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Money pouring into spawning channel

The first phase of a project to clean up
the water in the Mission Creek
spawning channel will go ahead

by Rob Munro
The Daily Courier
Sunday, April 17, 1994

Spawning kokanee will be able to lay their eggs in cleaner water this fall.

An $79,000 grant from the Habitat Conservation Fund will start the revitalization of the Mission Creek spawning channel this year. It’s expected to cost $310,000 over two years.

“We’re very, very happy,” Ron Taylor, past-president of the Oceola Fish and Game Club, said. “This was turned down two years ago because the Habitat Conservation Fund will not fund projects in excess of $100,000.”

The grant application was restructured so the fund will pay $79,000 for the first phase this year. If Oceola, Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club and other local organizations can raise $100,000 this year, they can get $130,000 from the Habitat Conservation Fund for a second phase next year.

Bruce Shepherd, acting section head of the Ministry of Environment’s fisheries department in Penticton, said the headgate that diverts water into the channel will be relocated and a larger settling pond built in the first phase.

“That will make it less of a risky operation,” he said. “At times, now, we have an interruption in water flow.”

In the winter, the channel can be blocked by ice and during spring runoff gravel and sediment may block the channel opening. Shepherd hopes to avoid those problems by moving the headgate upstream.

If approved, next year the channel will be totally rebuilt so it can be properly lined with clay to prevent leaks. Now, about half the water can leak out if the main channel is low.

That will also allow a slight expansion in capacity from 17,000 spawners to 19,000. In the future, the channel could be extended downstream to allow another increase.

The existing channel was created in 1988 with $46,000 from the Habitat Conservation Fund and $40,000 from local sponsors, along with many hours of volunteer labor. It was built in response to concerns about declining kokanee populations in Okanagan Lake.

That population can range from seven to 15 million with spawning fish numbering 100,000 to 250,000, depending on the year (kokanee spawn every four years).

Last year, about 32,000 kokanee spawned in Mission Creek below the spawning channel and another 15,000 in the channel, Shepherd said.

Mission Creek is the largest spawning creek for Okanagan Lake. The Oceola club will meet in June to start planning its fundraising efforts. The City of Kelowna has already committed $5,000.