Bioengineering Demonstration and Education Project: Bioengineering Efficacy Monitoring Plan

The City of Calgary is currently undertaking a long-term Riparian Monitoring Program (RMP) to better understand long-term riparian health trends and the effectiveness of bioengineering and riparian planting projects. This program includes many flood affected and subsequently restored sites along riverbanks in the city. A 10-year monitoring plan at the Bioengineering Demonstration and Education Project (BDEP) is part of this program. The monitoring program at the BDEP is outlined in a plan referred to as  the Bioengineering Efficacy Monitoring Plan (BEMP).

The(BEMP) is an important component of the Bioengineering Demonstration and Education Project and is providing valuable data to support the use of bioengineering techniques as effective and ecologically valuable alternatives to hard engineering practices for bank erosion protection. The aim of this plan is to monitor, evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the different bioengineering techniques used in the project.

How the monitoring plan works

The scope of the BEMP involves monitoring at the site in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2023, and 2028. Monitoring will be conducted over every season in each monitoring year to observe the site during a range of environmental conditions. The components of the project that are being assessed are:

  1. Fish abundance and fish habitat
  2. Wildlife
  3. Riparian health
  4. Bioengineering structural integrity

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Key findings from the 2020 monitoring year

Fish and fish habitat:

  • In 2020 fish were observed to be continuing to use the habitat enhancement structures provided by the BDEP as first observed in Year 1 (2019).
  • Fish were observed using the fish shelters, boulder clusters, and surrounding habitats and were captured within the vicinity of the habitat structures throughout the project area.
  • As expected, species composition and fish abundance observed during 2020 was higher than 2019 as the BDEP sites naturalize following the construction of the fish habitat enhancements.
  • Based on the fish use monitoring results, Sites 1 & 2 are providing higher quality fish habitat in comparison to Site 4, the conventional riprap design site.

Wildlife:

  • The year 2 (2020) breeding bird surveys resulted in the identification of 37 species, including one listed species at the BDEP sites (bank swallow).
  • The bank swallow colony identified in the baseline assessment at Site 2 was observed during 2019 and again in 2020 monitoring, indicating that construction did not result in fewer breeding colonies in the project area.
  • The most abundant species identified during the wildlife camera monitoring program were white-tailed deer, followed by coyote and white-tailed jackrabbit.
  • Because deer and coyote presence was observed on all four of the cameras throughout Site 1 and mean use increased from 2019 and 2020, it was suggested that the wildlife corridor in the project area is providing effective passage for large mammals. 

Riparian health:

  • All three BDEP sites show significantly improved riparian health in comparison to the baseline condition (2016). The 2020 Riparian Health Assessment (RHA) rating for Site 1 was 49% compared to 43% in 2016, for Site 2 was 56% compared to 29% in 2016, and for Site 4 was 58% compared to 29% in 2016.
  • Overall, 2020 RHA ratings for Sites 1, 2 and 4 range from 29% to 53% higher than the RHA ratings for a theoretical conventional riprap design site. 

Bioengineering structural integrity:

  • In general, the physical condition of the bioengineering techniques, including fish habitat structures, appear to be stable, with no signs of major erosion, scour or displacement.
  • Materials used in the construction of the BDEP were generally found to be in good to excellent condition and are serving their purpose appropriately.
  • Overall, vegetation survival at the BDEP site was 76% in 2020.