Ministry of Environment

Fisheries InventoryFisheries Inventory

FAQ - Prefield Phases

Watershed Codes and Waterbody Identifiers

Q: How do I get information on the 45-digit watershed code using Arcview 1.0?

A: Arcview 1.0 is no longer used. Updated versions of Arcview are available.

However, ArcExplorer can now be used to find the 45-digit watershed code and can be downloaded for free from the ESRI (Environment Systems Research Institute Inc.) Web site

You will also need the ArcExplorer import utility which is available through the same Web site. Using ArcExplorer the watershed atlas files can be accessed through the Fisheries Inventory

Q: How do we enter WSC and WBID into FDIS for streams that have WSC and WBID, but are not in the waterbdy.exp file?

A: The WSC and WBID can be imported using the ILP/WSC-WBID table tool in FDIS.


Q: When assigning ILP numbers, can we use a combination of letters and numbers and how many?

A: ILPs are 5-digit numbers only. However for the data entry tool, only the 5-digit numbers are used. Zeros do not have to be added before the number if the ILP number <5 digits.

Q: Do we require ILPs for every stream in the watershed, or just those, which contain reaches to be inventoried?

A: You must provide an ILP or watershed code, if available, for every stream in the project area, regardless of whether it contains a sample site or not. If you have any feature on the stream, such as a reach break, sample site, cascade, you must generate and mark an ILP on that stream. Carefully follow the outline in the User's Guide to the B.C. Watershed/Waterbody Identifier System, RIC (1997).

Q: Do we note ILPs for all streams, regardless of whether or not they already have watershed codes?

A: ILPs are required for all streams that do not have a watershed code. The new watershed dictionary and FDIS tools rely on new 45-digit watershed codes and waterbody identifiers. Codes, when they exist, are available on the BC Fisheries Web site, as Adobe .pdf files.

Q: Are the ILP locations on the ILP map different from the final map deliverables?

A: The ILPs on the ILP map should be in the format and location as stated in the User’s Guide to the British Columbia Watershed/Waterbody Identifier System, April 98, Rev. 2.2. They should be on a clearly marked 1:20,000 map as follows:

For a watershed, stream or river: the locational point is approx. 50m upstream of the mouth of the stream or river.

For a lake or reservoir: the locational point is the outlet of the lake or reservoir.

For a lake with no outlet (isolated lake): the locational point is the centre of the lake.

The final map deliverables have different locations for any ILPs that are used. See Standards for Fish and Fish Habitat Maps, May 1998, Version 2.0, section 2.1.2.

Q: When entering TRIM map numbers into the ILP table what is the proper form and can the leading zero be left off?

A: The zero must be included and the form must be as the following example: 082F.004.

Q: How should we deal with side channels that have split off from parent streams, and are now flowing into the large mainstem that the parent stream flows into? Should these side channels get their own ILPs?

A: The side channel receives the same ILP as the parent stream.

NIDs and UTMs

Q: Are UTMs required in the ILP table, to assign the watershed codes, if a map is included with the table?

A: If the ILP designation to a particular stream is clear and easily interpreted on TRIM (NAD83, Albers projection) map base, the UTMs are not required.
However, UTMs are strongly requested where:

  1. There may be some questions as to which stream or lake an ILP refers to (such as high drainage density areas or where the network is very complex);
  2. In exceptional cases when TRIM is not used as the mapping base.

Q: What does NID stand for and what is its use in referencing on the Site card?

A: NID is the Numeric Identifier that is used to identify and geo-reference the key features in the project area. The NID is ultimately converted to a UTM co-ordinate. Either the NID or the UTM is used to reference feature locations.

Q. What is the size of the NID field?

A: The NID field width is 11 digits. The NID is a 5-digit value.

Q: Is there going to be a program provided to extract UTMs from digital GIS database and to convert NIDs to watershed codes?

A: This is a simple GIS exercise. Plan on this being performed by the GIS professional handling your mapping. You will have to flood the UTM data in FDIS from a table of NIDs and UTMs provided by your GIS specialist. The file format for NID import into FDIS is in Appendix C of the FDIS manual.

Q: Do we need to assign a separate NID to the wetland (like we would for the lake) in our stream network or can we just assume that the NID number that we've assigned to the downstream wetland reach break will double for the locator?

A: If it is a lake-type wetland, you will need lake-type geo-referencing. If it is a channelized-type, use reach-type geo-referencing.

Q: If we have two features (i.e., a reach break and a falls or a fish sampling site and RB presence) on the same spot (i.e., <100 m away) on the Interim Map, do we use the same NID or do we use separate NIDs with a line from each number going to the same spot on the map (in reality they are not on the same spot, but because of map scale they overlap)?

