BC Hydro is allowing the water levels on the South Alouette River to be higher this spring, to allow a study of sockeye smolt out-migration. (Special to The News)

BC Hydro is allowing the water levels on the South Alouette River to be higher this spring, to allow a study of sockeye smolt out-migration. (Special to The News)

Maple Ridge river higher for sockeye smolt study

Sockeye salmon smolt migration in South Alouette studied

BC Hydro is in the middle of studying the numbers of sockeye smolts leaving Alouette Lake down the South Alouette River.

The higher water flows on the river are obvious to anyone walking along its banks, and they will remain high until June 14.

The water generally flows at three cubic meters per second, and will be increased to about 10 for the study, rising to maximums of 15.

According to Hydro, the annual monitoring since 2005 shows an average of approximately 15,000 smolts going down the river each year, and this study will determine whether increased water flows will result in more.

ARMS president Ken Stewart chairs the Alouette River Salmon Restoration Program Committee, which includes members of ARMS, Hydro employees and other stakeholders.

He said ARMS anticipates the study to show that higher water levels would result in healthier populations of not just sockeye, but all five species of salmon in the water system. The water looks healthier during its increased flows for this study, he said.

“We’re expecting a lot of smolts to come out this way,” said Stewart. “It’s the ideal situation right now. We’re looking forward to seeing the results.”

READ ALSO: Neglected Alouette Lake sockeye could return in the thousands

READ ALSO: ARMS takes aim at city subdivision, Hydro’s water licence in coming year

After many generations, land-locked sockeye become kokanee. However, ARMS contends the sockeye in the Alouette system haven’t lost their instinct to swim to the ocean, and return to spawn, and would populate the system if a fish ladder allowed them to get past the Alouette Dam.

ARMS executive director Greta Borick-Cunningham said the highest daily catch thus far of 215 smolts occurred on May 1, and so far, catches are higher than those observed last year. She noted the study is part of a greater body of work this year, the Alouette Watershed Sockeye Fish Passage Feasibility project. ARMS manages the overall project including the smolt outmigration survey, adult sockeye salmon in-migration enumeration, and Alouette diversion tunnel entrainment study.

Hydro is warning residents to be cautious around the river, because water levels can rise suddenly without warning.

Have a story tip? Email: ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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