SEHAB Member: Jack Minard
Area: Central and North Vancouver Island
Community Advisors: Dave Davies and Stacey Larson
What top three points can you distill from community input to take to DFO RHQ?
- Community perplexed as to why no one can do anything about
- PREVENTING continuing habitat losses
- upgrading aging enhancement infrastructure
- gain more funding for enhancement and restoration projects
- funding for priority projects that align with the WSP?
- Much frustration around updates to the FA,WSP,WSA (Province) moving at what appears to be a glacial place. Is the WSP being aligned with enhancement and restoration priorities as per the Red Green and Amber status system of CU’s? How does the public access what is wrong where (according to CU status) so communities can align their project proposals with these priorities? DFO website directs to: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/index-eng.html for updates on CU statuses but when arriving at this site there is no access provided??? Is new Federal (replacing RFCCP) funding going to be aligned to WSP CU statuses and existing and developing specific watershed plans?
Submissions, Comments from Groups:
Courtenay should just go with the flow when it comes to flood management.
Project Watershed representatives gave a presentation to city council last week about "natural flood relief" options.
But one of the biggest opportunities to go that route became water under the bridge some 37 years ago.
That's when the Comox Valley Citizens Traffic Advisory Committee went to B.C. Supreme Court in May, 1980 seeking an injunction against the adjoining roadways to the 17th St. bridge, yet to be finished.
"The group says the road will act as a dyke on a flood plain," reported the Comox District Free Press.
Mr. Justice W.H. Wallace threw the petition out in July, 1980 saying the petitioners had "no reasonable claim."
The citizens committee effort was spear-headed by then-Comox alderman Alice Bullen, who had started her opposition to the 17th St. bridge project in 1977.
"These dogged actions – and I say dogged because they remind me of a bulldog with a bone who won't let go – should be condemned," thundered Comox Mayor George Piercy.
Comox alderman Bill Vincent told Bullen that if he were the mayor of Courtenay he'd punch her in the nose.
But, Bullen and her committee, which included engineer Ian Potts, turned out to be right about road work affecting the flood plain.
"When Highway 19a and the 17th Street bridge were built, the road fill and the bridge abutments restricted the flood flow to the west side of Comox Road and Highway 19a and created choke points in the river channel at the 5th Street and the 17th Street bridges," said the briefing note last week from Project Watershed.
Councillor Doug Hillian noted that the matter had been discussed with the highways ministry at the Union of BC Municipalities conference last year. Upgrades are apparently being planned for the "bypass", which is part of the problem.
Mayor Larry Jangula added that Highways recognizes the bypass is "like a dam" and they "need to punch holes in it".
Project Watershed director Don Castleden, and Wayne White, of the Tsolum River Restoration Society, told council that "natural flood relief" was the way to go in future.
They said short-term fixes, such as the "tall wall" recently installed by the city and the rip rap installed near the Fifth St. bridge to protect two buildings there, actually cause more problems.
Castleden said Project Watershed supports the concept of "managed retreat" from the floodplain – as buildings become old and need to be replaced, they're not.
The entire concept rests on "working with nature ... for the purpose nature intended" and focusing on flood relief, rather than flood protection.
"The reconnection to and rehabilitation of the old natural floodplain could help to minimize the depth of flooding and reduce subsequent property damage," said the Project Watershed briefing note.
Project Watershed recommended that the city impose a moratorum on further building in the floodplain, and to compile a list of properties to be considered for purchase that are in high risk areas for flooding.
"I don't know where the financing would come from," said Jangula about the recommendation to buy buildings.
But Councillor Doug Hillian said he thought Project Watershed was "bang on with the suggestions".
Solving Habitat Problems by Dealing with Land Use
One item I think you should know about is how the MVIHES has applied and is in the process of developing a Water Balance Model and Sediment Control plan for Shelly Creek (a small urban/rural watershed in the lower Englishman River. We were successful in getting $6500 from PSF (application attached which outlines project rationale and deliverables) and support finding from RDN and City of Parksville (along with some funding from PWSBC and MVIHES) to get Jim Dumont developing the model and recommendations. We are close to a roll out of Jim’s work in the coming months. We will be pushing his recommendations at local politicians (who keep approving poor land use practices that harm streams) as well as developing a communications plan.
I know you have a strong background in this stuff, but this watershed is going to be an example of putting this WBM approach to work.
Let me know if you want more.
Dear Jack Minard,
It was a pleasure to meet with you and Stacey on September 14th, 2016. The advisory role you described brought us hope that our concerns regarding the Nimpkish Salmon would be heard.
