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Fish compensation program

After the 2013 flood, The City completed several riverbank stabilization and rehabilitation projects at various locations along the Bow and Elbow Rivers. While necessary, these projects resulted in the loss of fish habitat.

The City recognized these impacts and, with support from both Alberta Environment and Parks and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, developed a plan to compensate for the damage and conserve this important habitat. The City’s plan has three main goals: mapping the existing fish habitat, determining habitat preferences, and creating and implementing a prioritized list of compensation projects.

Existing habitat was mapped to provide an updated record of what exists within the city limits. The Bow, Elbow, Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Fish Creek were all included in the study. Fish habitat mapping breaks the river down into several habitat types, including runs, riffles, pools, snyes, backwaters, cascades and rapids.

Other features in the river were also documented such as the type of substrate (material on the bottom of the river), type of bank, and instream cover such as fallen trees that can provide protection and resting areas for fish. The habitat preferences of all local fish species were also studied.


Construction updates

In total, over 45 potential compensation projects were identified and then ranked using a triple bottom line method that considered the social, environmental (beyond just fish), and economic impacts and benefits of each project.

The resulting top three ranking projects are all side channel reconnection projects and include works in the following areas:

In addition to the above three projects, The City is also working on additional high ranking projects where there are synergies with other ongoing city needs. One such project is the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary Reconnection Project which is looking at reconnecting the lagoon with the river while at the same time updating the lagoons hydraulic structures.

Should you have any questions on the fish habitat study or these projects, please contact 311.

Elbow Island Construction Update - October 2019

  • This work will restore fish habitat along the side channel at Elbow Island Park and will also include some flood mitigation work, general park improvements, and the installation of permanent functional public art.
  • While several components were completed this past summer 2019, there were some construction setbacks. Additional work is still required to see the park fully restored.
  • Next year’s construction will consist of further excavation underneath the 4th Street bridge, planting of additional trees and native shrubs, and the installation of a new artistic staircase and seating on the island​.
  • Elbow Island Park will be temporarily closed to the public until project completion. Estimated completion is Fall 2020.

What is bioengineering, and how does it help fish compensation?

City of Calgary

When plant roots and branches grow along the river's edge they weave together forming a sturdy network that helps hold soil in place. This organic structure protects the riverbank from erosion and provides natural habitat for birds, insects, fish and other wildlife.


Traditional engineered bank protection like rock riprap or concrete creates a hard barrier to protect infrastructure such as roads, bridges, pipelines and property from erosion. Since this strategy overwhelms most vegetation along the riverbank, root systems disappear, natural habitats are lost and biodiversity is threatened.

Shepard Landfill  

Composting facility  

​Biogineering combines vegetation and built components to shore up eroding riverbanks. Water loving shrubs, trees, grasses and other native plant matter take root among structural elements like timber crib wall, rock lining or boulders, fortifying the land.

The City often uses trees removed for various construction and infrastructue projects to create these new habitats, ensuring they do not go to waste. The resulting natural habitats support a diversity of birds, insects, fish and wildlife.

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