Fraser Watershed Priority Area

Map of Fraser watershed priority area. See text that follows.
Fraser Watershed Priority Area

The Fraser River watershed includes the entire Fraser River Basin from its mouth near Vancouver, upstream to its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains near Valemount. The Fraser River Basin also incorporates all of its tributary basins, including the Harrison, the Thompson/North Thompson/Shuswap system, the Chilcotin, the Quesnel, the Nechako/Stuart, the McGregor and the Bowron basin. Combined, the Columbia basin and the Fraser River basin are home to 70% of the Pacific region’s freshwater aquatic species at risk. A number of these species, such as Eulachon, Steelhead Trout, White Sturgeon and Chinook and Sockeye Salmon have significant commercial, recreational and First Nations value. A number of key threats to the local species at risk have been identified that are caused by human activities, resulting in the loss of habitat quality and quantity, decreased water quality and quantity, barriers to migration and the introduction of invasive species.

Conservation efforts currently underway

An important aspect of effective, long-term conservation efforts is the identification and evaluation of activities that will maximize the conservation of species at risk. Through the collaborative efforts of a committee of partners and stakeholders, the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition has developed an integrated plan to restore and enhance waters within the City of Chilliwack. Building on stewardship activities and the collaborative development of a plan to identify opportunities to recover aquatic species at risk, the project is performing habitat restoration, maintenance, monitoring activities to mitigate a variety of local threats to species at risk and their habitat.

Decades of land modification for industrial, residential and recreational purposes have altered local ecosystems in ways that have degraded or destroyed important habitats for species at risk. Within the Horsefly River watershed, these activities have led to channel destruction and bank destabilization which has reduced habitat quality and prevented access to important spawning, over-wintering and juvenile rearing areas for three salmonid species at risk. Through habitat enhancement projects, such as stream channel reconstruction, bank stabilization and riparian fencing, the Fraser Basin Council is addressing these threats in a four-year project to restore Salmon habitat in the Horsefly watershed. In a similar project, the British Columbia Conservation Foundation is performing Salmonid habitat restoration activities in the North and South Thompson Rivers. This project has identified specific habitats of high priority for Salmonid survival and reproduction, each with a high potential for successful restoration. Over the course of these projects, the Fraser Basin Council and British Columbia Conservation Foundation are building relationships and partnering with local land owners and First Nations to ensure that the habitat monitoring and restoration activities preformed over the course of the projects will continue into the foreseeable future.

For many resident and migratory species that rely on the local upstream freshwater habitat for spawning and rearing purposes, the maintenance of fish passages and migration routes within the Fraser watershed is essential for the protection of the local species. Expanding upon the data collected during development of prior barrier prioritization tools, the Canadian Wildlife Federation is conducting a fish passage remediation project that is mitigating the impacts of barriers to fish passage. In addition to the restoration activities providing immediate access to additional habitat, the improvements made to barrier prioritization tools will provide expertise and resources that can be used to support future fish passage remediation projects.

Riparian areas in the Nechako watershed that provide spawning habitat for many fish species have become increasingly compromised. Likewise, local off-channel overwintering pools have been reduced or lost due to habitat alterations. The Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance is working on a four-year fish habitat restoration project that is rehabilitating riparian areas and constructing new off-channel overwintering ponds that will benefit the at-risk White Sturgeon, Chinook Salmon and Coho Salmon. This project is combining drone footage and underwater camera footage to characterize channel morphology, habitat features and track the growth and function of riparian areas. To ensure future continuation of these conservation activities, this project is strengthening partnerships between local First Nations, stewardship groups, local and federal governments, academia and landowners.

A number of resident freshwater and migratory fish found in the Fraser watershed rely on the local coldwater refugia. As a result of human activities, natural system alterations,  wildfires and climate change, flow rates have slowed and water temperatures have risen within these coldwater habitats. To mitigate these threats, the Scw’exmx Tribal Council is undertaking a coldwater water storage enhancement project that is monitoring flow rates and regulating dam water release to maintain the necessary flow rates to protect these essential coldwater refugia. A number of the species at risk that are threatened by coldwater habitat alterations are salmonid species that are significant to First Nations for food, social and ceremonial purposes. In an effort to protect and recover these valuable species, the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council is conducting a salmon recovery project in the Thompson-Shuswap watershed. Driven by Indigenous leadership, the project is providing better protection of stream flows and temperatures during critical times of the year and identifying and improving the quality and quantity of critical freshwater salmonid habitats. While these recovery projects are primarily aimed at salmonid species, the coldwater habitat research and restoration activities will provide benefits to an array of local species and enhance the overall ecosystem function.

