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Photos: Resilient Waters helps more lower Fraser River salmon get home

Senior government funding helps to continue with the Resilient Waters project; the ongoing money was announced last week in Coquitlam.

A leader with the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem) First Nation recently thanked government agencies and partners in Coquitlam for helping to open up more salmon runs in the lower Fraser River watershed.

KFN Coun. John Peters offered blessings on behalf of the Nation last Thursday, Dec. 14, after the B.C Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF) injected $3.6 million for the Resilient Waters project.

Led by MakeWay Charitable Society and other groups like the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, the project is a "step in the right direction" to revitalize the environment and fish habitats in the lower Fraser, Peters said, as well as to ensure reconciliation with First Nations.

Coquitlam–Burke Mountain MLA Fin Donnelly, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for watershed restoration who swam the full length of the Fraser River twice, said the project aims to work with local First Nations to boost wild salmon populations by updating flood-control infrastructure.

Specifically, the goal is to replace 156 structures — e.g., pump stations, flood boxes and dikes — along more than 1,500 km of rearing habitat for juvenile coho and chinook.

The watershed project also looks to study the effects of pumps on salmon, as well as monitor the sites that have been upgraded to better handle fish runs.

In addition, the work is being done in response to climate change, which is seeing waterways swell and wild salmon passages threatened with the outdated infrastructure.

"With extreme environmental events on the rise and salmon populations in decline, the time to take action is now," said Diane Lebouthillier, federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, in a news release. 

"Through the joint federal–provincial BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, we're investing in projects in the Coquitlam area that will work to improve flood-control infrastructure and habitat restoration."

She added, "With support from our Pacific Salmon Strategy Initiative, which funds and co-ordinates efforts to stem the decline of salmon populations, these projects will protect communities and fish habitats from floods while giving salmon a better chance to thrive in the critical waters of the Fraser River."

Dan Straker, MakeWay’s project manager for Resilient Waters, said the groups are now seeing change as a result of the ongoing funding, of which the Government of Canada pays 70 per cent and the B.C. government kicks in the rest.

Past BCSRIF funding has supported work at ƛ̓éxətəm (Colony Farm) Regional Park in Coquitlam, he told the Tri-City News.

Launched in 2019, BCSRIF is offering grants for eligible projects until March 31, 2026.