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Chinook salmon, coho and marmots to benefit from funding

Comox Valley Echo

Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) has announced funding towards one fish and one wildlife project within the Campbell River Watershed and funding towards four fish projects within the Puntledge River Watershed.

Projects include a marmot recovery program and a program that studies coho smolt/fry migration in the upper watershed of the Puntledge River.

FWCP funds are provided through BC Hydro and managed in a partnership with the Province of British Columbia and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conserve and enhance fish, wildlife and their supporting habitats affected by the creation of BC Hydro owned and operated generation facilities in the Coastal, Columbia and Peace regions of British Columbia.

FWCP has committed $71,390 to projects within the Campbell River Watershed and $292,531 for projects within the Puntledge River Watershed. All research and project work will take place in 2012/2013.

“We are funding two important restoration projects that target the fish habitat on the Salmon River and the continued expansion of the marmot population,” says FWCP Coastal Board Chair, Brian Assu.

“The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is leading the fish restoration and research projects on the Puntledge River Watershed in collaboration with other local groups and agencies. For both watersheds, these diverse and important projects reinforce the continued positive partnerships between the FWCP, local First Nations and community groups.”

Applications are reviewed annually in the Coastal region by both technical and board-level committees that include representation from all program partners, First Nations and the public. Projects are chosen based on technical merit, cost vs. benefit, level of partnership, linkages to watershed-specific priorities and overall benefit to the FWCP’s mandate and vision.

The FWCP in the Coastal region has funded approximately $4.4 million in projects on the Campbell River System and $2.3 million in projects on the Puntledge River system since 1999.

For more information and to find out how your project can apply for next year’s funding visit fwcp.ca.

Projects funded 2012-2013 Campbell River Watershed

The Salmon River – Big Tree SideChannel Performance Improvements project ($4,840), led by the BC Conservation Foundation, will evaluate the Side channel that was constructed in 2008 and determine if there are any opportunities to improve fish access.

In its sixth year, the Vancouver Island Marmot Buttle Lake Supplement Project ($66,550) will continue to expand the marmot population and support the Province of B.C. and its Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Program. Continuing on the success of the past five years, the project will again release up to 30-40 marmots at approximately 6 sites in the vicinity of Buttle Lake to augment the current population.

Puntledge River Watershed

The Assessment of Homing Behaviour of Puntledge Summer Chinook Hatchery Returns project ($57,778) continues in its second year. The project will determine if Chinook that are imprinted in Comox Lake will have a higher return rate compared to adults that were reared at the Puntledge Hatchery with no imprinting. Now in the construction phase, the Puntledge River Hatchery Summer Chinook Rearing Consolidation project ($151,184) will install additional tanks to the chilled water acclimation system that will allow for summer Chinook to be held at the Hatchery.

Chinook and coho smolt/fry will also be assessed for a third year ($78,620) as the project continues to analyze the migration of the fish in the upper watershed. And the fourth fish project ($4,950) will prepare a habitat improvement plan and budget for restoration of an area in the Courtenay River Estuary.

Sample to portray rainforest/ Artists focusing on fragile coast

Esther Sample believes she is the only one from the Comox Valley among 50 artists visiting the Central Coast to portray Canada’s fragile raincoast, which they feel is threatened by the Northern Gateway pipeline.

“I am flying from Vancouver to Bella Bella on June 23 and returning the 28th,” says Sample, whose image Hunger Strikes was chosen last year to appear on the federal fishing licence decal for conservation of wild Pacific salmon.

“I am in a group of 15,” Sample continues. “From Bella Bella, we will board the Achiever and take the six-hour boat trip to the village of Klemtu, where we will stay at the Spirit Bear Lodge.

“While we are there, the Achiever, a popular tour boat, will be taking us on day trips and possibly overnights to various inlets and islands in the area. There will be crews from CBC and Global and the camera crew from our group working on a short documentary.”

From these trips, the artists will all donate one piece to the cause and it will be put into a travelling art show, which will circulate around coastal B.C. and hopefully across Canada, Sample says.

