It won’t be known for a couple of years what damage Friday night’s flooding might have done to the chum that are almost ready to hatch. (THE NEWS-files)

Maple Ridge hatcheries hopeful for chum after high water levels

Effects might not be known for a couple of years

The effects of recent flooding on local salmon counts will not be known for at least another two years.

“It will take some time to figure it out,” said Ross Davies with the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society.

There were no losses at the Bell Irving Hatchery after heavy rains caused flooding Friday night, said Davies, and he hasn’t noticed any eggs washed away.

However, chum are really close to hatching right now, and when there is a disturbance in the gravel, he said the fish will stress-hatch and burrow deeper because they sense it is not safe.

“That affects their survival. They may hatch too soon when they are not quite ready, they may move into habitat that is not favourable for them or they could get washed away entirely,” said Davies.

READ MORE: Do not go near the Alouette River, B.C. Hydro warns

But, he said, it is too soon to tell if there will be an impact on the return.

Davies compared the flooding Friday night to the flood of 1995. He said they didn’t see the effects of that flood on the salmon until the low return in 1999.

At the Allco Fish hatchery, two motors were removed from the pump house in anticipation of the high water levels.

Precautions they took from lessons learned after the ‘95 flood, said Sohpie Sparrow with the Alouette River Management Society.

Sparrow wasn’t as concerned about the plight of the chum in the Alouette during B.C. Hydro’s discharge from the free crest weir Saturday morning.

Since they are still in their eggs, Sparrow said, they are more protected.

If the flooding had happened in April or May, the story might have had a different outcome, added Sparrow.

READ MORE: BC Hydro releasing water into the South Alouette

“When the fish actually have hatched and are in the stream, we would have been more concerned with abandoned fry,” she said.

Sparrow explained that when water levels rise into the forest and then drop it leaves pools of water that the fry get trapped in.

Fry will swim to the surface trying to escape the rushing water and find a pool in the bank areas where the water is slow.

That’s why ARMS has created side-channels as habitat for fry to get out of the main stem of the river, said Sparrow, because during the winter months there are heavy flows, regardless if a river is dammed or not.

“Once the water levels drop you have these pools throughout the banks of the riparian zone full of fish and it’s getting those fish back into the main system,” said Sparrow.

That won’t happen to the eggs, she said, because they are buried down in the gravel and not going to float.

However, Sparrow said, whether or not the eggs will survive the wash downstream, she’s not sure.

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