BC Hydro funds Coquitlam River salmon projects

A fish trap at the base of the Coquitlam dam is used to collect sockeye for a project to restore the once-plentiful salmon run. - Watershed Watch Salmon Society
A fish trap at the base of the Coquitlam dam is used to collect sockeye for a project to restore the once-plentiful salmon run.
— image credit: Watershed Watch Salmon Society

Finding the best way to bring the once-plentiful sockeye salmon back to the Coquitlam River is the goal of a project being funded by BC Hydro’s Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program.

Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s Craig Orr said his group wants to determine if a hatchery would be necessary to augment the run, which now amounts to a handful of returning fish, or whether a fish ladder to get smolts out of the Coquitlam reservoir would be enough for a healthy run. With $42,800 in grants, his group will hire a consultant to study the matter.

“The real problem that we have is getting smolts [young salmon] out of the system because the structures aren’t really conducive and only a handful of smolts exit,” Orr said.

“The question is, do we have to put in a hatchery or not?” he said, acknowledging that a hatchery comes with its own set of issues, such as cost and sustainability because it has to be maintained. The project is supported by the Kwikwetlem First Nation and other groups that want to see the traditional sockeye return as it was once an important species for the river, which was named for the red-scaled fish.

The project is part of a 10-year study to see if it’s practical to bring back the run to the reservoir and river, which is also used for hydroelectric power and drinking water. Orr said studies have shown that a small run could be accommodated without causing any problems with drinking water.

Currently, only a handful of sockeye return each year and are trucked from a fish trap to the reservoir. BC Hydro is considering putting in a fish ladder to help the fish make their exit and return but the study will see if there are any other impediments to the plan, Orr said.

The sockeye aren’t the only salmon species benefiting from B.C. Hydro funding: Chum and coho are beneficiaries of a $80,598 grant to the North Fraser Salmon Assistance Society, which will build new rearing habit on the Coquitlam river, including putting in beaver-resistant culverts and adding spawning gravel to riffles within Coquitlam River Park.


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