Unusually skimpy snowpack levels now may mean trouble later in the summer for sockeye salmon that depend on adequate river flows to migrate.

Low snowpack in southwest B.C. ‘scary’ for salmon

Lower Fraser has 28 per cent normal snow, creating risk of low river flows and warm temperatures for sockeye this summer

The snowpack in southwestern B.C.’s mountains has been pushed further into record low territory by continued warm and dry weather.

The Lower Fraser watershed is now at 28 per cent of its normal snowpack for this time of year, down from 45 per cent a month ago.

And it’s even lower just to the west at 21 per cent on Vancouver Island and just 15 per cent in the South Coast region, which includes Squamish and Whistler.

B.C.’s River Forecast Centre called the readings “extremely low” in its latest snow level bulletin posted March 9. Most test sites in the three regions are at lows never before seen.

It’s impossible to guarantee there will be no spring flooding on the Lower Fraser – there are still close to normal snowpacks in the mid and upper sections of the watershed and a fast melt of what’s left can’t be ruled out.

But River Forecast Centre officials say there’s a below normal risk of seasonal flooding because the watershed as a whole is 84 per cent of normal, one of the lowest years on record.

They predict low flow conditions on rivers will come earlier and be more severe unless there’s significant rainfall this spring and summer.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Aaron Hill said that could mean trouble for returning sockeye salmon that may encounter dangerously warm river temperatures and low water levels that impede their migration.

“It’s definitely a scary situation for salmon this year,” Hill said. “Especially those stocks – like Fraser sockeye – that have long migrations to make later on in the summer, when the water gets low and it really heats up.”

Warm water temperatures stress salmon and can also make them more susceptible to disease.

Nor is the snowpack the only adverse environmental factor for salmon.

The same El Niño weather pattern responsible for the mild winter has also warmed ocean temperatures. Hill said that’s brought certain salmon predators, such as mackerel, further north than usual.

“If we end up having a hot summer that warms up those rivers then it’s a triple whammy,” Hill said. “We need to cross our fingers and hope for cool weather this summer and some rain.”

Environment Canada is forecasting a high likelihood of above-normal temperatures from March through May.

Just Posted

Teacher receives reprimand after 2017 altercation with student

Gregory Norman Brock was issued letter of discipline, suspended three days without pay.

RMMBA holds first training session of season in Maple Ridge

Players wore green in honour of St. Patrick’s Day

UPDATE: Location for more temporary supportive housing in Maple Ridge by end of week

Evacuation shelter now a night refuge only, then shuts for good March 31.

Getting dry in Maple Ridge, be careful

Two brush fires recently already

More condos sought for downtown Maple Ridge project

Seeking 20 per cent increase in number of units

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

Avalanche control tomorrow on Highway 1

Expect closures of up to two hours east of Revelstoke

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Carfentanil found in 15% of overdose deaths in January: B.C. coroner

Carfentanil is 100 times more powerful than illicit fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants

Most Read