Build fish ladder on Alouette dam

Editor, The News:

Re: ‘Ruskin dam fish ladder just not worth it’ (The News, March 4).

The evidence for anadromous fish gaining access above Stave Falls is limited. I do not know the circumstances behind the observation of salmon bones above Stave Falls, but the study did strongly suggest that anadromous fish did not gain access over the falls during pre-dam-construction periods. Probably, this scientific work should be done again, or closely reviewed, to more-completely resolve this question.

Nevertheless, the loss of salmon habitat upstream of the Ruskin dam on the Stave River watershed was extensive as a result of the construction of this facility.  Chiefly, this was the main-channel habitats from the location of Ruskin to the tailrace of the Stave Falls generating station, as well as any tributary streams that may have been flooded as a result of the inundation.

This historical footprint impact to fish habitat between Ruskin generating station and Stave Falls generating station has never been properly accounted for, or addressed through mitigation or compensation, in my opinion. B.C. Hydro has done a great job, along with DFO, to enhance habitat values downstream of Ruskin Dam; still, there are fluvial habitats that will never be recovered as a result of this project development in the 1930s.

A common-sense resolution to this would be to alternatively construct a fish-ladder on the Alouette Dam and reservoir, part of the Alouette River watershed. A fish ladder, allowing fish migration such as sockeye, chum, Chinook, coho and pink salmon, as well as steelhead, cutthroat trout and bull char upstream of the Alouette dam, would open up an enormous amount of habitat that, in my opinion, would largely address the outstanding historical issues relating to the Ruskin dam.

This fishway for Alouette dam has already been designed at the conceptual level by Peter Ward and Associates and has a modest cost associated with its construction. This is an even-more relevant opportunity given that sockeye are now returning to the Alouette watershed in measurable numbers and need to be “lifted” over the dam in order to spawn and rear in that reservoir.

There is precedence for such a switch to take place.  Because the Stave and Alouette rivers are now hydraulically linked due to the various hydro-electric projects on these watersheds, the agencies permitted impact-mitigation (reservoir fertilization) for the Stave Falls generating station upgrade, in the 1990s, to occur on the Alouette.  This was because it made a lot more biological sense to fix something that we felt was practically achievable on the smaller Alouette than the more diffuse benefits what would have been obtained on the very large Stave reservoir.

The good kokanee fishery, the increased fish productivity, and the return of sockeye, that we now see are largely due to this common-sense re-direction of restoration activities.

In my view, common sense should prevail in such dialogues, and redeploying the fishway to Alouette may be such a solution to two issues that have been outstanding for three quarters of a century.

Dr. Marvin L. Rosenau

Instructor of Fish Ecology and Management/

Environmental Monitoring

Fish Wildlife and Recreation