for the entire month of November is 393 mm.

Logs and debris got hung up on the fish fence and its cables. But after a half-day of work by crews, the debris was gone, and the fish fence was relatively undamaged.

During a massive high-water event, the tributaries of the Kanaka become important, as spawning salmon “shelter” in some 60 or 80 smaller creeks and streams that run through Maple Ridge residents’ backyards. It gets them out of the churning water of the main current, Davies explained.

He said there will be “short-term pain” for spawning salmon, as as some eggs will be lost. But in the long run, the gravel is cleaned of sediments and silt, and becomes superior spawning beds for the future.

“And the aquatic insect population will explode,” he added, which creates better a habitat overall.

After a low return of chum salmon this year, he said the coho spawning on the Kanaka looks like a “decent” run this year.

However, the conservationist in him worries about climate change and the appearance of extremes weather, that sees record heat in the summer, followed by record rain in the fall.

“Wildlife and fish are having a hard time keeping up,” he said.

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