Water Works-Stream Keeping Wheelbarrow Creek

Brentwood Environmental Action Team

Brentwood College
  • Mixed Secondary School Grades
Photo Essay (3–10 images)

Community Coach(es): 

Cowichan Valley Regional District, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Community Involvement Program

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Leadership: This year's theme for The Brentwood Environmental Action Team (BEAT) is Water Works. The motivation for this came from interest in Wheelbarrow Creek, a tributary of Hollings Creek and part of the Shawnigan-Mill Bay Watershed which forms a boundary for the school campus. After connecting with Harry, a senior vegetation ecologist, who also just happened to be an alum of the school, and works for the consultant firm who completed a 1999 survey of the creek, we decided that we should use this location as a case study for our ecological investigations. This proximity of the creek to our campus provides an excellent opportunity for student hands-on learning and long term monitoring.

Education: With leadership from the BEAT, Social Studies 9, Science 9, Biology 11 and Environmental Science 12 students looked at various aspects of the 1999 creek survey data. We discussed the components of a watershed, examined threats to this stream and the Mill Bay Shawnigan Watershed and educated the classes about invertebrate sampling. The Cowichan Valley Regional District GIS map provided useful information on the watersheds in our local area, focussing specifically on the Shawnigan Mill Bay Watershed and the Malahat Benchlands. It was decided that the a creek survey would provide a variety of fieldwork experiences for interested BEAT volunteers and students in curricular classes. Student volunteers from The BEAT decided to focus on Module 6, Stream Cleanup and survey marker set-up, social studies classes worked on Module 1, the Introductory Stream Habitat Survey and science classes investigated Module 4 which examined Stream Invertebrates. In the future the BEAT hopes that we will be able to work through Module 7, Streamside planting. This is definitely a long term project.

Action: The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Community Involvement Program provides modules to “encourage “hands on” environmental activities in watersheds in British Columbia”. After reviewing the Streamkeepers Handbook it was decided that for the 2018-2019 school year, The BEAT would focus on cleaning up the creek, setting up the monitoring site and introduce the field site to community members. Based on Module 6, BEAT members cleaned up the trash earlier in September: beverage cans, plastic bottles and bags made up most of the trash that was collected. Since the educational modules suggest that the field survey is best done twice a year: during the high flow period (winter in coastal areas, spring freshet in interior areas) and during the late summer low flow period, we set our cross curricular activities for BC Rivers Day, the last weekend of September and the last weekend in February. In preparation for this, BEAT students placed survey markers at each of the data points that were established in 1999. This would allow for easy viewing of the locations and data sampling during the cross curricular activity on the BC River’s day weekend. Furthermore, in order to allow for long term monitoring, these data points would allow for consistency. During the class activity, selected classes ventured into the stream to make riparian observations as well as collect data pertaining to activities in the Stream Keepers modules. In the first module and the main focus for our activity in the late fall was to have interested BEAT students focus on “how to find existing information, identify watershed boundaries, and then work on site to identify and map problem areas in the stream”. Once this step was completed, the interested classes recorded baseline data. The water gauge on September 22 was noted at level one. The gauge that was present in September was not evident for a gauge reading on February 22, perhaps due to large amounts of precipitation. Furthermore, photos taking on this date reflect large amounts of storm damage. These changes will be noted in photo/data collection in September of 2019. During our riparian observations, it was noted that there is English ivy covering much of the site. Due to this invasive species, one proposed area for future examination is to do a test site and remove this invader. As reported in the Invasive Species Council of BC, “it quickly forms a dense monoculture groundcover that suppresses and excludes other vegetation, and is unsuitable for most wildlife habitat.Thick evergreen ivy mats overwhelm plants on the forest floor, prevent natural seedling succession, debilitate trees, and can damage infrastructure. As a vine, it can completely engulf shrubs and encircles tree trunks of all sizes, leaving nothing uncovered. This topic is part of the Streamkeepers Module 7 so will provide a good reference. The BEAT and other interested classes may take action against this invader in the 2019-2020 school year; we hope to plant some local species that were suggested from the 1999 report, such as western red cedar, Douglas fir, oceanspray, or salmonberry.

Difference: The BEAT hopes that with this year’s BC Green Games entry, we have increased awareness about these water issues. We hope we are encouraging our community members to become active stewards for watershed protection. Water stewardship is about understanding the risks, like pollution and overuse, associated with this valuable resource and be willing to take action to help ensure water is managed sustainably. The BEAT looks forward to continuing the Streamkeeper Module education to ensure that this knowledge is imparted to our community, from year to year: De Manu in Manum, From hand to hand. It is important that we work toward a sustainable mindset about water resources within our local and global communities so that we are not “up the creek” in terms of how water resources are used.