Along the Fraser: Plight of Alouette Salmon Fry

“Hatch Match’r Fly and Tackle in Maple Ridge is working with B.C. Hydro to minimize death to salmon fry due to high water fluctuations. If you encounter large numbers of dead salmon fry, please take pictures and note locations.”

Store owner Randy Morgan posted the notice after Alouette River fishermen told him of stranded fish.

“Hydro’s ramping down the water in the reservoir too fast,” says Morgan. “Fry are trapped on lawns, behind logs, in puddles in the bush. It was bad last year, too. Hydro wants the guys to take pictures, and give locations.”

“It’s mostly reservoir management,” Rob Harrison of B.C. Hydro explained. “Not so much when the gates are open and closed, but to what extent – the duration. In the last week, it’s in response to high volumes in the reservoir. That’s issue one, and the fish caught in the pools. People are opening and closing the flow too fast. They have a protocol for a certain speed,” but “the guy might be new.”

If there was a spill, DFO’s Dan Sneep told me, “I’d like to find out what impact Hydro observed. They have to salvage fish stranded. If they haven’t done that, we have to have an appropriate response.”

“Typically,” Harrison told me, “there’s a salvage crew that goes to sites on the river, removes the fish and puts them back. The next time we plan to open a gate, we’d notify Randy about a discharge and he’d have people on the river to keep their eyes open for an estimate of fish and species and locations. We want to know of the other areas because this will happen again and we want to reduce that as much as possible.”

Arthur Olesiak, who fishes steelhead, works for Morgan. He says he’s never seen Hydro scooping up stranded fry, but knows where they can find them.

“I’ve seen lots near Egan’s Hole near Davidson Pool, and Glacier Hole above 240th, and on the grass in people’s yards on Fern Crescent.”

Richard Bray says he’s fished every morning for 40 years without seeing salvage crews.

“I’m in a group of guys who call ourselves ‘The River Stewards.’ We report anything we see wrong right away. I walk the low corners around 240th and 232nd streets. I’m seeing hundreds in puddles in the bushes. Some had their yoke sacs on them.

“There was a time I’d get 80 steelhead a season; this year, 10. We’re losing our little jewel of a river.”

It’ll take the joint effort of Maple Ridge and Hydro to prevent that.

ARMS past president, Geoff Clayton: “No, I’ve never heard of Hydro’s salvage crew.” He says Silverdale has changed  “from a rain forest to a concrete jungle.”

Add climate change and more rain water into storm drains than anticipated when they were built, and excess water from the reservoir tips the scale against fry. It’s time for the city and Hydro to solve the problem collaboratively.

Harrison is receptive to this idea.

“I’m not sure how we could alter the operations,” he says, “but, we could benefit from discussion. I’ll give Rod Stott a call.”

Stott, an environmental officer with the city, is ready.”

We can plan and manage for smarter water uses – B.C. Hydro water use plans, water conservation strategies, conservation, impact from urban development … to offset impacts from climate change.”

ARMS manager,Greta Borick Cunningham agrees.

“The amount of run-off is something the city and Hydro should consider working on together. ARMS could create a Facebook web page to educate the public to keep storm grates clear so flooding is reduced.”

Even then, the problems of Alouette salmon won’t be over. ARMS just learned Hydro will no longer fund its 10-year hatchery program to reintroduce sockeye to Alouette Lake.

 

– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist

Read more Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows News.

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