Hyde Creek Watershed Society is hoping the city of Coquitlam will loosen its grant funding requirements for the Port Coquitlam-based organization.
Shane Peachman, the society's president, was at Monday's council-in-committee meeting to ask for the opportunity to apply for Spirit of Coquitlam grants or other casino funding, noting previous applications have been turned down because the hatchery and education centre are located in PoCo.
Peachman backed up his request by noting 62% of the Hyde Creek watershed is in Coquitlam, 31% of the group's membership is Coquitlam residents and 59% of School District 43 class visits to the hatchery are by Coquitlam schools.
The organization has also increased its stocking of Coquitlam creeks. In 2012, volunteers stocked Hyde, Smiling and West Smiling creeks with just over 7,200 coho fry; that has increased to nearly 12,300 in 2015 (including into Partington Creek since most of Hyde and Smiling creeks were dry in Coquitlam).
Peachman noted that development on Burke Mountain is causing headaches downstream, mainly from storm water runoff from construction sites. Surface and sub-surface water that used to trickle into Hyde Creek, maintaining a relatively steady flow throughout the year, has been diverted to flow directly into the stream, causing flash floods during heavy rains.
The floods drop sand, silt and debris into Hyde, Peachman said, and result in the the creek going dry in the spring, making it impossible for smolts to return to the ocean.
About eight years ago, a slide gouged out a chunk of the mountain just north of Harper Road, sending a torrent of debris into Hyde Creek. The sand and silt continue to flow downstream and has prompted volunteers to transport thousands of coho smolts to the Cedar Drive pump house to avoid the sand bars and pools that block their way.
The sand and grit are also wearing out the hatchery's pumps and filters, Peachman said in his presentation.
"Mainly, our request is for future funding," Peachman told The Tri-City News. "It's not for anything specific right now."
There are projects that will need funding soon — including replacing pumps and the predator netting over the rearing ponds — but first the volunteers hope to get access to Coquitlam's casino funds.
Spirit of Coquitlam grants are approved for projects in Coquitlam or for groups that are made up of at least two-thirds city residents.
"Our challenge with Hyde Creek is that it's in Port Coquitlam, so it doesn't technically meet that criterion," Mayor Richard Stewart said. "I'd like to see us find a way past that."
Stewart noted there is precedence for approving grants for facilities outside the city, specifically the "perennially rejected application by Coquitlam River elementary [school]" for a new playground.
"We want all our watersheds and streams to be healthy, and with Hyde Creek, it's somewhat hard to draw the line because the fish don't," Stewart said. "It makes a lot of sense to support those downstream efforts ensuring the health of fish stocks in Hyde Creek. These are such dedicated volunteers, many of them are Coquitlam residents, so this is, from my perspective, a no-brainer."
Coquitlam reviews its application criteria before the two grant intakes each year; the next one is due this fall.