There will also be a coffee table book published titled Canada’s Raincoast at Risk: Art for an Oil‐Free Coast.

Each artist will have two pages. The book and art show should be ready in November.

The objective is for participating artists to draw attention to the potential ecological effects of an Enbridge pipeline and oil tanker traffic.

Fifty artists — some of Canada’s most celebrated, and many who are First Nations — will take up paintbrushes and carving tools to portray Canada’s fragile raincoast.

A network of coastal lodges, tour boat operators and water taxis have donated travel and accommodation so the artists can explore some of the most spectacular and remote locations of the B.C. coast.

Over a two‐week period in June, they will depict the rich biodiversity and integrated, ecological elements of the forest, intertidal, and ocean zones, and the people, flora and fauna that have lived there for thousands of years, organizers said in a news release.

Besides the book, original artworks donated by the artists will become part of a travelling art show to raise public awareness of what is at stake on this spectacular coast and why it needs to be kept oil‐free, they add.

The art‐for‐conservation idea is a recurring brainchild for Tofino artist Mark Hobson, who helped co-ordinate a similar venture in 1989. That project, in association with the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, produced the book Carmanah: Artistic Visions of an Ancient Rainforest, which drew international attention to the Carmanah Valley on Vancouver Island, and led to permanent protection of the area through its designation as a B.C. provincial park.

The current project is being co-ordinated and supported by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, an organization using scientific research and public education to further protection of coastal ecosystems and wildlife in British Columbia for 15 years.

Among the artists joining the project are Robert Bateman, Robert Davidson, Carol Evans, Roy Henry Vickers, Craig Benson, Michael Svob and Alison Watt.

Call for action on updated estuary plan

Comox Valley Echo

Published: Friday, June 15, 2012

Concern is being voiced that the updated Courtenay River Estuary Management Plan might end up being left on a shelf rather than being used as a template for action.

On Tuesday, Don Castleden and Wayne White were updating Comox Valley Regional District directors on progress with the draft plan, which has now been distributed to various authorities and bodies for consultation.

Castleden said the estuary was a remarkable natural resource and ecosystem at the heart of the Comox Valley. He compared it to Stanley Park in Vancouver and Beacon Hill in Victoria – great natural assets drawing residents and visitors alike, each a refuge from urban bustle.

But several different governments and agencies had jurisdiction over the estuary, and a governance structure needed to be agreed to ensure consistent approaches to its management, restoration and protection. A partnership approach was essential.

White said the original plan had been drawn up many years ago, but never implemented.

“We don’t want to see this plan sitting on the shelf for years like the last one did,” he said. “We need a community conversation to keep things moving.”

Canadian Canoe Museum Paddled on the Thames for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

The Canadian Canoe Museum is proud to have participated in the Thames Jubilee Pageant, which took place on Sunday, June 3rd in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. More than 1000 vessels from many nations and in a wide variety of shapes and sizes took part in the massive flotilla on the Thames River.  For more see canoemuseum.ca/

River flow trials could help boost summer Chinook runs

CVEcho_Promo_LogoPhilip Round, Comox Valley Echo

Published: Friday, May 11, 2012

Trials to see if controlling river flows could boost the summer Chinook salmon population in the Puntledge are about to start.

B.C. Hydro, which can influence flows by adjusting the amount of water released from Comox Dam, will be working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Project Watershed volunteers on the program.

The focus of their attention is the fish diversion weir at the DFO’s Lower Puntledge River Hatchery, off Powerhouse Road in Courtenay.

When the fish return to the river to spawn between May and August, the weir prevents many of them going further upstream – but when the water is flowing deep and fast, more of them are able to leap over the barrier.

Being able to stop the fish at that point is what staff at the hatchery want, as they can then net and transfer them to tanks held at the ideal 15 degree temperature needed for summer Chinook to thrive until they are ready to spawn.

That allows the maximum number of eggs to be gathered so the hatchery can bring on a new generation to be released back in the river to start the life cycle over again.