‘Namgis First Nation has identified 3 concerns listed below that we are seeking your help with. I will attempt to elaborate on them to show that the government needs to assist ‘Namgis in putting the health of the salmon runs in the Nimpkish Watershed back to the way it was before logging, pesticide spraying, over fishing, and fish farming contributed to the devastation of the runs.
- Chum Salmon Crashes in the Nimpkish River
In 1996, ‘Namgis First Nation Council were in negotiations with Greg Savard, DFO to allow ‘Namgis to have the chum salmon incubation numbers increased from 2 million eggs to 10 million eggs. The discussions were favourable and an Agreement in Principle was understood by the both parties at the close of the meeting.
You can imagine the disappointment when it was observed that very few fish returned to the Nimpkish River. Personally, I actually felt we were sabotaged. No one believed there could not be less than 3,000 fish so that was what went into the escapement record. The year after the crash (1997) the chum escapement was 70,000 and in 1998 it was up to 145,000+. Then in 1999, the second crash occurred. With this letter is a copy of a report that was given to council in 1999 on this matter.
Also attached is a copy of the records which shows the escapements to the Nimpkish. You need only look at the Chum Escapement column. I believe this is enough evidence to warrant some action on this neglected matter. Right now there is a plan to do helicopter flights to count this year’s chum escapement, providing more evidence to the lack of chum returning to the river. For decades ‘Namgis has been providing escapement estimates and this extra enumeration effort seems a waste of time when the people who have worked on this species already know the runs have all but disappeared.
The Nimpkish is far from being the productive river it once was. As the graph above shows the chum numbers continue to decline. Currently there are two cycles that are almost non-existent and two cycles that are very poor. ‘Namgis has raised this concerned and it appears to not be getting the attention needed. It is hoped that you can raise this issue to the upper levels of DFO management so that they are aware of the dire situation that the Nimpkish Chum salmon are in. As a result of these huge declines of chum salmon millions of dollars have been spent by the local first Nations people purchasing low quality food due to not having Chum Salmon to harvest.
- Nutrient Enrichment in the lakes of the Nimpkish Watershed to rebuild Sockeye Salmon stocks.
In the late 1980s Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Lake Enrichment Program applied nutrients to the Woss and Nimpkish Lakes until 1989. Through this program the Nimpkish sockeye numbers were rebuilding, as evident with an estimated 362,000 adult sockeye returning to the Nimpkish River in 1992. Additionally, with similar timing the Gwa’ni Hatchery also stopped incubating sockeye in 1989.
In the summer of 2000, the ‘Namgis Hatchery staff counted approximately only 5,800 sockeye return in the adult assessment program. Through the Nimpkish Resource Management Board ‘Namgis lobbied DFO to do something to rebuild sockeye again. The Hatchery Manager insisted that the Nation wanted to re-activate its sockeye hatchery incubation program and also stated it wanted to carry on with the addition of liquid fertilizer to the lakes. Eventually with assistance from Kim Hyatt and Don McQueen both programs were up and running in 2001. Initially, the Pacific Salmon Foundation funded the Nutrient Enrichment Program and then through a request from Nimpkish Resource Management Board the program was funded by Canadian Forest Products. Since 2011 ‘Namgis has funded the Nutrient Enrichment Program. Additionally that year, the sockeye incubation ceased.
Unfortunately, in the spring of 2016 the ‘Namgis Administration could not afford to run the Lake Fertilization program anymore. This was devastating to the salmon enhancement program as Lake Fertilization is an important factor in ensuring the runs will be sustained. Sockeye is a huge part of the ‘Namgis First Nation’s diet. Until improvements are made to the current state of the ecosystem, the Nimpkish watershed lakes will not be able to provide enough nutrients to support the plankton chain which feeds the juvenile sockeye in their nursery, Woss and Nimpkish Lakes.
- It is hoped that you will be able to convince the upper management that the Nimpkish, which used to be the fourth largest sockeye producing river in BC, needs to become a priority for rebuilding the sockeye runs. ‘Namgis is seeking funds to continue fertilizing the Woss Lake (~$70,000 annually) and also to re-establish fertilizing the much larger lake the Nimpkish Lake (program costs would need to be re-evaluated as this program has not occurred in recent years).
- The hydroacoustic surveys are an important part of the Lake Fertilization program. DFO staff have been doing these surveys and while DFO has undergone many cutbacks it is almost impossible to get outside funding into DFO to cover the cost of these surveys. In addition to the funding requested above, equally important is that DFO make the commitment to continue to complete 2-3 hydroacoustic surveys annually, otherwise
additional funding would be required to bring in another organization to complete the surveys.
