Something fishy on campus: BCIT’s underground stream

New storm drain markers aim to bring awareness to BCIT’s hidden and partially underground treasure, Guichon Creek. Photo from the City of Surrey.

New storm drain markers aim to bring awareness to BCIT’s hidden and partially underground treasure, Guichon Creek. Photo from the City of Surrey.

Plastic, yellow fish are replacing the barely visible aquatic markings that had previously been guarding storm drains around BCIT’s Burnaby campus.

Two students from the Ecological Restoration program worked to revitalize the markings as part of an internship earlier this year.

Ken Ashley, Director of BCIT’s Rivers Institute, explained that BCIT is actually built on top of a large part of Guichon Creek. According to Ashley, the creek travels near BCIT’s athletic building, where it goes underground, flows beneath the campus and they comes up again near Canada Way.

Director of Sustainable Development and Environmental Stewardship Jennie Moore said the fish markings warn the BCIT community that there is a hidden ecosystem underneath the campus, and that anything thrown into the drains can be extremely harmful to Guichon Creek.

“There is an interaction with nature going on all the time, even if we can’t see it,” said Moore.

The re-marking of the storm drains collaborated with BCIT’s Eco-Streets Initiative, which works in a partnership with BCIT’s Factor Four plan. These are corporate initiatives of BCIT which Ashley compared to other programs such as Energy Smart.

Ashley commented that parts of the Factor Four program include an energy reduction plan, the revamping of specific roads to make them more pedestrian friendly, as well as highlighting the fact that Guichon Creek is underground.

In the long term, BCIT hopes to day-light Guichon Creek. This will involve digging up some areas of campus in order to open up sections of the stream to the public, according to Ashley.  For example, Ashley explained that campus planners are hoping to open up an area of the creek near the library; expanding the library and attaching a glass end to it would offer the BCIT community a clear view of the creek underneath the school.

Moore confirmed that the ultimate goal for Guichon Creek is to re-introduce spawning salmon to the entire length of the creek.

“Guichon Creek used to originally be a fish bearing stream … and then it was channelized into a drainage ditch,” Moore explained.

Currently, fish travel up the Fraser River, to Burnaby Lake, then to Still Creek, where they attempt to connect to Guichon Creek. At the present they are blocked off from entering Guichon Creek, according to Ashley.

“It’s now up to BCIT to make sure they can get in here.” Ashley said. “Basically they are going to deliver fish to our door. I fully think that this fall there will be salmon bumping …trying to get into Guichon creek.”

Ashley explained that day-lighting streams is a concept that has emerged in the last decade, as city planners realize the benefits of opening up streams that were previous covered and underground.

“Having a day-lighted stream increases people’s happiness and societal values rather than just having a pipe underground. You’d sit and look at a stream, rather than a parking lot,” Ashley told The Link.

Ashley further explained that this is an extremely long term project, expected to take years to complete, but for now the BCIT community can enjoy the small area of Guichon Creek that has been day-lighted, right near the recreation facilities.

Presently, the only fish flowing through campus are the bold and yellow ones painted onto the ground, which Moore hopes will serve as a reminder of the long-term environmental balance BCIT is hoping to achieve.