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Rain gardens protect salmon habitat
Tuesday, 07 February 2017

Deborah with two Delta students

Salmon Stamp dollars at work!

  • By Deborah Jones (Rain Gardens Coordinator, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers)

In 2006, the Pacific Salmon Foundation provided its first grant to Cougar Creek Streamkeepers to build a rain garden at Cougar Canyon Elementary School (North Delta), in collaboration with the Corporation of Delta and Delta School District.  This demonstration rain garden proved to be a great success, and so it was soon followed by another at Chalmers Elementary, and then another at Annieville, then Heath, then Gibson, then ….

Eleven years later, thanks in no small part to funding by the Foundation’s Community Salmon Program (CSP), North Delta now boasts 27 school and community rain gardens.  Collectively, these gardens divert about 18 million litres of rainwater runoff away from Delta's storm sewer system, and send it into landscaping instead.   Not only do the gardens filter out litter and pollutants that would otherwise be piped through storm sewers directly into salmon habitat, they also help replenish the groundwater supplies that keep salmon streams flowing during summer dry spells, in places like North Delta that don’t benefit from a melting snowpack.

Delta raingardens

The Community Salmon Program currently provides about $1.5 million per year in grants to volunteer streamkeeper groups across British Columbia and Yukon.   The majority of these funds come from anglers who fish in B.C.  That’s because 100% of proceeds from the Salmon Conservation Stamp are returned to B.C. via the Community Salmon Program.  CSP grants are especially cost-effective because they require leveraging. Applicants must find matching funds or “in kind” contributions from other donors of at least 50%.   I’m told the average is much higher, at 7:1!  In addition, all projects must include a significant volunteer component.

For our North Delta rain garden projects, that volunteer component has consisted of thousands of hours of student, teacher, parent and streamkeeper participation in planting, mulching and maintaining the gardens.  It's been a great educational experience all around, as well as a source of real progress in sustainable management of stormwater.   It’s also a succession plan for the future, because the program engages young people in learning about how to protect their watersheds.

This year, we had some great returns of spawning coho and chum salmon to Cougar Creek - nearly 300 sightings, for an estimated 200 spawners (allowing for duplicate sightings).   Streamkeepers also patrolled McAdam Creek on just two days in November, and counted 24 spawners -- so the total for the season in that creek was probably around 100.   Not bad, for a couple of small suburban creeks!   We like to think that our CSP funded rain gardens are already making a difference for North Delta’s salmon streams.