Riverbank Makeover Project
The work completed on the Riverbank Makeover Project in 2019 was Phase 2, representing the 2nd year of this project. In 2018 CRV partnered with a river-adjacent homeowner to restore a section of the Elbow River riparian area for Phase 1 of our Riverbank Makeover Project. In 2019, Phase 2 involved monitoring the success of the 2018 restored site, as well as restoring another riparian area along the Elbow River. This project is supported by funding from City of Calgary Water Services, as well as S2G+, and funds from our own organization.
What is a Riparian Area & What Does It Do?
Riparian is from the Latin root, ripa, meaning bank, i.e. riverbank. A riparian area is the transition zone between the river and the rest of the land. It is a specialized area that has wetter soil than the surrounding land and will support water-loving vegetation. It can vary in width, depending on the width of the river or water body, as well as the slope of the surrounding lands. When the riparian area is healthy with a variety of deep-rooted vegetation it will prevent erosion of the riverbank, improve water quality by filtering run-off from the land and absorbing excess river sediment, reduce river energy during high water events, absorb high water and later release it (like a sponge), and provide excellent habitat for wildlife including shade for fish.
Did You Know?
Most experts agree that hard surfaces on the riverbank like large bare rocks or retaining walls are not the best method of reducing the energy of floodwater as these can just rebound the water’s energy and damage another part of the riverbank. Also, the soil in between the rocks or underneath the wall can be washed away by floodwater, defeating its purpose. A better way to reduce the energy of floodwater and ensure the health of the riparian area is to have deep-rooted riparian plants along the river’s edge. However, if the retaining wall or large rocks can’t be removed, it would help to restore the health of the riparian area to plant deep-rooted plants adjacent to a retaining wall and in between the large rocks. During high water and flood events these types of plants help to absorb and reduce the force of the water, stabilize the riverbank, and prevent erosion.
Phase 1 Garden Tour
On August 22, 2019 we held a garden tour of the river-adjacent site that CRV restored in 2018 during Phase 1 of our Riverbank Makeover Project. This site was on the Elbow River, in the community of Elbow Park. The site had grown substantially in one year. See photo below.
Phase 2 Planting & Post-Planting “Reveal” Garden Tour
On September 18, 2019, we planted multiple species of native shrubs and wildflowers on the site selected for Phase 2 of the Riverbank Makeover Project. This site was also on the Elbow River, in the community of Rideau Park. Volunteer gardeners worked alongside CRV representatives and riparian plant experts, and learned about riparian plants and planting techniques. See below for a layout of the 2019 site planting plan, as well as pictures of the site before & after planting.
Similar to the site planted in 2018, we plan to monitor this site for growth in 2020.
Elbow River Brown Trout Redd Count Project
This project involves a visual survey of Brown Trout spawning sites (“Redds”) in two sections of the Elbow River. In the Upper Elbow, we have surveyed for the last two years a section along an approximately 6 km reach from the Glencoe Golf Course to the Elbow Springs Golf Course. In the Lower Elbow, the survey has been conducted by Calgary River Valleys since 1994 in the approximately 12 km reach from the Glenmore Dam to where the Elbow meets the Bow River at Fort Calgary. Each Brown Trout Redd survey or count is conducted in November, following the typical spawning season for Brown Trout. To complete the Redd Count on both the Lower Elbow (below the dam) and Upper Elbow (above the dam) in 2019, Calgary River Valleys received funding from the Land Stewardship Centre and from the City of Calgary Water Services.
Monitoring of 2019 Fish Habitat Restoration Project in Lower Elbow River
Calgary River Valleys’ Brown Trout redd data was used by the City of Calgary & Alberta Environment & Parks to help determine the impacts of the 2013 flood on spawning habitat, and what river locations would best support spawning habitat restoration. One location in particular was identified as an opportunity to restore fish spawning habitat, the side channel on the south side of Elbow Island, upstream of the 4 St Bridge. Unfortunately, no redds were found in this newly re-opened side channel in 2019, but hopefully the fish will use in 2020.
Despite no evidence of Brown Trout using the newly reopened side channel for spawning this past season, our crew of volunteers did find a continuation of the trend back toward more usual numbers of redds in the Lower Elbow River. A total of 274 Brown Trout Redds were counted in 2019, up from 257 in 2018 and 231 in 2017. This is approaching the pre-2013 flood average number of redds of 302.
Comparing 2019 Count to 2018 Baseline in Upper Elbow River
Calgary River Valleys again in 2019 counted Brown Trout Redds in the Upper Elbow River between the Glencoe Golf & Country Club and the Elbow Springs Golf Club. We compared this year’s data to that collected for the first time in this section in 2018. The results showed more than double the number of redds counted in 2019 (28 redds) vs 2018 (12 redds).
There can be multiple explanations for this increase in the number of redds. One possibility is that now the bridge construction at Highway 8 is completed, the trout are more comfortable spawning in this section of river. However, no firm conclusions can be made without additional study.