Loss by not Food Fishing to help re-establish the stocks
To show the world how important sockeye are to the ‘Namgis First Nation, it should be known that for more than 25 years, the Nation did not fish the Nimpkish River. This voluntary stop to food fishing was to ensure that all the surviving adults returning could spawn to help with the rebuilding of the stocks. The Nation was told that if the run was over 250,000 returning sockeye, then a fishery could be entertained, provided there was a means of establishing fairly accurate escapement numbers. Even with all the enhancement efforts and the no food fishing (although there is still a lot of poaching occurring up the river) the sockeye escapement estimates have not neared 250,000.
In 2016, ‘Namgis had their first controlled fishery in the Nimpkish River. For years the ‘Namgis wanted to have a counter at the entrance to the river that would give a reliable count. A small percentile scale was made by the Hatchery Manager to use for harvest. As this was the first year, the target harvest was not met but, the percentile scale worked well for establishing a small food fishery, while still allowing the majority of the salmon to return to spawn.
I have also provided a worksheet to show conservatively what the people have lost in dollar value by giving up their harvesting, for sustenance of the Nimpkish River sockeye. Interpret the cost toward food purchases rather than salmon sustenance in those years.
- Proper Enumeration Tool
To assist in the management and potential harvest opportunities in the Nimpkish Watershed the ‘Namgis First Nation would like to see at least 3 DIDSON counters in the Nimpkish Watershed. One is needed at the lower Nimpkish River to estimate the overall return of sockeye into the Nimpkish Watershed. One is needed at the Vernon Lake outlet to see how many sockeye enter into that lake system and one DIDSON counter is needed at the outlet of the Woss Lake for the same reason. Woss Lake has been fertilized since 2000 and therefore it is imperative that the number of sockeye returning to that watershed be enumerated to better understand just how the Lake Fertilization is helping or not helping along with other knowledge that can be gained.
Gwa’ni Hatchery Manager
We have installed a recirculation system for coho egg incubation. We have successfully raised our coho eggs to fry with zero outbreaks of fungus and no chemical treatments of parasite S or any other chemicals. We are reticulating the water through a combination of sand filter and UV light, with a two day battery backup in case of power outages.
We have started experimenting with the use of venturies to increase the dissolved oxygen levels in our inflow waters with great success to date. This is a ongoing project.
We had late fixes done on our adult fence, and it did not make it in the river on time for the returning salmon. However it was visually one of the best returns we have seen in the past 10 years.
We successfully restored both Little River and Scales Creek over the last four years and will be doing further restoration with our partners this year.
Last year our water shed took a huge blow. A contractor hired by a local landowner is attempting to drain a wetland that feeds our river. This was done without a section 11 and has created serious harm to the salmon in our river. This incident should end up in the courts and we are seeking assistance or advise that would help the speed of this process. If the damage that has been done is corrected in a timely manner, it would mitigate the damage. If it goes like most others similar cases it could take upwards of 10 years to even begin the repairs at which point major damage has already taken place and could take decades to reverse.
Haig-Brown Kingfisher Creek Restoration Update
In 2016, the Chum run was impressive, with over 500 spawners enumerated in Kingfisher Creek. With support of DFO and the Campbell River Salmon Foundation, Greenways Land Trust is continuing to implement some of the recommendations of the 2015 Kingfisher Creek Habitat Assessment.
Specific activities we have been working on in 2016 and will continue in 2017:
- In-stream 2016: removal of barriers to salmon migration, including building a weir to backwater the hung culverts on the West Branch in 2016, large woody debris installation, spawning gravel and boulder placement.
- In-stream 2017: continued efforts to improve the in-stream habitat quality will concentrate on several areas of the Mainstem and East Branch, such as; removal of barriers to salmon migration, increasing the flushing flows to improve water quality, large woody debris installation, spawning gravel and boulder placement.
- With the help of Greenways volunteers and various school groups, restoration and enhancement of the Riparian forest is continuing in 2017. Focussed on the East Branch, these efforts involve thinning of the dense understory of alders, removal of many invasive species and replanting diverse native conifer /shrub vegetation communities.
- Instream monitoring equipment has been installed throughout the Creek to collect water level data over the next 2 years. There are several critical issues of potential fish loss associated with an existing floodwater control structure in the West Branch, this monitoring information will inform the reengineering to reduce negative impacts.