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FortisBC protects fish habitat while stabilizing its natural gas pipelines
By Grace Pickell
FortisBC have been working hard to protect pipes in the Elk River and Michel Creek from damage caused by recent flooding.
When floods caused water to spill over the banks of the Elk River and Michel Creek this June, rocks on the riverbed shifted, exposing natural gas pipelines.
FortisBC responded quickly, assembling a team of professionals to start work on protecting them. It was the most extreme weather the area had seen since 1995.
“Water was running fast and just a few centimetres under some of the bridges, roads were washed out and there was a lot of debris in the water,” recalled Cliff Wylie, distribution manager for FortisBC.
Ian Ramsay, the project’s biologist said, “These rivers support sensitive fish and fish habitat, so the job is a complex one that has to be completed in a very short timeframe before spawning begins. One step we take to protect them is to isolate the fish from the work area.”
To isolate the work area, spot nets are put in place by biologists. When the terrain won’t allow for nets, the team will adjust by placing the rocks down onto the riverbed slowly, so the fish have time to swim out of the way.
To protect the pipelines the team covered them, first with gravel and small boulders and then with larger rocks called rip rap. They are also building rock spurs – small rock outcroppings – that protect the pipes from debris and fast moving currents.
The team has also been placing large, woody debris in the river to serve as fish habitat. Fish can hide from predators under the tree roots, or take a break from the water’s fast flowing currents. Work is scheduled to be complete early this September.
“Conducting our work in a safe and environmentally responsible manner is our first priority. It was a monumental effort by all to get where we are now, and I’m proud of our team,” said Wylie.