Ken Stewart is the new president of the Alouette River Management Society. (THE NEWS-files)

ARMS in Maple Ridge chooses new president

Ken Stewart elected during virtual AGM on April 30

A new president will be taking hold of the reins of the Alouette River Management Society.

Long-time director and past-president Ken Stewart was voted in during the organization’s first virtual Annual General Meeting on April 30.

Stewart, who has served Maple Ridge in the past as an MLA and a two-term city councillor, will be taking the place of Cheryl Ashlie who stepped down to pursue her work as the B.C. Liberal candidate for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows.

One of the biggest long-term goals the society is working on is getting a fish passage back up to Alouette Lake, said Stewart during an interview.

Another major issue for the new president is the 26-home subdivision being planned along 240 and 241 Streets, by the banks of the South Alouette River.

“The biggest concern is they are building it in the flood plain,” said Stewart of the proposed development.

“It will just destroy the wildlife corridor that’s along there and it will also have a very negative impact on the whole ecology along that section,” he said.

The development has gone to a third reading at city council, and, Stewart says, they will ask for a judicial review if council goes ahead with a fourth reading.

He believes that the application should be redone from the first reading.

Another concern on the new president’s radar is the water flow issues through the tunnel connecting Alouette Lake and the Stave, that is trapping smolts.

In the 1920’s when the dam was built, a lot of sockeye salmon became locked in the lake, explained Stewart.

These salmon, he said, became kokanee salmon and became almost their own species.

Then around 2005 they found out that some of the kokanee smolts were going over the dam and reverting back to sockeyes again and travelling into the Alouette River.

There was a big push, then, to rehabilitate the sockeye run and every year since they have been conducting migration counts as the smolts come over the top of the dam.

But, he said, what has always been a big concern is how many smolts are killed in the tunnel between the two lakes, instead of going over the dam and into the Alouette, or how many are going into the Stave system and becoming locked in there again.

“We’re just concerned that we really don’t know how many are going out that end and so it would have significant impact if we started doing a serious sockeye rehabilitation program,” said Stewart.

Also stepping down from their posts as ARMS directors are Ron MacLean and Mike Ilaender.

Both served for many years as directors and recently retired from the Allco Fish Hatchery in Maple Ridge, as well, after 30 and 25 years respectively.

“The contributions that Ron MacLean and Mike Ilaender have made to the Alouette watershed, salmon and Maple Ridge cannot be over-stated,” said ARMS executive director Greta Borick-Cunningham.

“When chum, pink, coho, and chinook salmon were struggling for their existence in the Alouette River, under their dedicated watch, over many years, more than 65 million salmon were raised and released to the South and North Alouette, receiving tributaries and other watersheds in the Lower Mainland including the Brunette and North Vancouver,” said Borick-Cunningham, adding that they have been indispensable in bringing salmon back to the Alouette River.

Pitt Meadows councillor Gwen O’Connell chaired the elections that saw two new directors join ARMS – Maple Ridge resident Doug Thomson, and B.C. Corrections and Allco Hatchery staff member Chris McMillan.

Second year director Victoria Farahbakhchian was voted in as vice president and long-serving volunteer, Doug Stanger, as Treasurer.

Outgoing president Cheryl Ashlie, who will continue on with the society in the role of a director, talked about what a privilege is was to be part of the ARMS board of directors during the virtual meeting.

“As out-going president, I am confident the newly elected president, Ken Stewart, and vice president, Victoria Farahbakhchian, along with the directors, will provide ARMS with solid leadership that will continue the exemplary work that ARMS does as a non-profit environmental stewardship organization” she said.

For more information about ARMS, including volunteer opportunities, activities and donations call 604-467-6401.

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