Now a series of tests is to be undertaken to work out the impact of different river flows on the ability of returning salmon to leap over the weir.

As the summer Chinook start to return, different pulses of water will be sent from the dam on different days during May and June to see how the fish behave.

In summer, river flows are generally low enough to keep most fish downstream of the barrier, but in the early stages of the return they can be significantly higher.

B.C. Hydro has wider responsibilities to ensure water levels upstream at Comox Dam are controlled, and sometimes needs to release extra water through the sluices.

At other times, heavy rain or late snow melt, coupled with uncontrollable additional flows from the Browns River tributary, sends more water over the weir than DFO would like to see.

But those acts of nature could, to some extent, be mitigated by B.C. Hydro if it knew what the ‘tipping point’ at the weir for fish really was.

The power company might, for example, be able to hold back water at the dam for a while so as not to exacerbate short-term increased natural flows.

So the trial now about to start will see the river being made to run at 60, 70 and then 80 cubic metres a second as fish approach the weir, to see what the tipping point really is.

If, for instance, it were discovered that most fish can’t leap over the weir at 70 but can at 80, Hydro would have a much clearer idea of how its water releases might impact the hatchery.

The tests will involve DFO staff in scuba gear observing the actions of returning fish in the river for set periods during pre-arranged pulses of water, while Project Watershed volunteers on dry land will count how many fish can jump over the barrier.

The DFO’s watershed enhancement manager at the hatchery, Darcy Miller, said concerted efforts were being made to support the summer Chinook run, as the Puntledge was one of only two places on the Island where it still occurred.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, barely 100 summer Chinook were returning to the river each year and it was dangerously close to the end. But various initiatives had seen the numbers rise to about 1,100 annually.

The goal is to restore the run to between 2,500-3,500 a year, and every extra fish netted at the weir meant an extra 4,500 eggs could potentially be gathered to allow more fry to be raised and released later. In turn, that increased the chances of a bigger return of adult fish three or four years later.

He noted the DFO had learned from recent studies that early migrating adult fish move through river systems better than later returns, resulting in a much higher rate of survival to spawn.

Some of the many thousands of Chinook fry currently being raised at the DFO’s Puntledge River Hatchery. Photo by Philip Round

So the enhancement strategy for the Puntledge run aimed to capture more adults from the earlier stages of the four-month run.

The problem was the river naturally tended to flow faster and deeper at that time, so more fish could get over the weir. The trials should help them get a better handle on how that might be managed.

For B.C. Hydro, Stephen Watson said the power company had several responsibilities as part of its duties to manage the Comox Lake dam and flows from it.

While the bulk of the water was used for power generation, the lake and river were also the source of drinking water for much of the Comox Valley.

In addition, there were recreational requirements, like providing fast flows on certain days for kayakers, as well as specific flows needed by DFO for fish management and migration.

As a result of the trials to support the summer Chinook run, people going tubing might at times experience a rather fuller river than they expected for the time of year. But the trials themselves would not result in dangerous flows.

Miller invited anyone interested in seeing the Puntledge Hatchery to drop by for free self-guided tours between 8 a.m. to 3: 30 p.m. seven days a week.

He suggested the best times to see the most fish through the aquarium-style windows of the rearing ponds was in the spring and fall, but people could learn about the work of the hatchery from information boards around the site all through the spring, summer and fall.