A: Use two NIDs, as you do not want to have them showing up at exactly the same spot. In your example, you do not want the data to show you sampled for RB on a falls. The Errata to Standards for Fish and Fish Habitat Maps, Version 2.0, RIC 1998; requires a separate NID with a connector to each mapped feature.

Q: For each mapped feature, do we need to provide both a UTM and a NID for the planning stages? If a NID number is given can we leave out the UTM?

A: Either a UTM or a NID is acceptable for the planning stage. However, if you are planning to use the map export file, NIDs should also be used to accommodate the mapping export feature of FDIS. UTMs are not required until the end of the project.

Q: I am having trouble determining whether or not UTMs are required for sample reaches for phase 1-3 projects.

A: UTMs are required for all sample sites/reaches/features/etc., by the end of the project. UTMs or NIDs are required for each set of deliverables (e.g., interim maps and data submitted at the end of phase 1-3). There may be some contract-specific issues, (e.g., if the contract is only for phase 1 to 3; UTMs may have been requested for the deliverables). Please note that page 2:27 of the Reconnaissance (1:20,000) Fish and Fish Habitat Inventory: Standards and Procedures mentions that sample sites be identified in phase 1-3. (i.e., when referring to sample reaches, sample sites should be identified within the sample reaches).

Q: Can we have letters in our 5-character NID sequence? We did our "Feature" NIDs (i.e., culvert crossings, falls, etc.) after we had assigned NIDs to the reach breaks. As a result we just added an a, b or c after the reach NID for the each of the features in that specific reach, instead of having to create a whole new set of unique NIDs.

A: The data entry tool allows data entry for numeric values only - so your system will not work. All NIDs on a map should be numeric and unique. For interpretation purposes, you can put an N at the start (e.g., N12345) on the map so you can distinguish it from ILP numbers; for data entry, only the number value is acceptable.

Q: Regarding assigning NIDs to non-channelized wetlands that we have entered on the Lake Information form: to date we have not been assigning NIDs to them. Is it a problem with leaving the NID column blank for the non-channelized wetlands?

A: If in that non-channelized wetland, no pond-lake-type water occurs within the drainage network (i.e., there are reaches upstream) you will have to give it an NID/UTM to reference the reach. If it is a headwater wetland, you have two choices:

  1. include it in the table, then you will need an NID/UTM - all records require one;
  2. exclude it from the table all together.
Reach Information

Q: In completing reach breaks, are reach breaks identified for candidate sites only, for drainages containing candidate sites or for the entire watershed?

A: Delineate the reach breaks for the entire stream network in the project area. In certain circumstances, such as very large systems, this may be an unreasonable large undertaking and should be discussed between the contractor, SRM/WLAP and licensee representative before implementation.

Q: When filling out the reach table, how is a lake entered? Especially the order and gradient? I assume gradient is 0 but what order should be entered?

A: Lake information is entered on the lake table. There is a column that is used to assign the reach number. Only stream reaches and channelized wetland information goes in the reach table.

Q: We enter reaches for unmapped streams in FDIS now via the reach break field (in, out, border, unmap etc.). This is our preferred option rather than putting these reaches in a separate FDIS. Any reason not to do this?

A: UNMAPPED was intended for those streams that were not on the map, but would still be considered 1:20,000 type streams. You would not want all the small 1:5,000 type streams added in this manner.

Q: If there is no airphoto available for a reach, we entered nothing in the reach card airphoto space. This was marked wrong for QA, because an air-photo was not entered.

A: Airphoto line and reference number are optional for the reach table, however, either airphoto or map needs to be entered into the reach card. Otherwise any deviations from standards need to be noted in comments.

Q: Regarding tributaries to the mainstem in areas of low gradient (for the Reach Characteristics portion of the Reach Card): When a reach in the mainstem is valley floor, what sort of criteria can we use to determine what the setting-type is for this reach? Is the determination of the setting-type based on the gradient of the reach and/or the structure of the stream banks, i.e., when does valley floor become valley wall, is it a gradual slope increase or an abrupt change?

A: Use the predominant setting. If a tributary is 3/4 on the valley wall, but only the lower portion of it is on the valley flat as it enters the mainstem, categorize it as a valley wall stream. The setting is based on the topography of the surrounding area.

Q: What is the definition of Valley Flat as used in the Reach Card, i.e., is there a gradient criterion? Can this apply to tributaries and if it does how far back from the edge of the stream channel do you go back to determine the flat status?

A: Valley flat is the area around the channel that is less than 7% gradient (the same definition you used to complete the basin classification; Appendix 2 of the manual). Yes, it can apply to tributaries and can go as far back as long as it is continuously connected to the channel. If it is only connected to the lower part of the tributary (i.e., not the entire length), then the valley flat would be categorized as discontinuous (i.e., it does not go full length of the reach).

Q: What do we do if coupling is different on each bank?

