January, 2011 Roundtable Report
By Eric Carlisle
Metro Vancouver Regional District is commencing the planning process for a joint Capilano and Seymour Water Use Plan.In its overview of the WUP process, Metro Vancouver said, “In recent years, Metro Vancouver staff has been working with the Ministry of Environment, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Living Rivers, First Nations and others in laying the groundwork to undertake a joint Water Use Plan for the Capilano and Seymour Watersheds.The joint Water Use Plan process will help ensure the continued reliable delivery of clean, safe drinking water and consider the following issues in the Capilano and Seymour watersheds:
Water releases from the reservoirs to the downstream rivers for fish and wildlife;
A process for involving First Nations in plan development;
Reduce mortality of fish smolts migrating out of the Capilano Reservoir;
Adapting to climate change and protecting the environment;
Generation of power from water that would otherwise spill from the Capilano Reservoir;
Generation of power that would otherwise spill from the Seymour Reservoir;
Generation of power (energy recovery) on the pipeline between the Seymour Dam and the Seymour Filtration Plant.”
Metro Vancouver has formed a Consultative Committee of almost 20 members which will meet about 10 times over the next year.The CC will identify and explore water use alternatives and collaboratively develop recommendations for consideration by Metro Vancouver as they prepare a draft WUP for the Capilano and Seymour systems.“Fish people” on the CC include: Corino Salomi (DFO), Greg Wilson (Ministry of Natural Resources), Eric Carlisle (BC Federation of Drift Fishers), Poul Bech (Steelhead Society of British Columbia), and Brian Smith (Seymour Salmonid Society).Recently, I sent SEHAB members a short report on the January 19 initial meeting of the CC.Minutes from these meetings will be available on the Metro Vancouver website.I will forward the exact web address once it has been announced.During this WUP process, it will be interesting to see what Metro Vancouver will put on the table and whether or not they will modify their operating procedures if, say, the CC recommends increasing summer minimum flows.Nevertheless, I feel the CC provides an opportunity for development of a WUP which will provide a better balance between the needs of fish and the requirements of the water supply system.
During the past two summers, both fishery managers and people interested in Fraser system sockeye have had two major surprises--the extremely low return (a fraction of the predicted 10 million) in 2009 and the large return (34 million) in 2010.While SEHAB members usually do not work with sockeye, everyone should be concerned about the sockeye situation and what it reveals about ocean survivals, DFO management practices, stock assessment (or lack of), etc.In both 2009 and 2010, Simon Fraser University hosted think tanks and public meetings about Fraser sockeye, and background papers and information about these meetings can be found at http://www.sfu.ca/cstudies/science/salmon/php.Due to the Cohen Commission (which is investigating the low sockeye return in 2009), DFO staff have not been allowed to participate in these think tanks or meetings.
Declining chum salmon returns to south coast rivers are a concern to both fishery managers and to people interested in salmon.While the low chum return to the Chilliwack-Vedder may, in part, be explained by a major flood in November, 2006, (this flood resulted in major changes to the riverbed throughout the watershed), the probable culprit for most rivers and for spawning channels, which are not subject to floods, is low ocean survival.To a large degree, the low eagle count earlier this month on the Squamish system can be explained by the low chum returns--many eagles have gone elsewhere looking for their winter food supply.
Generally, coho returns to local rivers have improved over the lows experienced in 2008.Seymour had an above average return of about 3,400 (average is 2,000) and Capilano had over 13,000 swim-ups to the hatchery.10,000 of the Capilano coho adults were trucked to the upper watershed above Capilano Lake for natural spawning.Significant numbers of unmarked (also called wild, but these fish are the result of natural spawning by hatchery adults) returned to Capilano Hatchery, indicating the success of the trapping and transport of downstream migrating coho smolts.Capilano Hatchery staff hold all unmarked coho adults, which have been through the natural selection process since the eggs were laid by their parents three years earlier, for use as brood stock.