pround@comoxvalleyecho.com

Puntledge fish and wildlife projects get funding

The FWCP funds projects to conserve and enhance fish, wildlife and their supporting habitats affected by BC Hydro owned and operated generation facilities in the Coastal, Columbia and Peace regions of British Columbia.
“These are important restoration and research projects that target gravel placement for spawning salmon, fish passage on the Salmon River, riparian habitat in the estuary, and the marmot program,” says FWCP coastal board chair Brian Assu. “These diverse and important projects reinforce the continued positive partnerships between the FWCP, local First Nations and community groups.” The FWCP is delivered through a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C. and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Three fish projects were granted funding and are all to be led by the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society (CVPWS).
The Assessment of Homing Behaviour of Puntledge Summer Chinook Hatchery Returns ($33,500) will determine if chinook that are imprinted in Comox Lake will return compared to adults that were reared at the Puntledge Hatchery. This is the continuation of a SEED that was funded in 2010/11.
Chinook and coho smolt/fry will be assessed for a second year ($100,000) as the CVPWS continues to analyze their migration in the upper watershed.
A third fish project ($4,950) will prepare a habitat improvement plan and budget for restoration of an area of Simms Millennium Park Pond.
Wildlife funding went to the McPhee Meadows Land Acquisition project ($20,000) which will complete a management plan for the newly acquired McPhee Meadows land that is located near the Puntledge Generating Station.
“Applications are reviewed annually in the Coastal region by both technical and board-level committees that include representation from all program partners, First Nations and the public,” says FWCP manager Andrew MacDonald. “It’s important to have all groups involved in reviewing the proposals.”
Projects are chosen based on technical merit, cost vs. benefit, level of partnership, linkages to watershed-specific priorities and overall benefit to the FWCP’s mandate and vision.
The FWCP in the Coastal region, formerly known as the BC Hydro Bridge Coastal Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program, has funded approximately $2 million in projects on the Puntledge River System. For 2011, the FWCP’s total funding for the 15 hydroelectric systems within the Coastal region will be $1.64 million. All research and project work will take place in 2011/2012.
For more information and to find out how your project can apply for next year’s funding, visit fwcp.ca.
— BC Hydro

Steps being taken to address dwindling numbers of Puntledge River chinook

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in conjunction with BC Hydro, is revising a summer chinook strategy in an effort to increase the number of fish in the Puntledge River.
With the water level dropped Thursday, staff could conduct snorkel surveys to determine if any adult fish had swan upstream or were holding below the weir.
Monitors watched for leaping fish during the surveys.
“We’ve been down to low numbers of fish, approaching 100 adults,” said Darcy Miller, watershed enhancement manager at the Puntledge River Hatchery.
Over time, various strategies have improved the situation. In recent years the river has averaged about 1,100 adult chinooks per year. The goal is to reach 2,500 to 3,500 fish.
“The Puntledge River has a unique stock of summer chinook, and those enter the system between May and August,” Miller said. “There’s only two runs of summer chinook on Vancouver Island, that’s here and Nanaimo.”

Darcy Miller, Puntledge Hatchery

DARCY MILLER PONDERS the future of fish in the Puntledge as he stands near the fish weir at the river’s lower hatchery. Photo by Scott Stanfield

As chinook start entering the Puntledge to prepare to spawn, BC Hydro needs to deal with fresh outflows, snow melt and inflows. When water volumes are high, adult chinook can get above the hatchery which makes capture difficult.
Water temperature can also be problematic when it exceeds 20 C in the summer — good for tubers but lethal for salmon. Three years ago, the river reached a high of 26 degrees.
“We lose fish migrating upstream, we also lose fish in holding,” said Miller, noting the Puntledge hatchery has another site about 6.5 kilometres upstream.
A change in strategy is to capture as many chinook as possible locally then transport the fish to cooler waters at hatcheries at Rosewall Creek or Big Qualicum River.
“That gives us a great boost in survival and opportunity to get our egg target,” Miller said, noting the difficulty of attaining the summer chinook target of 1.25 million eggs.
BC Hydro will conduct river test flows from 60, 70 and 80 cubic metres per second in May and June, subject to water conditions, to determine the flow threshold where summer Chinook can leap above the weir.
“It’s very important information to glean,” said Hydro communications officer Stephen Watson, who notes high river flows this year due to the snowpack.
BC Hydro is shifting its two-day fish migration flows normally conducted over five weeks in July and August to June and early-July.
The water level was to be dropped Thursday to about 40 m3/s.
reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Project Watershed AGM Features Comox Valley Residents Views on the Estuary

Estuary Clean Up

Dr Betty Donaldson beside some debris in the estuary

The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society, founded in 1993, is holding its Annual General Meeting on May 22nd at the Lion’s Den (1729) Comox Ave underneath the art gallery in Comox.

