Morse Creek gets straight A’s

This pretty little brook makes the grade for the Alouette River Management Society’s Adopt a Creek Program.

Morse Creek, the little stream that runs along 224th Street to the South Alouette River, got one of the only report cards handed out in B.C. recently.

According to tests conducted last month  – turbidity (amount of sediment), acid level, and oxygen content –  this pretty little brook makes the grade for the Alouette River Management Society’s Adopt a Creek Program.

Morse gets A’s for water clarity, sand and gravel in the streambed filters contaminants, indigenous plants protect the banks from erosion, and water is neither too acidic or alkaline for juvenile salmon.

“All the results were good, the highest category,” reported ARMS office manager Amanda Crowston, who organized the on-site testing.

This pleases Rex Rutherford, a long-time mentor of Morse and whose house faces the creek, and 16 other enthusiastic new “friends” of Morse who showed up to help Amanda survey the stream in Rex’s front yard.

For some of us, it was the second visit to check the health of Morse Creek.

In February, we set traps to find out what fish, if any, still live in the brook.

Morse is home to chum, sculpin – a sleepy-eyed bottom dweller with fan-like dorsal fins – even steelhead trout.

Years ago, according to old-timers, the trout here were a foot long. A lucky kid brought one home for dinner.

Among our group this time were five grades 4/ 5 students from Laityview elementary with a day off because of the teacher strike.  Keiler Justus was with her mom, Paula, a local singer – songwriter. Elaine Cromier’s grandson, Jacob, watched intently as Amanda added drops of a chemical to water samples and waited for indicative color changes.

“What are we doing this for?” Jacob asked.

“We’re checking the oxygen content,” Crowston explained.

Oxygen in Morse increases as water bubbles over rocks at regular intervals.

Lynn Trostheim, who lives next door to Rex, figured it was a good idea to bring her sons, Ty and Alex, along.

“Kids are much more environmentally concerned than we were. I think promoting that is worthwhile.”

Lynn’s boys scrambled down to the creek to collect water samples. In the process, Ty discovered carcasses of two decomposed chum spawners.

“This is cool,” said Ty.

Like most kids, he loves to fish. The spawners are proof that neglected tributaries of the Alouette could make kid-fishing possible again, but most streams throughout B.C. struggle to sustain wild trout and salmon for future generations.

Careless urban development –something that should have been higher on the agenda at the Cohen Inquiry – and likely to escalate thanks to Harper’s plan to remove habitat protection from the Fish Act – has made the survival of fry difficult. We’ve muddied our streams, diverted them, dumped chemicals and construction waste into them without regard to plant and animal life, and ignored the importance of these waters to an inter-dependent biosystem.

Adding insult to injury, municipalities have robbed streams of names pioneers gave them, taking  the love that went with earlier Christenings. It’s easier to cherish a ‘Crawdad Creek’ over something called T2, or Connector A.

I spent carefree hours in North Van’s Little Brown as a kid, studying speckled trout. It’s now buried under the freeway.

Oil and gas run-off entering unfiltered storm drains from roads kills fingerlings in streams. We could fix that with the will and imagination the feds lack.

As more people befriend our creeks, municipalities will help reverse damage caused by practices within their boundaries.

Adopt a creek is the beginning. Geoff Clayton says testing streams to nail down contaminants entering them is the next step in pinpointing problem sources. Clayton hopes the district will help with the costs of an ARMS testing program.

In Maple Ridge one positive collaborative action involves our local fire department. Howard Exner, deputy fire chief, is at the hall located above Morse Creek at Brown Avenue near Dewdney Trunk.

Exner says the department has been trying not to contribute to Morse Creek’s water quality problems. In the past, he admits, equipment cleaning and flushing at this location sent oil and detergents into drains that eventually emptied into Morse.

“All of it went into the storm drain,” says Exner.

“We’ve made positive changes to make sure harmful chemicals from the hall don’t get into the creek. We had an oil and contaminants separator put in. We also make sure the detergent in the water is the most ecologically sensitive we can find.”

It’s all good news for Morse, and other streams waiting to be befriended by neighbouring humans.

If there’s one you care about, give ARMS a call (604-467-6401), and don’t forget to invite me to the re-Christening.

On the Ridunkulist:  The feds, for threatening to kill habitat protection in the Fish Act.  The Cohen Commission should be titled “Influence of Government Deregulation, Policy, and Legislation on the Decline of Fish in B.C.” That focus would expose the real reasons fish are disappearing and the minds behind it – government’s master plan under the conservatives to sacrifice fish and habitat to corporate profit.


Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.