Edmonton city staff have been directed to find a new location for a floating dock that is part of a larger plan to give people greater access to the North Saskatchewan River.

Council's urban planning committee on Wednesday passed a motion to have a floating dock proposed for the Whitemud Park area moved upstream of Whitemud Creek in a bid to protect fish habitat.

The original plan had the dock being built metres downstream from where the creek enters the North Saskatchewan River.

The committee put a stop to the project after hearing concerns from the Sierra Club of Canada.

"This [fish habitat] is unique and rare and that makes it important," Rick Pattenden, fish biologist with Mainstream Aquatics and a volunteer with the Sierra Club of Canada, told councillors.

whitemud creek

A satellite image of the mouth of Whitemud Creek shows how water from the creek makes a sharp right turn where it hits the river, and gradually disappears over the next 150 metres. This image was taken July 26, 2014, after a rainfall increased the amount of silt in the stream compared to the river. (Sierra Club of Canada)

Water entering the North Saskatchewan River from Whitemud Creek runs along the river bank for at least 150 metres before it mixes into the river water, and that "plume" is a rich habitat for fish, councillors were told.

The Sierra Club has previously told the city that the proposed dock may attract motorized boats, and that the presence of powerboats may prove harmful to the Whitemud Creek fishery.

In a report, city administrators said building the dock in the proposed location would not adversely affect fish, but the committee took the Sierra Club's concerns into account.

"We acknowledge that there's a valid concern here," city planner Peter Ohm told the committee. "We're prepared to work with the committee's direction."

'Hand launch' for canoes

While the floating dock proposed for the site was meant as a "hand launch" launch for canoes and other small watercraft, chances are motorized boats would end up being launched there as well, said Coun. Ben Henderson.

One option would be to have signs banning motorized boats, but the ban would be difficult to enforce, Henderson said.

"I've heard a fair amount of support from people saying having a dock in this area is important and does need to be done," he said.

It's important to get it right rather than worry about a delay, he added.

Sending the project back to city staff to come up with a new location means construction of a dock in the area will be delayed until spring 2018.

Five other new and expanded boat docks and launches will be built this spring. They will be ready for use in the fall.