Some say the lower reaches of the McCallum Ditch are natural (1905 map) and should remain that way as it provides habitat for species at risk, frogs and fish. The fact is that on October 9,1895 (yes that’s 18 not 19) a Plan and Memorandum of the Agassiz Ditching Scheme was filed at the Land Registry Office in New Westminster, B.C. Kent Reeve, Alfred St. George Hamersley set out to ditch and dyke the area for flood control and irrigation purposes; this was the original sole purpose for the McCallum Ditch.
Today it is a collector ditch that collects water from many areas, from the Research Station to Harrison all the way to the base of Woodside Mountain. Over the years other water has been added to the McCallum Drainage System, the Corrections Canada lands drain into the McCallum as does some Industrial land and some other hard surface properties. Fish and frogs have probably been in the ditches for a long time and have done quite well, but now there numbers are declining due to low levels of dissolved oxygen. By not removing sediment to increase flows things will get worse for the fish and frogs as well as the farmer. Those involved with the approval process for ditch maintenance are further endangering the habitat for aquatic species. This non-sense of shading ditches to remove reed canary won’t work very well as it grows back rapidly and/or black berry bushes can take over. Then there is the over application of manure. Today there is much more on farm storage than ever before, and farmers see it as a valuable fertilizer than a waste product.
The narrowing of the main channel has occurred from sediment deposits from bank failures not from landowner infilling. Farmers have done land improvements, over the generations, to help insure viability of their farms. I know Biologists who have dumped many large truck loads of wood waste into the McCallum and Mountain watersheds to use in habitat restoration projects which further impede flows. Gravel that has mined off the hillside is solid rock that is then crushed down to smaller sizes and is used in the construction industry. Impervious surfaces don’t have much absorption or filtering capacities.
I hope that more than just farm practices can be improved to facilitate better drainage, and I hope those involved in the approval process can see that drainage and fish/frog habitat can co-exist together.
Species at Risk Habitat Provider,
Agassiz Harrison Mills Drainage Comm. Chair
District of Kent Councillor