Effingham River

The goal of the Effingham River Restoration Project is to conserve Pacific salmon by restoring hydrological and ecological functions through accelerating the natural recovery of damaged ecosystems.

Central Westcoast Forest Society was approached by the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation (YFN) to create a plan to assess and restore the damage caused to Effingham River from logging during the 1950s and 1960s. Historical harvesting practices have caused significant damage to the watersheds with the region; these practices were not designed to protect streams or fisheries resources, and as a result many of the streams in the area have reduced fish access, poor water quality and altered hydrological function. Declining salmonid populations are commonly associated with this type of habitat (Roni et al., 2002).

The Effingham River flows into Effingham Inlet and Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The outlet of Effingham River is approximately 30.km @ 55⁰ from the town of Ucluelet (figure 1). The watershed is 6,120 ha in size and is comprised of three main sub-basins11. Two third order headwater sub-basins, sub-basin 1 (Effingham Lake – 1521 ha) and sub-basin 2 (Upper Effingham River 815 ha) join to form the lower fourth order sub-basin 3 (main Effingham River sub-basin). The main Effingham River sub-basin is the largest sub-basin at 3,784 ha and includes all of the lower Effingham River from the mouth of the river up to the confluence with the two upper sub-basins.

Specific details on the watershed area, geology, main geomorphic features, terrain stability, lakes, stream reaches, reach breaks, and reach descriptions for the Effingham River watershed are presented in a series of Coastal Watershed Assessment reports and updates by Eakins (1998, 2006). From a stream enhancement perspective, one of the most significant features of the watershed is the steep, confined nature of the watershed and the large number of natural landslides, active fans, avalanches and rock falls present. Some of the latter especially have had a major influence on channel form.

Waterfalls, steep gradients and the confined nature of the entire valley mean that fish habitat is largely confined to the main stem of the Effingham River basin and its well-drained side channels. There is little fish habitat available in tributary streams due to steep valley sidewalls and extremely porous colluvium substrate where despite appearances, the vast majority of the tributaries are either seasonal or episodic (there is only flow after sustained rainfall).

Historic logging, when riparian reserves were not required, is the second and probably most important factor affecting riparian and fish habitat conditions in the lower Effingham River and thus the opportunities for successful riparian and fish habitat enhancement projects are located in these areas. According to Eakins (1998), 100% of the lower 10 km of the Effingham River was logged to both banks from 1957 to 1971 with another small block in 1987. She notes the following
“The mainstem channel has experienced accelerated rates of erosion and sediment as a result of streamside logging. Bank erosion, elevated channel bars with steep downstream faces, and channel aggradation are evident at different locations”.
Some of the main indicators of poor habitat quality and channel stability described by Eakins in 1998 and 2006 are still evident. These included the numerous side/avulsion channels present, large mid-channel bars and wedges, wide spread bank erosion, a highly mobile aggrading streambed, elevated gravel bars with near vertical faces, a dearth of large stable debris accumulations, and reduced fish cover generally (mostly simple pools and cobble/gravel interstitial spaces). The fact that the riparian area is composed mostly of red alder also means that it will be a long time (possibly centuries) before any large conifers are available to form stable debris accumulations and more complex fish habitat. Present conditions are therefore likely to persist for some time. The steeper, confined non-alluvial reaches of the Effingham River appear more normal and less affected by logging or mass wasting, though the riparian areas of these sections were also logged to the stream edge.
Although 20 years (or more) has passed since there has been any forestry-related activity in the watershed (and up to 60 years since the floodplain riparian logging), the main channel has not yet stabilized. Sediment from natural slides and bank erosion continues to be introduced into the main channel and transported downstream. The channel appears to be moderately aggraded as the sediment is deposited and stored in gravel bars and sediment wedges. Under these circumstances, accessible and stable perennial streams, side channels and off-channels are extremely important for fish populations. Long-term stability of these features requires restoration work in the form of in-stream and riparian restoration,