Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read is getting behind the long-waited dream of a fishway that would join the South Alouette River to Alouette Lake and allow sockeye salmon to complete their circle of life.
Read met with B.C. Hydro officials last week during the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Victoria.
Building a fishway over the Alouette dam would allow sockeye salmon, other salmon species, as well as trout into the Alouette Lake reservoir. That would open up substantial new habitat and allow the sockeye to complete their natural cycle and spawn in the lake, possibly helping rebuild the Alouette sockeye run.
“I think it’s an important dialogue and a dialogue with a little bit of urgency,” Read said Wednesday.
“This is really an important topic for ARMS. We want B.C. Hydro to really work with us and get some funding in there and get us to where we need to be.”
The Alouette River Management Society proposed building a fishway in 2010, but needs B.C. Hydro funding to pay for the project, which would cost at least $3 million.
Read said she’s worked with First Nations and dam issues previously and said the first meeting was just to touch base with B.C. Hydro and set up a meeting later.
“We want to be moving the issues along,” Read said.
When B.C. Hydro built the Alouette dam in 1928, sockeye were cut off from the lake, leaving the sockeye that had been trapped inside, becoming landlocked.
A multi-year ARMS project, started in 2005 to release sockeye over the dam every year in the hopes of them returning and rebuilding the run, has seen the numbers of returning sockeye declining. This year, only seven sockeye returned to river. They were then trucked around the dam and released into the lake.
But sockeye numbers are down everywhere, said Nicole Driediger, with the society.
ARMS president Ken Stewart welcomes the mayor’s support.
“We certainly appreciate the effort the mayor is making on our behalf.”
The fish passage is a major project for the society and community supports the goal of re-connecting the lake.
“That’s our ultimate goal is to get fish back to their historical habitat,” Stewart said.
ARMS said in a 2011 letter to B.C. Hydro that it will run into opposition when it seeks to renew one of its water licences, which expires in 2018, “without a provision that includes some form of upper watershed access for this historic run of salmon and trout.