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The creeks in the Kelowna area, like those throughout North America, have been impacted by human development. Urban, agricultural, industrial and forestry activities have resulted in increased erosion and pollution, altered drainage patterns and reduced riparian vegetation.

With urban, agricultural and industrial activities came problems of loss of property, flooding and drainage problems for humans. Many of the methods used to overcome these problems were for the sole benefit of people while other ecological functions were not considered. Typically drainage and protection of property has been dealt with using piped networks and vertical rock or concrete walls, which eliminates valuable habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial life. These practices, although successful at curbing the problems faced by humans, reduce watershed functions and create an entirely different set of problems for the creek and the other species which rely on it for part or all of their life cycles.

The City of Kelowna recognized the importance of focussing efforts on restoring Mill Creek and initiated the Lower Mill Creek Watershed Program in 1997. The program focuses on both the rural and urban areas that fall within City of Kelowna boundaries and completes a major restoration and enhancement project each year to demonstrate techniques to improve watershed health.

The Lower Mill Creek Watershed Program focuses on using restoration and enhancement efforts that are cost effective and provide multiple benefits. The program utilizes partnerships with landowners, government agencies and volunteers to ensure a successful project. The City also looks to a variety of sources to help fund these initiatives. The objectives of the Lower Mill Creek Watershed Restoration Program include:

To improve Mill Creek water quality by preventing streambank erosion, and creating riparian areas to filter, trap and break down pollutants from nearby runoff.

To restore and enhance instream and streamside habitat for both aquatic and terrestrial life.

To educate the public, private landowners and developers on the importance of Mill Creek as well to encourage these groups to become stewards of the creek.

This paper will highlight four case studies including in-depth methodology and implementation techniques to improve overall watershed health.

Tree Revetment, 1997. The City's first eco-sensitive, biotechnical restoration project was the installation of a tree revetment. Primarily to control erosion and improve water quality, the revetment also provided numerous other benefits. Additionally, installation of fences restricted livestock access to the creek, and planting native species helped re-establish the riparian zone.

Erosion Control Blankets, 1998. This project also focussed on stabilizing streambanks, but demonstrated the use of erosion control blankets, which are less expensive and less labor intensive than a tree revetment. Similar to the above, fencing and intensive riparian planting made up the remaining components to the project.

Habitat Recruitment Structures and Instream Complexing, 1999. This was the City's biggest project to date. A variety of techniques were utilized to overcome extensive erosion, lack of instream habitat and a degraded riparian area.

Park Naturalization Program, 1999. Riparian zone enhancement occurred in two manicured City parks along Mill Creek. The project focussed on educating the public on the importance of a healthy riparian zone versus a manicured streamside and encouraged private landowners to incorporate similar landscaping as a benefit to the creek and themselves.

Successful completion of the projects was due to the partnerships established and the funding received from a variety of sources including the City's budget, Fisheries Renewal BC, and BC Environment Youth Team. As additional funding becomes available, the program will expand until the Lower Mill Creek Watershed is once again healthy.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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