A: Choose most dominant type. However, if part of either bank is CO or PC, then, even if one bank is decoupled, list it as CO or PC (whichever seems most appropriate).

Q: What do INBC, OUTBC and BORDER mean concerning reach breaks? Default is INBC. Are these for consulting companies working near the border?

A: These codes are only used for reaches that cross the provincial or international boundaries. If the entire project area is within B.C., these may be ignored. For more information, consult the Technical Information Notes for Reconnaissance (1:20000) Fish and Fish habitat Inventory (Technical note # 2) through:


Q: Is actual FISS data to be transcribed onto the working map to denote fish-bearing status?

A: Use the fish data on your working map to guide your study. You should note and annotate all other features (falls, cascades, logjams, hatcheries, etc.) shown in FISS. There is an historical data section in FDIS 7.3 to enter this into if required for mapping.

Q: The schedule asks for a clean map with all the new FISS data annotated onto it (page 15 at number 64). Is this an additional map deliverable to the 3 maps already required (i.e., the Overview, Project and the Interpretive Maps)?

A: Yes, but it needs to be an NTS 1:50,000 map (the same as the FISS maps, but we want you to put the information on a clean copy so that we know what has been covered, what was missed and it is a little more legible).

Q: Can the new FISS data on this map be hand-drawn or does it need to be GIS produced?

A: Hand-drawn, according to FISS manual is appropriate.

Q: Are we absolutely required to do FISS updates at the end of phase 3? The reason I ask is that there is a definite lag between the time that data are submitted to FISS and the time that data are entered into FISS. Based on this delay, preparing FISS updates for phase 1-3 projects may be redundant.

A: You will need to talk to your regional inventory specialist about this. Each region has it's own issues with respect to FISS and consequently treat it somewhat differently.


Q: There seems to be some question as to the accuracy of the available mapping (e.g., streams do not follow the contours).

A: This is not uncommon with TRIM. Hopefully, you will find all or most of the significant drainages are accurately mapped on either TRIM or the Forest Cover maps. Work with what is on the map to the best of your ability, as this project is not intended to be a re-mapping exercise.

Q: Will streams on Forest Cover maps be used to supplement TRIM stream networks?

A: The Forest Practices Code requires that planning be based on all known features. It specifies that known, means either on Forest Cover or TRIM mapping. Therefore, they can be used. During planning phases, transcription (as accurate as possible) of streams found on Forest Cover, but not on TRIM maps should occur. During reporting phases, those streams should be digitized for final mapping.

Order and Magnitude

Q: When order changes within a reach, which order is entered in the reach table? This changing of order within a reach with no associated changes in physical characteristics of the stream is quite common.

A: The order/magnitude is interpreted at the downstream end of the reach.

Q. In the discussion about determining reach order, there was mention of a reach having a different order at its upstream and downstream ends (e.g., an equal order tributary entering in the middle of a reach). In all of our inventories we have consistently insisted on a reach break when stream order changes. Is this not the case in other regions?

A: Order is not listed as reach break criteria and is not identified in the FPC reach boundary criteria. Change in order had typically been used as a surrogate for change in discharge. In some cases, with a change in order, there may not be a significant change in morphology or discharge. Use the change in order to signal you to check airphotos, etc., to see if you can detect a change in discharge, morphology, etc., but you should not use order by itself to define a reach break.

Q: In order to assess the magnitude for a lake, we have counted the number of first magnitude streams entering the lake, and used that number as the lake's magnitude. Is this correct?

A: The magnitude of a lake takes on the sum of the magnitudes draining into the lake. If a magnitude 13 and a magnitude seven flow into a lake, then the magnitude of the lake is 20 (i.e., a lake acts just like a confluence point in the network). See figure 2.4 (stream magnitude/order) in the manual.

Q: If no first-order streams enter a lake (e.g., they are all second magnitude or higher), is it possible for a lake to have a magnitude of "zero"?

A: A lake can have a magnitude of zero, but only if it is a headwater lake or an isolated lake with no inlets, i.e., there are no upstream tributaries. Otherwise use the procedure outlined above (previous question) to calculate magnitude.

Sub-basin Classification

Q: If a third order basin is a type four (for example), then are all reaches within that basin, including first and second order, classified as type four as well?

A: Yes.

Q: Can All mainstems of fourth order or higher basins be defaulted to type 10?

A: Any reach with an order of four or higher can be defaulted to 10.

Q: Are the first and second order residual basins that drain directly into fourth order and higher mainstems, individually classified for basin type in the reach table or do they receive the default "10" basin type?

A: Each has to be classified individually.

Lakes and Wetlands

Q: Is there a size criterion we can use to define a lake? Having a size guideline really helped for those that are less experienced.

