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'Bad swimming' fish cause public works project

Peter Crnogorac
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 13/06) - The city may have to fork out $300,000 to replace a Kam Lake culvert because northern pike are lousy swimmers.

A project called the Kam Lake Road Realignment and Culvert Replacement plan is included in the city's 2007 draft budget.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Gila Summers, left, and Carol Mills pose with pike caught at Kam Lake in August. The city will replace a culvert at Kam Lake to make it easier for pike to swim upstream to spawn. - NNSL file photo

"The work is being done for two reasons," said Dave Devana, director of corporate services for the city. "First, the sharp turn where Kam Lake and Grace Lake come together is a safety hazard for drivers, so we will straighten it by moving the road. Second, the culvert there will be replaced (with the new road), because we're striving to improve it for the fish population."

The 2007 draft budget states: "The two 900 millimetre corrugated steel pipe culverts installed on the road are insufficient and obstruct the natural stream flow." It continues with: "The department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has indicated that during high water discharges, the water virtually jets through the culverts creating extremely unfavourable conditions for migrating fish."

Ernie Watson, a DFO fish habitat biologist, said the department is worried about one fish species in particular.

"The northern pike is a notoriously bad swimmer," he said.

"The culvert between Kam Lake and Grace Lake is undersized and during spring conditions the water is coming through so fast that we are worried that sexually mature northern pike can't get through to spawn upstream," Watson said.

He said that northern pike will constantly try to get to the spawning grounds and will exhaust themselves in the attempt.

"This can cause it to abort its eggs, which is a concern," Watson added.

Doug Niven of Trout Unlimited Canada said he knows the culvert fishing area well.

"We support any revitalizing plans for fishing habitat," he said. "We certainly wave the flag in support of this decision by the city."

The 2007 draft budget also explains that the two culverts have broken at the middle joints.

"This is causing road gravel to fall through at these sections of the culvert, which is creating large holes on the road surface above," it reads.

Councillor Bob Brooks said that the road will be slightly moved and straightened this summer because of heavy traffic on Kam Lake Road.

"I believe this will be part of the final budget because it's a safety issue," he said.

"Snowmobilers, skiers and mushers use the area by the culvert and with the heavy traffic, it's dangerous.

"What is being proposed is an underpass for these people...and the road above for traffic," he added.

It's not known yet the estimated time it will take to finish the project or, if needed, how long the road will be closed for construction.