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Maple Ridge conservation group critical of Hydro

ARMS says its time for the utility company to undo damage to the Alouette watershed
The BC Hydro dam on the Alouette River. ARMS wants a fish ladder for spawning salmon. (Contributed)

The Alouette River Management Society wrote a letter to BC Hydro expressing frustration that the utility company is refusing to communicate about its dam on the Maple Ridge waterway, nor build a fish ladder to allow spawning salmon to get past the dam.

The conservation group said after taking hundreds of millions, Hydro must “repay the debt to the watershed.”

The letter signed by ARMS president Ken Stewart accuses Hydro and its consultants as lacking the courtesy and respect to communicate.

Stewart also told Hydro the company needs a better system to inform the public about flood risks.

ARMS has learned Hydro is focused on negotiating with Aboriginal communities, including the Katzie First Nation. The Katzie have opposed the government’s renewal of an expired water licence that allows Hydro to dam the Alouette River. The permission ran out in 2018.

Stewart said ARMS supports First Nations being heard, having their grievances addressed, and they must be involved in decisions about the watershed. However, the fish passage issue, and restoring salmon runs, has been on hold

“There’s a little bit of frustration, because we’ve been put out of the process a bit,” said Stewart. “Our message may be getting lost in the mix.”

ARMS wants a year-round fish passage around the Alouette dam, and “the watershed being managed on a fully functioning ecosystem basis.”

The group says the dam must to be upgraded to handle current earthquake and flood rating standards, updated for climate change.

What’s more, ARMS told Hydro its flood advisory system for residents in inadequate.

“The flood events of November 2021 demonstrated that the current system is inadequate and unsafe and that the City of Maple Ridge lacks the staffing capability and expertise to properly execute this role,” wrote ARMS. “It is not the city’s responsibility; that lies totally with BC Hydro. People’s lives are at risk.”

READ ALSO: City of Maple Ridge wants residents ready to evacuate

READ ALSO: Fish ladder for Alouette dam would boost threatened wild sockeye

ARMS told Hydro it needs to re-invest in the river.

“BC Hydro and its predecessor companies have earned hundreds of millions of dollars from the waters of the Alouette watershed. The province has earned millions in taxes and fees from these waters. Residents of the Lower Mainland and beyond have consumed the electricity for nearly a century. The river and the watershed, especially the salmon populations, have paid a very high price. However, virtually nothing has been invested in mitigating and compensating the impacts. It is time for all those who have benefited to repay the debt to the watershed.”

ARMS received a response from Hydro director of environment Karen Popoff, who offered to set up a meeting with the group to provide an update to address the letter.

“As you’re aware we’re navigating a complex landscape of interest at Alouette, particularly those of First Nations,” she wrote. “As an organization, we’re committed to implementing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in our work.”

She said that will delay other processes, including the salmon restoration program. However, Hydro plans to draft a salmon restoration plan by March of 2023.

READ ALSO: Documentary looks at flood risk in Maple Ridge

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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