A patch of Reed Canary Grass

Reed Canary Grass (RCG) is a perennial cool season grass that can grow up to 2 meters tall and expands by creeping rhizomes, vegetative fragments and seeds. It out-competes other native vegetation due to its effective dispersal mechanisms and ability to shade out slower growing native species. In areas where it has been introduced it will quickly dominate from 50-100% of the site. Since 2004, it is estimated that the amount of RCG in the K’ómoks Estuary has tripled. RCG provides little value for native wildlife and insects, few species will eat it, and it grows too thickly for mammals or waterfowl to use for cover/nesting. Foraging juvenile salmon and trout have feeding opportunities reduced in areas dominated by RCG, and it constricts waterways thus preventing salmon from reaching spawning habitats.

Project Watershed, with funding support from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, has been working to inventory and map the extent of invasive RCG in the K’ómoks Estuary and to come up with a management plan for this invasive species.  Once we started our inventory work this past spring and summer we quickly realized that there was a significant issue with Mallard Creek (not to be confused with Millard Creek on the opposite side of the Estuary!). Mallard is a local creek that flows into the Dyke Slough and supports coho salmon and cuththroat trout.  However, RCG, which can grow on land and in water up to 2 meters in depth, has completely choked off this creek in the last few years, leaving little to no open water access for fish or other wildlife.

Once we realized this was the case, Project Watershed mobilized to tackle this issue.  We brought an excavator in to clear out and flip upside down the large vegetative mats of RCG alongside about 200 meters of the west side of creek this past September. Then with the help of our wonderful volunteers, we harvested long native willow stakes, cut them down to 2 meters lengths and transplanted them in the areas along the creek where the grass had been removed.  The willow, which is densely planted, will regrow from these cuttings and shade out the RCG, preventing it from re-establishing. The fall is the ideal time to do this type of restoration work as the willows are dormant. With fantastic volunteer support, we managed to harvest and transplant 600 willow stakes alongside the creek at the end of October!

Volunteers, Rio North and Isadora Datt, who helped that helped harvest the willow stakes rest on the result of their labours

Volunteers work to cut willow stakes down to size for planting

Volunteers after planting willow stakes around Mallard Creek (see stakes in the background) – From left to right: Stuart Swain, Jean Swain, Pat, Norman Matthew, MariAnn Mathew

We anticipate doing much more of this work in the future. Anyone that is interested in this project can connect with us at: estuary.projectwatershed@gmail.com