A new club has formed at the Environmental School in Maple Ridge.
It is not a gaming club or a movie club, but a group of students who are keen to see a fish ladder put along the Alouette River.
The Fish Ladder Awareness Team, as they are known, includes students from Grades 3 to 9, and was formed only a couple of months ago.
So far they have been learning from local experts about the ladder – including Greta Borick-Cunningham with the Alouette River Management Society and Rick Bailey with the Katzie First Nation – and are now focused on lending their voice to the cause.
On Thursday as the 22 students who form the club opened their lunches under the newly built gazebo covering the steam donkey at the UBC Research Forrest, they were eagerly waiting for guest speaker, local environmentalist and The News columnist, Jack Emberly.
“These kids are really passionate about having their voices be heard on how they feel about having the fish ladder put in,” explained prep teacher Ola Cholewa.
“They all respect the salmon so much because they spend every year at the Allco (Park) watching the Chum salmon come up and they also get to see the Coho. So through the years, some of the kids have spent eight years seeing that salmon run and they’re so connected,” she further explained.
Environmentalists have been pressuring B.C. Hydro for years to install a fish ladder above the Alouette dam, to allow sockeye and other salmon species into the Alouette Lake reservoir to help rebuild the Alouette sockeye run.
After first telling the enthusiastic students about where his passion for the environment came from, Emberly then talked about the diversion tunnel at the north end of Alouette Lake.
The tunnel travels one kilometre into the Stave Lake system and it is where, Emberly told the students, many fish are killed or mangled as they attempt to swim through.
A fish ladder is necessary, said Emberly, to allow sockeye salmon the ability to get to the ocean.
“They are just not able to go where they want to go. So there is pressure on B.C. Hydro now to do something,” he explained.
Then he opened the floor up to questions. After being asked what his favourite fish was and what type of fishing gear he uses, a question was asked about the amount of lily pads along the Katzie Slough.
The lily pads, he said, are an example of what can happen to a waterway when there is no water-flow through the system.
“It gives these plants a chance to really establish themselves because they don’t really need much oxygen. And then they absorb the oxygen and make it even worse for the other fish,” said Emberly.
Cholewa showed Emberly the posters her students made about having the fish ladder installed and asked him how best to get their message out.
“They’ve learned a lot about the salmon and how interconnected they are with all the other beings and the plants and the animals,” she said.
Emberly was clearly impressed with the group. These children have an opportunity to bond with nature more than any other school children in the district because they are learning outside, he said.
“I wanted them to recognize the mutual condition of loving nature and being loved by nature,” added Emberly.