WATCH: A lack of gravel spawning beds is being blamed for poor return of chinook salmon.
A longtime member of the Campbell River Tyee Club and the Campbell River Salmon Foundation says returns of wild chinook salmon are at alarmingly low numbers, due in part to BC Hydro’s water flow management of the river
“Starting in 1995 they washed out our first spawning channel that we spent a quarter million dollars on,” said Mike Gage from the Campbell River Salmon Foundation. “Since then we’ve put in 20,0000 cubic meters of spawning gravel, the Campbell River Gravel Committee and the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, but since we’ve been putting it in the river we’ve lost it every three years or so.”
He says BC Hydro doesn’t release enough water from the reservoirs above the river before major storm events and then releases too much too quickly afterwards.
BC Hydro denies the allegation.
“We have community meetings in Campbell River three times a year and we were asked that very same question, would we change anything different from how we’ve operated and our answer is no.” said BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson.
He says BC Hydro follows strict guidelines set out by numerous stakeholders and does spill water before storms, but that those storms are getting bigger.
“The storms last fall if anyone remembers, that was a storm that lasted six weeks,” added Watson. “It was storm after storm after storm and we were spilling water for basically that whole six week period.”
The river does have hatchery chinook and they’ll be returning in about a week.
“We should have a wild stock, you always want to keep your wild strain,” said Campbell River resident Ken Moffitt who was at the river Tuesday. “I do believe the wild strain are larger fish and that’s something I think that’s been proven in other rivers.”
Gage says wild chinook are larger and live five to six years while hatchery chinook return in 4 years.
“I don’t believe the salmon foundation is going to spend another nickel on gravelling the river as far as I’m concerned and I think they agree it will be 100 per cent compensation from Hydro from here on in.” said Gage.
BC Hydro has contributed funds to the gravel rehabilitation projects over the years and points out it spends millions of dollars on other salmon habitat restoration projects as well including the recent removal of the Salmon River diversion dam near Campbell River.