Bulkley Valley Research Centre - Science in the Public Interest

Morice River Floodplain Monitoring Project

Project Reference Number: 2013-05

Project Status: Active

Led by: Patrick Hudson, Hydrologic Consulting Inc.

Office of the Wet'suwet'en

Funder: Tides Canada

This project is designed to generate detailed monitoring data of Morice River floodplain channel water quality and mainstem spawning distribution mapping and links to Morice Water Management Area monitoring efforts. Off-channel floodplain watercourses are very important aquatic habitat features of the Morice River hydrosphere. Complex interactions between groundwater, surface water, evapotranspiration and shallow seepage creates diverse combinations of hydraulic and hydro-chemical conditions in terms of floodplain fish habitat. These habitats contain considerable juvenile rearing / overwintering, high flow refugia, spawning and migration habitats. A thermo-regulatory function is also served by floodplain watercourses as well as a pronounced water quality effect, particularly during the winter low flow period. This proposal aims to collect a spatially extensive water quality dataset for a full hydrologic year at floodplain watercourse sites (FWCs) from the outlet of Morice Lake downstream to the Owen confluence. A secondary goal of the project is to develop detailed mapping of the spawning locations of Steelhead, Chinook and Coho across those same reaches. Current information on spawning habitats is relatively generalized. This is an important information gap given the need for site specific spawning habitat location data to assess the potential impact of ongoing and future land use impacts.

An assessment was done of historic Morice Floodplain salmon habitat utilization data (spawner locations by species and timing) and development of a set of field ortho-photo maps for data capture. Redd counts,spawner surveys and habitat assessments were completed from Morice Lake to Owen Creek along the main stem Morice River and side channels.