Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery

Project Description:

This project includes planning and implementation of further action in support of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI).  The project includes components that address two main areas of current focus for the NWSRI: habitat restoration to address recruitment failure and investigation of factors leading to diminished juvenile survival.  The outcomes of this work are expected to provide a substantial and timely contribution to the recovery of the Nechako white sturgeon population. 
The project components will address the following main areas:

Habitat restoration - planning and implementing next steps.
Spawning locations – effects of environmental variables.
Juvenile survival – identifying factors that influence juvenile survival rate.
Juvenile habitat - winter habitat evaluation.
Juvenile monitoring - genetic tracing of wild recruits and evaluation of lake releases.

NEEF Funding: $445,000
Total Project Budget: $1,025,000
Start Date: May 1, 2021
End Date: Mar 1, 2023
Proponent: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Umam (Pygmy Whitefish) Surveys

Project Description:

This project involves conducting a preliminary presence/absence survey for Umam within the Cheslatta watershed. Initial surveys will provide information regarding Umam presence and distribution that will help create a foundation for future management decisions that facilitate the recovery of Umam populations.

Project Goals:
1. Provide an avenue for Cheslatta Carrier Nation members to further develop skills and training in fish habitat assessment and management.
2. Determine the presence of Umam populations within the Cheslatta Watershed.
3. Provide an example of how Traditional Ecological Knowledge can inform wildlife conservation management.
4. Conduct a field survey over 9 days in the Cheslatta Watershed, based on historical Umam spawning areas as documented by CCN elders, using minnow traps, Backpack Electrofishers, and/or seine nets.
5. Completion of fish cards for all fish species captured to submit to the regulatory agencies and for CCN records.
6. Collection of habitat characteristics of each surveyed site including

NEEF Funding: $46,236
Total Project Budget: $92,472
Start Date: Sep 1, 2020
End Date: Mar 1, 2021
Proponent: Cheslatta Carrier Nation

Cheslatta Carrier Nation LiDAR Project

Project Description:

The purpose of the proposed project is to acquire LiDAR* point cloud data and high resolution airborne digital imagery combined with post acquisition data analysis to define the current state of the Terrain and Hydrology in the Cheslatta River Corridor and watershed.
The CCFNLP will provide a comprehensive and thorough base of data to support:

  • Integrated Watershed Research
  • Tributary Watershed Restoration and Stewardship
  • Cheslatta Watershed Restoration

Specific Project Deliverables will be the identification and definition of:

  • Streams and rivers and lakes that will support a fish habitat.
  • Streams, river banks and lake shorelines that require stabilization
  • Streams, rivers and lakes that will benefit from reduced sedimentation and erosion
  • Riparian zones that have been de-nuded
  • Streams, rivers and riparian zones that require fencing to prevent livestock intrusion.
  • Streams that require hardening for livestock crossing
  • Streams that require the installation or replacement of culverts to ensure proper fish passage

*Light Detection and Ranging

NEEF Funding: $200,000
Total Project Budget: $400,000
Start Date: Nov 1, 2016
End Date: Dec 1, 2017
Proponent: Cheslatta Carrier Nation

Integrated Watershed Research in the Nechako River Basin (Phase 1)

Featured Image: IWR_UNBC_04.JPG
Project Description:

The University of Northern British Columbia houses an Integrated Watershed Research Group comprising four research chairs: Stephen Déry (Canada Research Chair in Northern Hydrometeorology), Philip Owens (Forest Renewal BC Chair in Landscape Ecology), Ellen Petticrew (Forest Renewal BC Chair in Landscape Ecology), and Margot Parkes (Canada Research Chair in Health, Ecosystems and Society). The chairs have worked collaboratively for several years on integrated watershed-based research with an emphasis on the Fraser River Basin and other northern BC watersheds including the Nechako River Basin. The researchers view integrated watershed research as linking biophysical, chemical, social, and human-health processes to address important environmental, landscape ecology, and community issues.

The integrated watershed research will focus on the following three areas:

  1. Water security and climate change (Déry and students).
  2. Sediment sources and dynamics (Petticrew, Owens and students).
  3. Tools for integration in watershed management and governance (Parkes and students).

The expected outcomes of the project are:

  • Analysis of recent trends and variability in observed river runoff across the NRB, and a comprehensive water budget for the basin.
  • Determination of the main sources of the fine-grained sediment transported in the Nechako basin (past and present), including an assessment of likely future trends.
  • Development of a watershed portal profiling integrated watershed information, and associated training and knowledge transfer.
  • Training of postdoctoral research fellows, undergraduate and graduate students, and a project manager.
  • Dissemination of research results to the public, via workshops, as well as through academic conference presentations, posters and publications.

NEEF Funding: $500,000.00
Total Project Budget: $1,000,000.00
Start Date: Jan 1, 2014
End Date: Dec 1, 2017
Proponent: University of Northern British Columbia

Nechako River Sustainability

Featured Image: NEWSS_Culverts copy.jpg
Project Description:

Update at 2017 06 15

This project is no longer active. NEWSS received $300,000.00 from NEEF between April 1st, 2014 and April 12th, 2017. With this funding NEWSS completed;

  • stream restoration and fish passage work at Murray Creek;
  • replacement of a culvert at Murry Creek; 
  • culvert removal, bioengineering, and stream restoration work at Stoney Creek.

