Salmon survival initiatives launched in BC Interior amid severe drought conditions | Radio NL

Salmon survival initiatives launched in BC Interior amid severe drought conditions

Photo via The Adams River Salmon Society

A trio of pilot projects have been launched in BC’s Interior to help salmon navigate to their spawning grounds.

The Pacific Salmon Foundation says the three initiatives — taking place on the Coldwater River near Merritt, on the Tranquille River near Kamloops, and at the Dunn Creek Hatchery — come as salmon are struggling to survive in the current, parched drought conditions.

Foundation Vice President Jason Hwang says the drought conditions are causing streams to dry up and warming water.

He says if action isn’t taken promptly, it could impact salmon populations for generations to come.

“Survival of the fittest would usually allow some Salmon to make it and that is what you let happen, but with drought conditions being this severe and with the natural cycle being pushed out of its normal rhythm because of climate change, we think we need to think of some of this outside of the box ideas to help Salmon survive these critical conditions.”

Pointing to the Tranquille River, 15 kilometers west of Kamloops, Hwang says it has dried up roughly three to four hundred metres from where it enters the lake.

“Pink Salmon have been milling about at the mouth of the river, likely waiting to move up and find spawning areas in that place and so right now, DFO has been leading an excavation of a channel, so that water will have a better chance to flow through that Delta area and connect the river to the lake so that the Salmon can get up and spawn.”

Hwang says the process for the Tranquille River will work by re-establishing water flow between the upper and lower sections of the river. On top of that, he says water license holders, with assistance from the Secwepemc Fisheries Commission and provincial staff, are planning to release extra water from upper watershed storage lakes at a critical timeframe for returning salmon.

As for the Coldwater River near Merritt, low water flow and rising water temperatures have raised concerns for both adult and juvenile Salmon populations.

“In drought conditions, when water temperatures get really hot, these cold water areas can be really important refuges for juvenile Salmon, and maybe in some places adult Salmon to ride out the hot water conditions that the drought has brought.”

He says the Scw’exmx Tribal Council and DFO are leading a solution to excavate dry gravel bar areas in five key sites to deepen existing off-channel groundwater pools with cooler temperatures.

Meanwhile, at the Simpcw (Dunn Creek) Hatchery, water levels along Joseph Creek, which flows into the North Thompson watershed, have dropped, leaving 60,000 coho fry at the hatchery in jeopardy.

Hwang says the Simpcw First Nation has enacted work upstream of the water intake to narrow the channel width, enhance the water depth, and concentrate flows over the intake.

“The Province of B.C. is supporting the Scw’exmx Tribal Council, Pacific Salmon Foundation, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada in novel watershed restoration strategies during this summer of drought to help keep wild Pacific salmon alive and well. Their innovative approach, digging into select locations of the Coldwater River, makes it possible for returning adult coho and Chinook salmon struggling to survive to find shelter and refuge in deep, cool groundwater pools.” – Fin Donnelly, Parliamentary Secretary for Watershed Restoration

More than 80 per cent of BC is at Level 4 or 5 drought conditions, the highest possible rankings, after months of little or no rain.

–With files from the Canadian Press

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