Canada: British Columbia: Kennedy Flats Watershed Restoration Project


Kennedy Flats Watershed is located in Clayoquot Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. Much of the watershed was logged between 1950 and 1980, and logging and salvage practices of the time were not designed to protect streams or fisheries resources. As a result, many of the streams in the area have reduced fish access, poor water quality and altered hydrological function. The Kennedy Watershed Restoration Project (KWRP) was initiated in 1994 under the federal Canadian Salmon Enhancement and Restoration Fund, and since that time, local restoration crews have worked to restore the hydrological, biological, riparian, and ecological functions of the Kennedy Flats Watershed. Methods used have included removal of non-embedded small woody debris (SWD), anchoring of large woody debris (LWD) into functional structures, spawning gravel placement, riparian restoration, landslide restoration and road deactivation. Annual monitoring activities and qualitative assessments since the project’s inception have shown a marked improvement in stream ecology, enhanced fish habitat and healthier stands of riparian forest.

Quick Facts

Project Location:
Clayoquot Sound, BC, Canada, 49.1476785, -125.90222929999999

Geographic Region:
North America

Country or Territory:

Temperate Forest, Freshwater

Temperate Forest - Mixed

Organization Type:
Governmental Body


Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Deforestation, Mining & Resource Extraction, Urbanization, Transportation & Industry

Degradation Description

According to a Watershed Data Base report published by Brown et al. in 1987, approximately 42% of the Kennedy Flats Watershed (including areas now located within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve) was logged between 1950 and 1980. As a result of primary logging activities, large amounts of both small and large woody debris (LWD) were left in-stream, and subsequent salvage logging for shake and shingle resulted in substantial deposition of additional small woody debris (SWD). This SWD, together with large downed logs spanning the width of the stream and collapsed culverts and bridges from decaying logging roads, created debris jams that restrict water flow, reduce scouring action, and diminish overall water quality (Warttig et al., 2001).

Fish habitat has been severely degraded as a result of the altered flow regime, as higher water levels and lower water velocity have failed to keep spawning beds clean of organic sediment, thereby reducing the number of quality spawning sites. Furthermore, natural recruitment of large woody debris (LWD) has been disrupted along lengthy sections of stream, resulting in an imbalance in the natural frequency of pools and riffles. At low flow, fish passage is impeded in some locations by wood debris or deteriorated culverts, and at high flows, fish move out of the creek system to inundated areas of the floodplain only to become stranded upon flow recession.

In addition to precipitating a decline in fish populations, the altered hydrological function of the streams on the Kennedy Flats has also had a negative impact on the surrounding forests. Woody debris areas act as semi-permeable dams and flood large tracts of surrounding riparian forest, and in many cases, the prevailing high water level has favored fast-growing wetland shrub and tree species (Salix and Alnus spp.) over regenerating conifers. These deciduous trees are neither as large nor as long-lived as mature conifers, and they do not provide the same level of bank protection or large woody debris recruitment that would occur in a fully functional riparian forest.

Reference Ecosystem Description

Kennedy Flats is characterized by broad floodplains and meandering stream channels. Rolling to moderately steep hills and bedrock knobs, trending roughly northwest across the area, interrupt the generally flat topography. While total relief is approximately 250m in the Kootowis Creek and Staghorn Creek areas, the Lostshoe Creek Watershed has a significant up-slope portion, rising sharply to more than 700m. It straddles the Estevan Coastal Plain and the Vancouver Island Ranges portions of the Insular Mountains physiographic region (Holland 1964).

The bedrock geology in the Kennedy Flats area is composed of pre-Cretaceous sedimentary and volcanic rock. Periods of glacial activity are seen in compact basil tills, and periods of active alluvial deposition are evidenced by the sand and gravel deposits which act as aquifers. This complex history has resulted in the upper Lostshoe Creek area being inherently unstable (Polster 1998).

The type of forest ecology that is characteristic of the Long Beach Unit is late seral (>300 years) coastal temperate rainforest composed primarily of cedar and hemlock and associated plant communities. Assuming that native species and biological communities have adapted to this forest structure, the characteristics of late seral forest ecology (i.e. its stream and terrestrial components) would form a benchmark for measuring Kennedy Flats restoration trends.

Project Goals

The objectives of the project are to restore the hydrological, biological, riparian and ecological functions of the Kennedy Flats Watershed.


The project does not have a monitoring plan.


