This small tributary to the Bighill Creek flows from its source ground springs, downstream thru the town of Cochrane’s main municipal office, where it then enters the main stem of Bighill Creek. It was used as a primary key spawning habitat, and also as a nursery habitat for juvenile trout from the BH Creek. When a storm drain was constructed on the small trout stream, the habitat began to change and now the once wild trout population that lived in the creek is close to collapse, if not already gone.
The spawning records indicate a sharp decline in recent years, down to zero spawning. The last year of zero spawning was in 2014, the year that they pumped Cochrane Lake down and discharged the contaminated water into Ranch House Spring Creek. The over abundance of algae in the pumped warm water, cause a dramatic effect on the Ranch House Spring Creek, downslope of the lake.
The collapse of the spawning on the creek has been directly linked to storm drain damage on the stream channel, and a severe impact on both aquatic invertebrate and trout populations. As time passes the old natural stream channel is being slowly eroded into a washout. This destruction of native trout habitat, including spawning habitat, is and was not necessary. Poor design and improper fisheries assessment prior to the construction of the storm drain, led to this fiasco.
When trout eggs hatch into small trout larva and then fry, they need to start feeding off of existing natural food items that a normal spring creek would support. However, if large volumes of water are constantly flushed down the system, the food supply gets blown out of the system. The volume coming out of the storm drain is many times larger than the existing natural stream channel can withstand for any amount of time, before it starts to erode into a mess that can’t be fixed without many thousands of dollars being invested to try and fix it.
The fact that a water withdrawal permit was issued without proper fisheries assessment is also below normal standards. If a permit was ever issued? The over impacts on the Ranch House Spring Creek quickly added up, over recent years. The local fisheries biologist for the province doesn’t seem to be involved at all in this fisheries disaster, at least this is the way it appears. Both the storm drain and water pumping issues need to be addressed.
It is still early enough in the game to do something about this problem for the Ranch House Spring Creek wild trout. I suspect that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada needs to step in and straighten things out a bit.