Dredging preparation leads to fish kill
By Bruce Corcoran
At least one local resident is concerned the work that is underway to dredge Mud Creek will kill off much of the creek’s fish population.
Davis Janssens, 19, grew up right next to Mud Creek. He’s fished, played and enjoyed life along the creek most of his life.
On Wednesday, he waded thigh-deep out into the mud to try to rescue a number of carp left in the mud.
This just days after heavy weekend rain had parts of the creek overflowing its banks.
“They drained the water. There is a bunch of dead carp in there,” he told The Chatham Voice.
Tim Dick, director of drainage, asset and waste management for the municipality, said work is being done on the system to dredge out the centre of the creek to help with stormwater management.
“First and foremost, this is a drainage stormwater management facility. This is necessary maintenance work. It’s really needed. We saw that need for it last weekend,” he said, referring to the heavy rain that saw nearly 130 mm of rain (five inches) fall in some parts of Chatham overnight Friday and into Saturday morning. “About 2,500 to 3,000 homes rely on that for drainage in the southwest quadrant of Chatham.”
Dick said work did not begin until after the scheduled restricted fisheries window was lifted.
When municipal officials attended the site on Thursday, they saw that a quantity of fish had died overnight. The municipality’s environmental specialist has been in contact with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks regarding the situation, according to municipal officials.
The die off is believed to have occurred due to a lack of oxygen in the water, municipal officials said, adding steps have been taken to avoid further negative impacts to fish in the system.
Janssens said he’s never seen the creek as low as it was Wednesday.
“I’m worried about the turtles, fish and other wildlife. (Wednesday), there were probably 20 dead fish in the area,” he said. “You can imagine what they are going to do with a backhoe digging into it.”
Dick said the area Janssens is concerned over lies at the lower end of the system, near the drainage pump.
“The worst part is the first section, which is wider,” he said of the area. “We’re only cleaning the centre section, about 15-20 feet wide. All habitat along the edges will remain untouched.”
Municipal officials lowered the creek level in preparation to dig, but Mother Nature delivered another 15 mm of rain Thursday and filled it back up.
Dick said the digging has begun beside the pump and will work backwards from there.
“We basically match or go slightly below the soffit elevation of the pump well at the start. We establish a slight grade moving uphill towards the upper end,” he said.
Digging could go down between three and four feet in the centre of the creek, he added.
Dick realizes there was some loss of carp in the creek, but pointed back to the need to have the creek and the stormwater system ready to handle heavy rains.
“They key to be able to manage high-intensity situational rains is having stormwater management facilities that can handle the peak flow,” he said. “But we have no system designed for that (weekend) rainfall event. That likely far exceeded the amount for a hundred-year storm.”