Fishway to allow salmon back to lake

Not part of dam renovations but Minister Rich Coleman likes the idea

The fishway is not part of the Ruskin Dam upgrades.

The fishway is not part of the Ruskin Dam upgrades.

If not next year, the year after, or the year after that, maybe.

After contacting Energy Minister Rich Coleman about adding a fishway to the $800- million renovation of the Ruskin Dam, MLA Marc Dalton reports that Coleman likes the idea.

“I think he’s open to it,” Dalton said.

The Alouette River Management Society says a fishway would bridge the gap as it tries to rebuild the sockeye salmon run in the river. A fishway alongside the Alouette Dam would allow all species of salmon and trout direct access to the lake, which would help with fish restoration.

The project is not part of the Ruskin Dam renovation, but instead part of B.C. Hydro’s ongoing funding of habitat restoration.

B.C. Hydro executive vice-president Chris O’Riley made the point that the two projects are separate in a June letter to ARMS.

He said a group will submit a proposal for a fishway to the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program next year.

If the board accepts that, it will be forwarded to B.C. Hydro which will develop a business case for the project and decide whether to implement it.

He said if the project’s not accepted in 2012, it could be the year after that, or after that.

“There are competing projects but I will continue to try to keep it on the forefront. What I want to see is, keep pushing it forward. It’s an ongoing issue.”

But Amanda Crowston, executive-director with Alouette River Management Society, said a committee is just studying to see if it’s possible for sockeye to spawn successfully in the lake. If they conclude it is, the group will make a proposal for the fishway, which could be made directly to B.C. Hydro itself, because of the scope of the project.

“The timeline is uncertain but it’s definitely something on the radar,” said Crowston.

She said a fishway would serve all fish species, coho, chinook, pink and steelhead trout, that have lost access to the lake since 1926 when the dam was built.

“The system was open for all species to go through.”

Dalton said that B.C. Hydro has spent $750,000 on restoring the Alouette watershed since 2000.

He added that the Alouette Dam and the power station where Alouette Lake water is piped into Stave Lake are also dated.

A previous study commissioned by Alouette River Management Society says it would cost about $2.8 million to build the fishway.

The society first proposed the project last year after a study by Peter Ward and Associates estimated it would cost $2.8 million to build a fishway beside the spillway and get to the top of the 16-metre dam.

ARMS continues to track the sockeye salmon run that it started in 2005 with the release of what was then considered kokanee over the dam spillway and have found that when the sockeye return, they’re using some areas part of the lakeshore for spawning rather than migrating to streams that flow into the lake.

A fish ladder could increase the size of the sockeye run.

Last year, 105 sockeye returned to the base of the dam and were trucked around it and released into the lake. However, some deaths may be connected to handling the fish.

The Alouette group is also afraid that chinook and coho may not be able to survive in the South Alouette over the long term without access to the Alouette reservoir.