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Benthic Invertebrate and Water Quality Assessment of the Quinsam River Watershed in British Columbia 2001-2006

Abstract

Ambient water quality monitoring of the Quinsam River began in 1986, a year prior to the activation of a coal mine near Middle Quinsam Lake. The monitoring is carried out under the Canada-British Columbia Water Quality Monitoring Program and samples are collected every two weeks near the mouth of the river for standard variables such as nutrients, major ions, trace metals, and alkalinity. The intent of the water quality monitoring is to evaluate potential effects of the mining operation and other activities in the basin on water quality. In 1998, biological assessment of rivers within the Georgia Basin began and in 2001, the water quality monitoring station near the mouth of the Quinsam River was included in this study. Assessments were conducted in accordance with the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network protocols. The results of the 2001 assessment indicated that the benthic community was Severely Stressed at the Quinsam River site. Subsequent sampling from 2003 to 2006 investigated the longitudinal, temporal and within-site spatial variation of the benthic community along the length of the river that is potentially impacted by land use activities such as mining, forestry, recreation, and salmon enhancement.

Since 2001, trends in benthic communities and some aspects of water quality show clear improvements in the condition of the Quinsam River site near the mouth. Several factors may have contributed to the 2001 Severely Stressed biological assessment of the site. These include: multiple land uses at the mouth of the river, habitat changes due to channel instability and extreme hydrologic events, and elevated nutrient levels, possibly due to an excess of salmon carcasses concentrated in the lower reaches of the river. It is recommended that the lower Quinsam River continue to be monitored at its confluence with the Campbell River (near the mouth), as well as at sites below and above the hatchery, to ensure that the observed improvement continues and to identify any future disturbances.

Copy of full report available by request at georgiabasin@ec.gc.ca

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