“We have a special AGM program that should interest all residents who acknowledge the estuary as the most important natural feature in the Valley,” says Paul Horgen, Board Chair. Two retired academics will discuss the results for the Estuary Residents survey conducted last summer. Dr. Betty Donaldson and 11 Project Watershed volunteers knocked on the doors of 187 Estuary residents. The objective was to interview people who live and work on or near the estuary. Dr. Donaldson, formerly University of Calgary professor in the Faculty of Education, and Dr. Peter Sinclair, formerly University Research Professor in the Department of Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland, will discuss and present the results of the survey (A Gathering Place). “Our survey captured a representative sample of Valley opinions”, says Dr. Betty Donaldson, Vice Chair of Project Watershed.

The evening begins at 7 pm with the business meeting and an overview by the Board Chair, short 5 minute presentations will follow by Don Castleden, Chair of the Estuary Working Group, Betty Donaldson, Chair of the Education Committee, Wayne White, Chair of the Technical Committee, and Steve Morgan, Manager of our mapping services. A refreshment break at 8 PM will allow attendees to preview art submissions for the silent auction to be held at the Experience the Estuary event on July 28th.

The Survey Discussion will begin at 8:20 pm. The Experience the Estuary Event in July will feature, in addition to the art auction, a Flotilla of Kayaks, Canoes dragon boats and other human powered water craft. “Our AGM is very special this year” says Horgen. “We are enriched by the volunteer efforts of so many highly qualified retirees who have made the Comox Valley their home, and who freely give their time in public education and stewardship activities. For more information phone the Project Watershed office at 250-703-2871,

Comox Valley Residents say the Estuary is “a Gathering Place”.

Estuary Lagoon

Estuary Lagoon

The Courtenay River (K’όmoks) Estuary is where the “river meets the sea” and “a gathering place” for many species according to residents who participated in a 2011 Project Watershed survey. Appreciation for diversity nurtured by mingling of fresh and salt water seems to be increasing.  Although not many understand the biological dynamics, most want the Estuary to remain a sustainable environment.  Aquatic plants, migrating birds, fish runs, animals, and the smaller creatures we cannot see all contribute to the pleasures of living here.

 

Last summer, 11 Project Watershed volunteers knocked on the doors of 187 Estuary residents. The objective was to interview people who live and work in this area.  Boundaries of the study extended from Condensory Bridge to Goose Spit, and on the watersides of Comox Road and Cliffe Avenue. Participants were asked for their opinions about the watershed and how they’d define “estuary, “Our survey captured a representative sample of Valley opinions”, says Dr. Betty Donaldson, project director.  A full report of the study is available here.

 

Results will be shared informally at two coffee meetings led by Betty Donaldson, Project Watershed vice-chair, and Kathie Woodley, Education Committee member. Participants and the general public are invited to: Monte Christo, Monday May 7, 3 – 5 pm and Black Fin, May 9, 10-12 am. Project Watershed will provide coffee, tea or juice; attendees pay for their own snacks. No registration necessary, but come early to get a good seat.

 

A formal presentation will be made at the Project Watershed AGM, May 22, 7 pm, Lions Den in Comox.  Project Watershed would like to thank Mountain Equipment Coop for their help in funding the publication and dissemination of the Survey. 

 

For further information, please contact projectwatershed@gmail.com

K’omoks Estuary

The Estuary Working Group was initiated as a sub-committee by Project Watershed following the “Heart of the Watershed” Symposium on Restoring the Courtenay River Estuary held in October, 2008.

We are made up of 14 member organisations and individuals dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring the diverse, productive and highly cherished K'ómoks (previously known as the Courtenay River) Estuary.


Click on the link below to learn more about the K'ómoks Estuary:

 keepingitliving.ca

 


 


Our Goal: To protect and restore the K'ómoks Estuary


 

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