PEI

Fish proving to be resilient, so far, around new Charlottetown wellfield

A researcher looking at the impact of the new Charlottetown wellfield at Miltonvale Park says water levels are down dramatically, but fish populations are holding up.

Too soon to determine impact of lower water levels on populations: prof

Brook trout are a key river species on P.E.I. (Shutterstock)

A researcher looking at the impact of the new Charlottetown wellfield at Miltonvale Park says water levels are down dramatically, but fish populations are holding up.

UPEI biology Prof. Mike van den Heuvel has been monitoring Coles Creek, the waterway closest to the wellfield, for changes since the new water supply opened in 2018.

He found stream flows were down 30 per cent in 2018 and 2019. Final analysis is not yet done for 2020, but with the drought this summer, he estimates the stream will be down about 50 per cent.

Van den Heuel is also watching fish populations, and he has found them to be resilient so far.

"In parts of the stream, [we've seen] a reduction in brook trout but an increase in rainbow trout that appears to be unrelated to the flow patterns," he told Island Morning's Laura Chapin.

Brook trout have proven to be resilient to change in other P.E.I. rivers, says Mike van den Heuvel. (CBC)

He added that it is too early to conclude there will be no impact. Because brook trout live for many years, it could be three to seven years before the population starts to feel the impact of less water in the stream.

"We would definitely expect to see effects on fish at 30 per cent reduction [of stream flow]," said van den Heuvel.

"Brook trout, which is our main species, have shown to be surprisingly resilient to all sorts of conditions on P.E.I. and very adaptable, so we don't really know."

The temperature of the stream will be a big factor, he said.

Trout like their water cool, and less cold spring water flowing into the stream means warmer water overall. He said water temperatures in Coles Creek got up to 19 C this summer, and brook trout will feel stressed in water temperatures any warmer than that.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning

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