A: You can still use a size guideline. However, it will vary between Biogeoclimatic zones: BG, PP, IDF - use 0.25 ha, all others use 0.5 ha. Waterbodies smaller than 0.25 ha may still qualify as lakes although they are a bit too small to justify using it in our inventory. (These guidelines are consistent with the RMA Lake classification on pg. 27 of the RMA Guidebook.)

Q: If there is a stream network on the interim map through a wetland, (the wetland was identified from the air photo interpretation) but we cannot see a channel on the photos), then we are putting that reach information on the Reach table and marking it as a "Wetland" (because it is channelized). Is this correct? Also, do we need to ILP wetland?

A: Yes, fill in the parts of the table you can (gradient, wetland, etc.). Also give it the ILPs (you will already have it if it is part of the stream network). Wetlands are given ILPs the in the same way as lakes.

Q: What do we do with wetlands that may be at the end of our stream network (i.e., there is no stream network shown on the interim map), or a tributary to a stream network?

A: If there is no channel in a connected wetland and it is at the end of the network, you can ignore it as it may be difficult to locate the upstream boundary. Also, there is little chance that this may be important from a fish perspective. However, if you think there is a chance that you may find small channels in the field, that may support fish (i.e., be important for upstream fish limits or habitat potential) then you would probably want to include them.

Q: What do we do with isolated wetlands (are these considered non-channelized wetlands?) as identified from the Interim map/air photo interpretation? Is this what the "Wetland" column on the lake table is for, and if so, what other columns do we fill out if it is a non-channelized wetland?

A: For isolated wetlands: If they are an open waterbody-type, and there may be some question as to their depths (i.e., it might actually be over twom deep and therefore be defined as a lake) then include them in the Lake Information Table. If it is an isolated open waterbody and for some reason you can definitively say it is less than two meters deep (from past survey information, etc.) then you can choose to "ignore" it. However, you can include it if there is the possibility that it may support fish and, for the purpose of a "watershed-based inventory," you think that information is important to determine basin-wide characteristics. If it is an isolated wetland of the non-open waterbody-type (e.g., sedge-fen), then you can ignore it as well.

Q: When entering the data into the Lake Table, how do we enter the reaches that are lakes/non-channelized wetlands (i.e., the data that you have put on the Lake Form)? Will the lake table link to the Reach Card when calculating which reaches we need to sample? Can we just enter the data from our Lake Form on the Lake table and not worry about putting anything into the Reach table for those type or reaches?

A: Lake information does not need to go on the reach data sheet, only the lake table.

Q: Through our airphoto interpretation we have come across a number of wetlands that are smaller than the 100m length criteria for a reach break. When reviewing the manual it says to reach break all wetlands/lakes (no mention of if the size criteria of >100m applies or not). To date we have been reach breaking these <100m long wetlands. When possible we are trying to include them in a larger "wetland" type reach if possible, but sometimes they are just there on their own without the supporting wetland area. What do you think? Should we only reach break out the wetlands < 100m if we think there may be fisheries values associated with the area?

A: If they are close to the 100m length criterion, then you may want to think about breaking them out, but if they are definitely smaller, you should amalgamate them in with another reach.

Q: Why does FDIS not allow lake names to be entered?

A: You can only enter local names or alias into FDIS.

Q: It is our practice to group and classify all "true lakes" (greater than two meters deep, less than 50 percent surface vegetation as per RIC. Should we group or classify smaller waterbodies, such as shallow open water wetlands or other unchannelized wetlands that get entered in the lake table. Would it be a QA error not to? Also, is it necessary to map WBIDs for terminal or channelized wetlands, and will this be necessary for the final maps?

A: If they are not lakes, they probably don't need to be grouped or classified. However, until you go out into the field you may not know they are a wetland vs. lake (e.g., depth criteria). A more appropriate way to go, is to set a size limit for those probable wetlands that don't get grouped or classified. Group wetlands above a certain size limit, and the "wetland" classification is a classification unto itself (don’t need genesis, etc.) There probably will be exceptions to those smaller waterbodies that are important for fish distribution purposes. It would not necessarily be a QA error if the waterbodies are small enough. As for WBIDs, you might want to include some for the larger, more important wetlands, but not necessary for all (clutter issue).

Q: In determining if a wetland is channelized or an open waterbody the method is to default to the lake table. If there is a line on the TRIM map going through a wetland would this be considered channel visible regardless of airphoto interpretation?

A: If there is no line on TRIM it should default to the lake table, if there is, it will have to be up to the contractor's professional judgement as to whether it should be moved to the lake table based on an airphoto assessment.

Q: Do reaches with only a minor portion being a wetland need to be classified as a wetland reach?

A: It depends on the characteristics of the rest of the stream. If it is sort of "wetland-like", there may be a few instances where the whole reach may still be classified as a wetland, but generally, if there are only minor wetland components, it should be classified as a stream.