Local species at risk are also affected by invasive species. As a result of various commercial and recreational activities, invasive fish and mollusc species have become established threats in the Fraser River basin and surrounding watersheds. The province of British Columbia’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy is undertaking a project that is working to minimize the impacts of invasive species on priority aquatic species at risk in the Columbia and Fraser watersheds. Key components of the project include research and the engagement of local anglers and First Nations to gain knowledge and expertise to help prevent the illegal introduction and suppress populations of invasive Small Mouth Bass. Another important aspect of this project is the implementation of an Invasive Mussel Defense Program to be able to detect and prevent the establishment of invasive Zebra and Quagga Mussels.

Using an alternative approach, the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia is protecting species at risk from the threat of invasive species by proactively preventing the accidental transfer of invasive species into the Fraser watershed. This project is developing and supporting informed partnerships with fishers, boaters, recreationalists, tourists and others to close high-risk pathways for aquatic invasive species introduction. Together, these projects are providing the necessary knowledge and establishing conservation methods that are improving our ability to contain, suppress and prevent the introduction of aquatic invasive species and mitigating a significant threat to several local species at risk.

With a large number of conservation projects working to protect species at risk and restore habitats, Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Canada Nature Fund for Aquatic Species at Risk (CNFASAR) is supporting projects that will have an immediate and lasting impact on ecosystems in the Fraser watershed. These projects are contributing to the protection of species at risk through the mitigation of a wide variety of threats, including barriers to fish passage, natural system modifications, climate change and invasive species, these projects are contributing to the protection of species at risk through the restoration of their habitats. To build a lasting motivation for environmental conservation, many of the CNFASAR funded projects are engaging with First Nations, stewardship groups, local and federal governments, academia and landowners and encouraging collaboration between all Canadians to aid in the recovery of our species at risk.

Learn more about projects in this area

Thompson river salmonid habitat restoration project

Thompson river salmonid habitat restoration project

Recipient: British Columbia Conservation Foundation

Project goal: This four-year project supports the recovery of aquatic species at risk by undertaking restoration activities at select sites throughout the eight sub-basins of the North and South Thompson Rivers in South Central British Columbia, more specifically in Louis Creek, the Bonaparte River, Hat Creek, Quilchena Creek, the Salmon River, Paul Creek, Guichon Creek and the Nicola River. These sites have been identified as high priorities for restoration activities with high potential for success. Restoration activities include creation of riparian habitat and installation structures to improve habitat connectivity and water quality. These activities are intended to help improve habitat complexity and productivity, benefiting multiple aquatic species at risk.

A monitoring program will allow for accurate reporting and enables an evaluation of current restoration efforts and informed future efforts. This project aims to contribute to the strengthening of partnerships with First Nations and seeks to generate a legacy of increased Indigenous involvement through capacity building for field work and monitoring activities.

Fund Allocation: $1,859,384

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Media announcement:

Government of Canada and Province of British Columbia partner to take bold action to conserve Steelhead Trout

Secwepemc leadership for Thompson-Shuswap salmon recovery

Secwepemc leadership for Thompson-Shuswap salmon recovery

Recipient: Shuswap Nation Tribal Council

Project goal: This four-year project is applying a multi-species, ecosystem-based approaches to water monitoring and habitat restoration activities that benefit at risk salmonid species in the Thompson-Shuswap watershed.

The work conducted as part of this project will benefit aquatic species at risk by addressing threats such as low water flow; warming stream temperatures; habitat destruction; degraded riparian areas; loss of priority wetlands; and blockages in rivers. Project activities include: (1) providing protection of stream flows for fish during critical times of the year, particularly in key streams that are prone to drought conditions; (2) identifying critical freshwater habitats that are essential to at risk salmonid species; and (3) improving freshwater habitat quality and quantity for at risk salmonids through strategically located and designed restoration projects.

