BC Hydro waiting for BC Utilities Commission approval to remove the Salmon River Diversion Dam west of Campbell River.
“This is the area where I counted 110 steelhead held up.”
That was ten years ago when Mike Gage with the Campbell River Salmon Foundation and other conservation groups began to realize the dam on the Salmon River was doing a lot of harm to migrating salmon.
Years earlier a natural slide had been cleared downriver opening it up to swimming salmon.
“After seeing the steelhead that spring we were rather alarmed by the amount of fish actually wanting to go upstream” Mike Gage told CHEK News.
And different species kept coming all that year. The problem is they couldn’t get past the 4 metre high dam that was built in 1958 to divert some water from the Salmon River to the Campbell River system for power generation.
Even the fish ladder built at the time wasn’t working and only about 5% to 10% of returning fish made it upriver.
So BC Hydro had to decide, either fix the dam or tear it down.
“But it turned out the cost for that was too much. We were looking at approximately $40million to upgrade it and we were going to start it last year. We were ready to start and went wait a minute we can’t do that from a business case point of view. We need to take a step back and we quickly decided we need to, our suggestion is to remove that dam” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
That decision is now in up to the BC Utilities Commission.
Mike Gage is hoping for a decision by the end of March.
Conservationists have been pushing for the decommissioning for years because once the dam is taken out it will open up over 40km of the Salmon River and a secondary river that is perfect spawning habitat for salmon.
“The advantage of having this dam removed is just enormous” said Gage. “It’s the last place probably on Vancouver Island for the snowpack to leave each year so it’s the coolest water. Cool water is so important for spawning fish.”
In 2015 water temperatures down river from the dam reached 20 degrees.
Warm temperatures can be a killer for salmon.
If the BCUC gives the project the thumbs up, work will begin this summer.