A river in the Comox Valley will be undergoing a salmon habitat placement project at the end of the month.
According to BC Hydro, the project will involve laying down around 1,350 cubic metres of gravel to create a Chinook salmon spawning habitat. They say the area will have the capacity for 180 pairs of returning salmon.
The gravel area will be located just downstream of the Comox Dam Picnic Area, as BC Hydro says the area has good depth and water flow for salmon.
The addition of the new habitat comes after the 2004 water use plan that identified Chinook Salmon as a key species for the river, according to BC Hydro stakeholder engagement advisor Stephen Watson.
“One area of interest was the habitat between the Comox dam and Puntledge diversion dam which is about 3.7 km downstream,” said Watson. “Over time, we’ve identified a need to add more which was a recommendation of the water use plan.”
Watson said that while the dams have salmon steps installed — a system that allows salmon to move up the dams — they restrict gravel movement downstream and require manual creation of salmon habitat.
The gravel pads, however, are not a permanent solution according to Watson. He said the placement of the pads changes depending on the storm and water flow activity and needs to be assessed to keep working.
“Rivers are always changing, it really depends on the storm activity and the high flow events that take place during certain stretches of the river,” said Watson. “It’s a reoccurring situation, so in this case it’s something that throughout the whole river system we get together as different groups to identify areas that should be targeted.”
Other gravel paths have been placed in the river by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) project done in 2004 near Supply Creek, about 1.5 kilometres downstream from the Comox Dam, according to Watson. Salmon side channels have also been added to aid spawning in the river.
Creation of the habitat is expected to begin at the end of August. BC Hydro says the Comox Dam picnic area will be closed to the public from Aug. 30 to Sept. 30 while the habitat is added.