The research gathered during this project is expected to support in-season water management decisions and will identify and prioritize areas of high instability for future restoration activities. This work will lead to strengthened relationships and collaboration with project partners, landowners, and other stakeholders in the Thompson-Shuswap watershed while also increasing opportunities for essential skills training and development to support Indigenous capacity building, stewardship and leadership.

Fund Allocation: $1,800,000

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Media announcement:

Government of Canada and Province of British Columbia partner to take bold action to conserve Steelhead Trout

Coldwater River water storage enhancement plan

Coldwater River water storage enhancement plan

Recipient: Scw’exmx Tribal Council

Project goal: The Coldwater River in the Nicola River watershed provides important habitats that support aquatic species at risk. The main freshwater threat to species at risk in this system is the alteration of flow regimes resulting in low flows and high water temperatures. The changes in these regimes are forecasted to worsen from impacts of ongoing forestry (including pine-beetle induced forestry), wildfires and climate change. This three-year project aims to provide aquatic species at risk with access to improved water conditions to mitigate these impacts.

This is a phased project, the first phase of which is to explore the feasibility of raising the height of an existing dam to increase the quantity of water stored in the lake/wetland area behind the dam. If feasible, the water would be available to be released in times of low flows to provide the flows necessary for the aquatic species at risk. If not feasible, other options for improving water flows will be explored.

The project builds upon the partnerships with local First Nations through the shared goal of improving habitat for species at risk.

Fund Allocation: $802,000

Time Frame: 3 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Media announcement:

Government of Canada and Province of British Columbia partner to take bold action to conserve Steelhead Trout

Fish passage remediation in the Columbia and Fraser Basins for aquatic species at risk

Fish passage remediation in the Columbia and Fraser Basins for aquatic species at risk

Recipient: Canadian Wildlife Federation

Project goal:This four-year project consists of restoring access to fish habitat in freshwater ecosystems throughout the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds. The Canadian Wildlife Federation is convening partners to prioritize barriers for remediation. Numerous databases have been developed that will be integrated to expand the scope of existing planning tools. These tools,  combined with additional data layers, including barriers such as railway stream crossing, stream crossings on private roads, dikes, irrigation dams and low-head flood control structures, will be used to expand the scope and scale of existing barrier prioritization tools for future application.  They will also be used to remediate barriers to increase access to upstream spawning and rearing habitat for targeted aquatic species at risk.

This collaborative initiative will continue to leverage expertise and resources to support fish passage remediation benefitting species at risk beyond the life of this project. It will create a legacy for continued habitat gains for targeted aquatic species at risk populations in the Fraser and Columbia watersheds.

Fund Allocation: $1,165,900

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Recovery of priority aquatic species at risk through the suppression of invasive species

Recovery of priority aquatic species at risk through the suppression of invasive species

Recipient: Province of British Columbia – Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Project goal: The objective of this four-year project is to enable research, engagement, recovery actions, and monitoring to mitigate the impacts of invasive species on aquatic species at risk in the Fraser River and Columbia River Watersheds priority area.

The first component of this project is the suppression and containment of the invasive Smallmouth Bass (SMB) in Cultus Lake, near Chilliwack, British Columbia. Engagement with First Nations and local anglers will provide local knowledge and expertise (i.e. education) towards preventing illegal introductions and will establish volunteers for SMB suppression through angling. Additional community and stakeholder engagement will educate residents, anglers and visitors about the threats posed by SMB and the need to keep them out of the lake.

Research is being undertaken to determine the magnitude and extent of the SMB population and its impact on the species at risk inhabiting the area which will lead to the development and implementation of control and eradication measures to reduce and/or eliminate SMB from Cultus Lake.

The second component of this project consists of early detection lake monitoring as part of the B.C. Invasive Mussel Defense Program (IMDP) to prevent the introduction of invasive of Zebra and Quagga Mussels. Lake monitoring is occurring throughout the priority area. The detection and control of invasive species improves the chance of recovery for threatened aquatic species at risk. It is anticipated that, through local and regional support, long-term suppression and containment programs will be established to further mitigate the risk of invasive species to species at risk in future years.