The success of the Kennedy Flats Watershed restoration has depended to a large degree on support from the following contributing partners: Ahousaht First Nations; Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District; BC Access Centre; BC Parks; Central Westcoast Forest Society; Department of Fisheries and Oceans; District of Tofino; District of Ucluelet; DR Clough Consulting Ltd.; Eco-Action 2000; Fisheries Renewal BC; Forest Renewal BC; Hesquiat First Nations; Interfor; IWA Canada; Looker Industries; MacMillan Bloedel; Minister of Environment, Lands & Parks; Ministry of Forests; Northwest Ecosystem Institute; Pacific Salmon Foundation; Pacific Rim National Park; Steelhead Society, Habitat Restoration Corp.; Thornton Creek Salmon Enhancement Society; Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations; Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society; Toquaht First Nations; Ucluelet First Nations; Weyerhaeuser; and Wickaninnish Inn, Point Restaurant.

Government approval of activities undertaken in association with the project was obtained under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Canadian Fisheries Act and the British Columbia Water Act. For work on provincial crown land, permits were required under Section 9 of the Water Act and Section 52 of the Forest Act (BC Ministry of Forests), and approvals were sought from individual tenure holders and the Central Region Board (CRB) or local First Nations.

Description of Project Activities:
Level 1 and level 2 habitat inventories were conducted on the watersheds in 1995 and 1996 (Clough et al), and a detailed watershed restoration plan was completed in 2001 (Warttig et al. 2001). Restoration is generally following a top-down approach, meaning that restoration begins in upslope areas, and proceeds downstream. Sediment input from the surrounding hillsides must first be stabilized. This is accomplished via logging road deactivation and slide stabilization utilizing revegetation and soil bioengineering techniques. In-stream restoration begins only after upslope problems have been addressed, and consists of four phases: removal of SWD and reorientation of LWD to improve cover, scour, bank protection and hydrologic function; maintenance, monitoring and addition of LWD in deficient areas; addition of spawning gravel in deficient areas; and riparian restoration. Non-embedded SWD is removed from the creeks, while any debris embedded in the creek bed is left in place to minimize the release of trapped sediment and hydrogen sulfide gas. Removed SWD is piled above the high water mark, ensuring that it will not return to the system during high flows. In areas with especially low banks (e.g., Lost Shoe Creek- Reach LS4 and KR2 in the Kootowis Creek Watershed), higher areas are brushed using chain saws, and the SWD is double tossed into these clearings. These debris piles can provide valuable cover and feeding habitat for wildlife, including birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates. Once most SWD is removed from the system, the remaining LWD (and often wood adjacent to the creek) is repositioned to improve creek scour and cover. LWD structures installed during the 2007 project included: A-frame spurs, bundles and cover logs. Each LWD spur was built of a mixture of 6-12 m long logs and root-wads 2-3 m in diameter. The logs, root-wads, and rocks were transported approx 500m from the parking lot to the river bed by a Bell 407 helicopter (max. safe lifting capacity of approx 2400lbs) and arranged in roughly their final positions in the stream or along the bank. LWD was re-oriented where necessary using peaveys, pike poles, turfers, and chainsaw winches; and then cabled into place using galvanized steel cable (5/8" in diameter). Ballast rocks and standing dead trees and stumps were used as anchors. Where no other options existed, live trees were used as anchors. In-stream structures are to be monitored annually for three years after installation, and once every five years after that (Warttig et al., 2001). Charts (called GANT charts) are used to document evaluation of the effectiveness of in-stream structures and to note any changes or problems that may have occurred during the winter floods. Using the methods outlined in Koning et al. (1997), each in-stream structure is assessed for specific physical and biological attributes and given an overall rating for condition, stability and function. Spawning gravel placement was conducted in accordance with the guidelines in the spawning gravel SOP developed by program biologists in conjunction with Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff. Kootowis, Staghorn, and Salmon Creek sites were chosen based on accessibility, site conditions, and fish species present. The sites chosen in 2007 lacked natural gravel, were located at road crossings, and had been restored 2-3 years earlier. This lag between in-stream work and spawning gravel placement allows time for improved water flow to scour out accumulated organics and fines, and create a clean bed for gravel placement. The size and mixture of rock chosen for the sites is based on creek gradient, flow rates, observation of native gravel, and species utilization. A suitable mixture provides aeration and habitat while stabilizing the substrate. Prior to placement the rock mixture is washed and cleaned of fine sediments before it is transported by truck to each site. An excavator was used to deposit the spawning gravel in the creek, as the reach of an excavator allows for a wide disbursement of gravel. The riparian restoration phase generally consists of silvicultural treatments to accelerate old growth characteristics. Treatments are planned to enhance the development of old-growth attributes in the stand--e.g. by creating snags and gaps to enhance structural diversity--and may be carried out concurrently with in-stream restoration. This restoration approach is described in more detail in the Kennedy Watershed Restoration Plan, which can be downloaded from the CWFS website at Riparian silviculture treatments for Lost Shoe Creek (LS1) were recommended in an assessment carried out in 2001 (Poulin and Simmons, 2001). 1500 Sitka spruce and western red cedar trees were planted in prepared sites in clusters of 6 to 8 trees from Station 0+000 m to 0+737 m. Site preparation included thinning or felling of the over-mature red alder trees to create gaps of approximately 1-2 tree lengths. The largest diameter alder with good branching and live crowns were retained for overstory retention and biodiversity. Individual planting sites were prepared by brushing an area 4 by 5 m in size and removing competing salmonberry roots by hand. Although labour intensive, this process ensured the site would remain relatively brush free for up to two growing seasons. Cedar saplings were staked and coned to ensure protection from foraging deer, and the trees will remain coned for up to four growing seasons. Trees were planted in stumps and nurse logs and on steep slopes and along stream banks to mimic patterns of natural regeneration. Riparian restoration is a key component of stream restoration because it ensures the future source of naturally occurring LWD. The lifespan of the constructed LWD structures is only estimated at 40 - 80 years, at which time natural recruitment must be sufficient to replace the failing structures.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
Since the beginning of the Kennedy Watershed Restoration Project in 1994, approximately 70 km of stream habitat have been fully restored in the Kennedy Watershed. In addition, 62.5 ha of riparian forest have been restored, 48 ha of slide area have been bioengineered, and 247 km of logging road have been deactivated. As stream restoration progresses, qualitative monitoring seems to indicate improvement in overall stream conditions, health of the riparian forests and ecosystem integrity. Future funding will support a more comprehensive monitoring program that could help to better quantify the effects of restoration efforts.

