Okanagan River Restoration Initiative – Penticton Channel Spawning Beds

Project Overview:

Penticton Channel is an important location for salmon spawning and rearing, but is currently highly degraded with limited high-quality salmon spawning and rearing habitat.

The Okanagan River between Skaha and Okanagan Lakes is a historical salmon spawning area. Channelization in the 1950’s rendered the river unsuitable for native fish species. Channelization resulted in:
o poor substrate (sand and larger cobble, not gravel);
o loss of pools and riffles;
o flattened channel slope (0.08%) ;
o low water velocities.

According to Syilx/Okanagan Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), “the river channel (in Penticton), used to be rich in fish; Steelhead, Coho, Sockeye and King (Chinook) Salmon” (Ernst, 2000). However, due to channelization in the 1950’s and other anthropogenic impacts, salmon spawning opportunities are extremely limited in this section of the Okanagan River.

The spawning beds provide public viewing salmon spawning opportunities, and improve the global health of the Penticton channel by reducing invasive exotic species abundance (ex. Eurasian milfoil). It provides continued relationship development between various stakeholders, governments, and public. The project success is measured in a multi-year effectiveness monitoring program. The successes and learning will benefit future restoration works in the Okanagan Basin.

Project Plan:

2018-20: Pending fish migration and water flows, spawning bed 4 constructed between the Golf Course Bridge and KVR abutments. Bed 4 Construction includes 11,000 m kokanee and sockeye salmon spawning habitat. Improvements to existing 1986 kokanee spawning bed and ORRI Bed 4 and boulder cluster trout habitat.

The bed also reduces introduced invasive aquatic species abundance and provide excellent salmon spawning viewing opportunities.

ORRI PenChan Bed4 Construction Poster

Fall 2014: Two nature-like spawning beds created (Spawning Beds 1 & 2; 7,500 m2):
o These spawning beds provide high-quality spawning areas for Sockeye and Chinook salmon, and rearing habitat for juvenile Steelhead/Rainbow Trout and Burbot.
Project successes include:

  • Sockeye and Kokanee spawned on the beds 2 weeks after construction; spawning beds used at maximum capacity;
  • Juvenile trout use the created boulder clusters;
  • Overall decrease in Eurasian Water milfoil in restored reach.

Fall 2015: Spawning Bed 3 construction:

  • High quality Sockeye (7154m2), and Kokanee (1477 m2) spawning habitat;
  • Multiple rearing boulder clusters for salmonids and Burbot, and enhanced fish rearing and refuge pool

Project Documents:

Penticton Channel Spawning Beds FAQ 2017

Project Progress/Status:

Effectiveness Monitoring 2014-18

Project Location:

Penticton Channel, between Okanagan Lake and Penticton Golf and Country Bridge

Project Map:

Project Team:

Kari Alex – Project Supervision, ORRI Steering Committee Chair

Project Partnerships:

ORRI is sponsored by COBWTWG, a technical working group involving: the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Engineering, construction: Priest Rapids Coordinating Committee

Spawning bed material: Recreational Fisheries Conservation
Partnership Program

Environmental protection: Okanagan Basin Water Board

Outreach signage: Pacific Salmon Foundation

Related Project(s):