Reconnecting waterways for fish in Glacier National Park

What’s the issue?

A concrete barrier (weir) with a stream flowing over it.
The weir on Connaught Creek slated for removal to restore aquatic connectivity and allow upstream and downstream movement by fish. Photo: © A. Rand

Fish that swim up and down mountain streams to access different habitats are synonymous with flowing waters. When water flow is impeded by non-natural barriers – like dams, weirs and culverts – fish populations and ecosystems suffer. The fish of Connaught Creek, in Glacier National Park, have faced several such barriers over the years. For example, the Trans-Canada highway blocked fish movement along the creek until park staff had a large, fish-friendly box culvert installed. Reconnecting previously subdivided habitats now allows fish free passage under the road. Further upstream, a weir installed in 1982 to provide power and potable water to Rogers Pass still stops fish from navigating their way to high-quality habitat. Removing this hurdle would improve habitat connectivity for fish, allowing them to go with the flow.

What’s our approach?

  • Increase the accessibility of upstream fish habitat in Connaught Creek by designing and constructing a new passive waterdelivery system that draws water directly from the stream and does not require a weir and reservoir.
  • Remove the weir and restore the stream profile once a passive water collection system is installed.
  • Restore aquatic and streamside habitats, fish connectivity and stream integrity by removing wood and concrete weir and re-planting the banks of the creek.
  • Share stories of aquatic restoration through social media, outreach initiatives and in-park messaging.

What’s been accomplished?

  • Developed conceptual designs for weir removal and the new passive water-delivery system.
  • Began design contracting process and plans for a new water delivery system and stream restoration to be completed over the next couple years.
  • Combined two separate projects (new culvert installation and removal of weir) and their funding to work toward a common goal.
  • Featured aquatic restoration in the Rogers Pass Discovery Centre in summer 2017 with a 3-D model to demonstrate how replacing culverts improves water flow under highways.