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
The local community has benefited from the employment and training provided by the project, and strong partnerships have been encouraged between various community and stakeholder groups.

Key Lessons Learned

This project provides an example of the type of large-scale planning and long-term commitment that is necessary to effectively restore damaged watersheds and promote positive local stewardship values. Using workers from the local community and including local organizations as partners in the project has fostered a strong sense of accomplishment and ownership of the project among all involved.

Long-Term Management

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve geographic information systems technicians completed a detailed survey and digital map of lower Lost Shoe Creek, from Station 0+549 m to 0+737 m, the location of the 2007 in-stream structures. This survey is the baseline from which future surveys can assess the physical changes that result from the construction of the 10 structures.

Monitoring and maintenance work should continue on all previously treated stream reaches in the Kennedy Flats Watershed. Brush levels should be monitored where conifers were planted in 2007 and brushed when needed. Downstream buildup of SWD will occur as the in-stream structures constructed in 2007 scour the creek releasing embedded SWD. Ongoing maintenance will therefore be necessary. There is also continued need for spawning gravel placement and monitoring, as lack of spawning gravel is a key limiting factor for salmonid populations in many of the streams in the watershed (Clough, 1995; Warttig et al., 2001). Although close to 70 km of stream length have been restored since the start of the Kennedy Flats Restoration Project, there remain many high priority stream reaches that have yet to be restored. Thus, further second-growth riparian restoration activities, culvert replacements, and road deactivations are required. An initial assessment completed on the lower section of the East river in the Twin Rivers sub-basin showed that several debris jams are present with reasonably good access, making this area a good candidate for continued restoration activities if suitable funding can be obtained.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

The Kennedy Flats Watershed Restoration Project (KWRP) was initiated in 1994 under the federal Canadian Salmon Enhancement and Restoration Fund (CSERF), and was sustained from 1995-2000 under the provincial Forest Renewal BC (FRBC) Watershed Restoration Program. Restoration work continued in 2005 thanks to a generous grant from the Pacific Salmon Commission, and Forest Investment Account (FIA) funds from International Forest Products Ltd. Weyerhaeuser Canada also contributed to the project under the ‘Jobs For Youth Program 2005’. Funding for work conducted in 2007 was provided through the Parks Canada Ecosystem Integrity Fund, which allocated $200,000 for riparian and in-stream restoration and monitoring, and through FIA funds provided by Iisaak Forest Resources Ltd in the amount of $52,000 and International Forest Products Ltd. in the amount of $50,000 (as well as other one-time sources identified by the Central Westcoast Forest Society).

Other Resources

Central Westcoast Forest Society

Primary Contact

Organizational Contact