Fish get some shelter and hiding places

Fourth project will provide side channels along Maple Ridge's South Alouette River

Thanks to some cash from B.C. Hydro, the local river group will be making some more space for fish to shelter and feed this summer.

The project involves transforming 1,000 sq. metres of grass and mud flat into fish habitat that will be located just off the South Alouette River, on property owned by Ken and Sherry Stewart.

It’s the fourth such project, the Alouette River Management Society has done on the Stewart’s property. The family owns the river bed and restricts access so it can serve as a conservation area.

The project actually involves digging out a side channel adjacent to the South Alouette.

“If you have one big main stream of water there’s really nowhere for the fish to go and rest,” said Stewart, former MLA and Maple Ridge councillor.

There also are areas for the coho, chinook, chum, pink salmon and cutthroat trout to hide from predators.

The three other locations already built are doing well, he added.

“ARMS goes and gets the funding. We just provide the land for free to use.”

Stewart points out that because it’s not open to the public, fish and wildlife habitat isn’t disturbed by dogs or people disrupting their space.

The money, $10,545, comes from B.C. Hydro’s Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, although ARMS will oversee the project.

Other partners involved are Katzie First Nations, the provincial government and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The South Alouette River runs through about 1.5 kilometres of the Stewarts’ property, known as Coniagas Ranch.

More than 90 acres of the property have been left natural for wildlife habitat.

The river group is still focused on construction of a fish ladder, about a $3 million project, that would give salmon and trout access past the Alouette dam and allow feeding and spawning in the lake.