Greta Borick-Cunningham in the upper hatchery

Greta Borick-Cunningham in the upper hatchery

Grant a boost for Maple Ridge fish hatchery

Alouette River Management Society aims for better returns of sockeye salmon

The hope is that speeding up the natural salmon-mating process will boost the return of the sockeye salmon to Alouette Lake.

And thanks to more than $60,000 in new money, the Alouette River Management Society now has a place to allow that to happen.

The money, half from B.C. Hydro and half from the District of Maple Ridge, will allow upgrading of the society’s upper fish hatchery on the grounds of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women at the north end of 248th Street.

“We’re just trying to boost numbers,” said Greta Borick-Cunningham of ARMS.

“It’s just trying to improve their chances of success.”

The society, next summer, will grab 10 pairs of sockeye that have returned to the Alouette River attempting to spawn in Alouette Lake.

The upgraded hatchery will be used to house them and produce 30,000 of their fry, to be released into the lake in 2016.

The hope is that breeding the pairs that return to spawn will produce offspring that have a higher drive to return from the Pacific Ocean to the Alouette system to spawn.

Releasing them into the lake will allow the youngsters to imprint on that body of water, aiding their return in a few years to spawn.

Currently, juvenile sockeye are let out over the spillway of the Alouette Lake dam each spring in the hope that they’ll return in three years and re-establish a sockeye run that was killed off when B.C. Hydro built the dam in 1926.

That program has been running since 2005, when sockeye, which were considered landlocked fresh-water kokanee, were released over the dam spillway into the South Alouette River.

“The first sockeye or sockanee arrived in 2007 to the Alouette River much to the delight of so many people who have worked for years to see this important keystone species re-establish itself in its historic spawning grounds,” said ARMS.

But returns of the sockeye that have been released for the last seven years  have been spotty, with some years only a handful showing up at the hatchery or the base of the dam, where they’re trapped, then transported by truck and released into the lake.

So far this year, no sockeye have come back to the South Alouette River.

“There have been no sockeye yet. We’re wondering where they are. They’re missing in action.”

B.C. Hydro is chipping in $32,426 through its fish and wildlife compensation program for the hatchery upgrade, while the District of Maple Ridge is giving $30,000.