Original Description:

Nechako Environmental and Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS) will carry out stream restoration works on 30 streams within the Nechako Valley watershed. These projects include but are not limited to bank stabilization, fencing (keeping livestock out of riparian zones), harden crossing of streams for livestock, establishment of riparian zones where required and ensuring proper fish passage with culvert replacements.

 NEWSS will further its role of stewardship by creating resources and educational tools, working with rural community and all users of the Nechako watershed resources, facilitating ongoing conversation to exchange knowledge, share perspective and explore opportunities for cooperative learning with First Nations, community residents, landowners, industry leaders, grade schools, universities and appropriate government agencies. NEWSS aspires to maintain sustainable water for landowners through the Nechako watershed and create a cleaner, healthier environment for all residents and visitors to the area.

Project Deliverables:

  • To employ a minimum of one full-time employee to manage the Recipient’s operations
  • Facilitate stakeholder engagement and education
  • Implement stream rehabilitation projects
  • Stabilize stream banks
  • Re-establish denuded riparian zones
  • Fence livestock out of streams and riparian zones
  • Harden stream crossings for livestock
  • Replace or install culverts to ensure proper fish passage
  • Re-establish fish habitat on identified streams
  • Reduce sedimentation and erosion
  • Produce maps of aquifers underlying the Nechako Plateau
  • Build partnerships in water stewardship

NEEF Funding: 300,000
Start Date: Sep 1, 2014
End Date: Apr 1, 2017
Proponent: Nechako Environmental and Water Stewardship Society

Biochronology of Wild-Recruited Nechako White Sturgeon

Featured Image: Project_Biochronology_Sturgeon.png
Project Description:

This two-phase project seeks to understand the physical and biological
conditions in the river over the last 40 years that have supported the
occasional recruitment and subsequent survival and growth of juvenile
Nechako White sturgeon. Phase one will be focussed on ageing of juvenile
sturgeon fin ray samples collected in the Nechako River since 1967 and
comparing the recruitment patterns with biotic and abiotic factors that can
affect success. Using year of birth, phase two will examine patterns of
survival and growth in the context environmental conditions that have
supported survival and good growth. Results will allow the Recovery Team and
FFSBC to calibrate future release of juveniles by understanding trends in
growth and survival as they relate to biotic and abiotic conditions in the
Nechako River. Results will also enable better planning of habitat
restoration measures in the spawning reach at Vanderhoof aimed at enabling
natural recruitment.

NEEF Funding: $19,900.00
Total Project Budget: $39,800.00
Start Date: Dec 1, 2012
End Date: Jun 1, 2013
Proponent: Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative

White Sturgeon Conservation Fish Culture Program

Featured Image: Project_White_Sturgeon_Conservation_Nechako-sturgeon-in-cradle.png
Project Description:

A comprehensive 5-year study on the Fraser River populations of white
sturgeon, including the Nechako River, concluded the Nechako River
population of white sturgeon is a genetically distinct population, isolated
from Fraser main-stem populations and has experienced a decline in juvenile
recruitment that started in the early 1960's and has resulted no measurable
juvenile recruitment since the late 1960's. Recent research has affirmed
this assertion and the current estimated total population size is
approximately 600 fish.  There is a high probability of extinction within a
few decades without immediate intervention to prevent further declines.

In January 2001, the provincial Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative
was established to address the critical state of the population.  The
purpose of the recovery initiative is to stabilize the remaining population
by preventing further declines, and ultimately to rebuild a self-sustaining

Even if the recruitment problem is immediately rectified, the mature
population would continue to lose numbers of mature fish for the next 25
years to natural mortality given the lag time between juvenile recruitment
and maturation for this population. Without immediate intervention, genetic
diversity will also continue to be eroded. The specific reason(s) for
recruitment failure are not precisely known, and while analysis of this
problem is progressing substantially, recruitment restoration cannot be
guaranteed in the near future. As such, a conservation fish culture is
paramount to preventing extinction of this population, until wild
recruitment can be re-established.

A conservation fish culture program can act immediately serving as an
interim measure to preserve the genetic diversity in the remaining
population, halt the continued loss of juvenile recruitment and initiate the
rebuilding of age structure in the population.  In addition, cultured
sturgeon can facilitate a number of research initiatives that will reduce
the uncertainty associated with many components of the recovery program
including the reason(s) for recruitment failure.

The sturgeon conservation centre has been built in Vanderhoof and will be
operational by May 2014. The capital funding was provided by Province of BC,
Rio Tinto Alcan, District of Vanderhoof and other partners. It will be
operated by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC under the auspices of the
Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.

$4 million dollars will be provided by Rio Tinto Alcan through Nechako
Environmental Enhancement Fund over the next ten years to operate the
facility. An additional $50,000 per year for operations has been provided
from Rio Tinto Alcan directly. The conservation centre will be able to
produce up to 12,000 juvenile sturgeon per year from up to twelve adult
pairs, helping to secure the genetic diversity of this imperilled population
for future generations.


NEEF Funding: $4,000,000.00 ($400,000.00 per year for 10 years)
Total Project Budget: $8,551,857.00
Start Date: Mar 1, 2013
End Date: Mar 1, 2022
Proponent: Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative in Partnership with Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC

How To Apply