Fund Allocation: $600,000

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Nechako River Chinook, Coho and Sturgeon fish habitat restoration in the Columbia & Fraser Watersheds

Nechako River Chinook, Coho and Sturgeon fish habitat restoration in the Columbia & Fraser Watersheds

Recipient: Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance

Project goal: This four-year project consists of activities to rehabilitate riparian ecosystems in the Nechako watershed. This project is focusing on rehabilitating riparian fish habitats in the known spawning reaches of the Chilako River and along a series of spawning reaches in Greer Creek (both tributaries to the Nechako River) that have been subject to a variety of habitat-related threats. The project also includes the construction of an off-channel overwintering pond, a habitat type that is severely compromised in this area.    

Habitat rehabilitation activities are planned to be  monitored annually through drone footage and underwater cameras. This imagery, combined with stream cross-sections and in-stream measurements, aims to help physically characterize channel morphology and the re-formation of habitat features as the rehabilitated riparian areas grow and regain function. Together, these tools will help us understand how rehabilitation of the riparian ecosystem is improving fish habitat. 

This project is building upon the partnerships between local First Nations, stewardship groups, local and federal governments, academia and landowners that have been created over the last several years to deliver riparian and floodplain ecosystem rehabilitation projects to ensure that these works continue into the future.

Fund Allocation: $476,000

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

An integrated plan to restore and enhance waterways within the City of Chilliwack

An integrated plan to restore and enhance waterways within the City of Chilliwack

Recipient: Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition

Project goal:This four-year project aims to address threats to aquatic species at risk and their associated habitats through conservation, watershed planning and restoration activities within the municipal boundaries of Chilliwack, British Columbia. Threats to the waterways within this area have caused reduced access by fish to off-channel habitat and reduced fish habitat and water quality.

Collaborative efforts involving a steering committee of partners and stakeholders are underway to develop a “road map” to identify opportunities to recover aquatic species at risk. Project activities include the identification of restoration opportunities, monitoring, maintenance of previous restoration efforts, restoration of riparian and aquatic habitats and stewardship communications activities.

The work of the steering committee as part of this project will strengthen existing partnerships and foster the creation of new relationships with stakeholders, local First Nations and community members who are partnering to implement recovery actions for species at risk.

Fund Allocation: $452,180

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Protecting species at risk from threats of invasive species

Protecting species at risk from threats of invasive species

Recipient: Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

Project goal: The overall goal of this four-year project is to protect aquatic species at risk and their key habitats in the Fraser and Columbia River systems of British Columbia through actions that prevent the introduction and the spread of invasive species.  

This project, through partnerships, focuses on closing high-risk pathways that enable the spread of aquatic invasive species such as movements by fishers, boaters, float planes, recreationists, tourists and others. New standards of practice will be developed and implemented using behavioural-change science. This project aims to develop and support informed and responsible partners that can undertake actions and mentor others to reduce the impacts of invasive species. 

This project will provide much needed information for Indigenous communities, community partners and resource managers by addressing an existing knowledge gap regarding the understanding of the threats of predation and competition by invasive species in the Fraser and Columbia River systems.

Fund Allocation: $525,000

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

Horsefly watershed salmon habitat restoration

Horsefly watershed salmon habitat restoration

Recipient: Fraser Basin Council

Project goal: This four-year project involves habitat restoration activities that target salmonid habitat throughout the Horsefly River Watershed, particularly the areas that have been subject to channel destruction and bank destabilization. These efforts involve restoring juvenile rearing and over-wintering habitat as well as adult spawning habitat. The restoration activities conducted as part of this project include stream channel reconstruction, bank stabilization, riparian fencing and in-stream habitat enhancement in key tributaries and riparian areas affecting the Horsefly River.

Long term continuity of results is to be ensured by ongoing monitoring and maintenance programs and by relationships with partnering landowners. This monitoring will continue past the four year timeline of this project as part of ongoing Fraser Basin Council watershed restoration activities. Project results will be communicated using signage posted at the annual Salmon Festival in Horsefly. This advertising is key to educating the public on salmon habitat restoration.

Fund Allocation: $356,309

Time Frame: 4 years

Species that benefit from this project:

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