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Cast & Blast 2012 Thank-you

April 29, 2012

Dear Mr Niska,

On behalf of the Steelhead Society of British Columbia’s Board of Directors, I would like to express our sincerest appreciation for the organising of the recent Cast and Blast event in Squamish. The evening was a huge success, and the silent auction raised $2065.00 for the Squamish River Trust. That would not have been possible without your initiative and work in getting donations for the auction to be the recipient of The SSBC is deeply grateful for your support and generosity.

The mandate of the Steelhead Society is the conservation and restoration of wild fish and the wild rivers they inhabit. These funds will be used to restore and enhance the spawning and rearing habitat on the Squamish watershed.
Again, thank you for your contribution towards wild steelhead and salmon advocacy.


Brian Braidwood
President, Steelhead Society of British Columbia

Letter to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans - Kokish River

This letter is regarding the proposed independent power project on the Kokish river on the northern end of Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

The Steelhead Society of BC is alarmed that the Kokish river, located 15 km east of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island, is slated to be de-watered and put into a pipe.
Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and the Namgis First Nation, has applied to dam and divert the 11 km river into a 9 km pipe. Water used to produce electricity will be removed from the river near its head water lake and returned just above tide water effectively de-watering the entire river.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) considers the Kokish to be a high-value river with a sensitive fish population.
The Kokish is a fish-rich river. It is home to five species of wild salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden char and both winter run and the much rarer, summer run steelhead.
The proponents have recently received an environmental certificate and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is about to make their decision sealing the fate of this river.

Summer run steelhead are now only found in three east coast Vancouver island streams. It is Fisheries and Oceans Canada responsibility to protect anadromous salmonids. This project promises to cause harm to fish and fish habitat. No amount of mitigation can replace this rare wild race of summer run steelhead. Indeed the response letter from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to the proponent dated June 30 2011 clearly states that the proposed water flow regime for the period June 16th to October 15th remains a significant concern to DFO.


Please follow this link: http://a100.gov.bc.ca/appsdata/epic/documents/p332/1317251761757_3dc1ab2fb4bda2542418868117dc9ba25f36e96004f84d9407bc22256509ee64.pdf
“At the August 24th, 2011 Fisheries Technical Working Group meeting, Kwagis Power presented a revised fish and fish habitat mitigation strategy for the Kokish River hydro project. Following a review of this information, it remains DFO's position that the proposed Kwagis Power revised fish and fish habitat mitigation strategy represents an unacceptable risk to fish and fish habitat in the Kokish River. As such, DFO's position regarding instream flow releases for the Kokish River hydro project remains consistent with the information provided in the June 30th, 2011 letter to Brookfield Power’’

For this reason alone, SSBC finds it unacceptable to allow this project to move forward. Furthermore in response to the proponent recently receiving the environmental certificate, there have been a number of area user groups that have expressed their concern over this proposed development via full page advertisements both in the Vancouver Sun and Province.
There is more information regarding this here: http://savethekokish.ca/

There is a historyof non compliance of operational terms as set out by the government by operators of various run of the river projects in B.C. For example, the Ashlu project near Squamish, B.C. has a history of water ramping issues that have resulted in fish stranding and significant mortality.

It is our hope that you carefully review the facts as presented by DFO biologists tasked to review this project and allow them to fulfill their mandate of protecting salmon and increasingly rare summer run steelhead from the unacceptable risk to these fish and their habitat from this project.

Yours truly,
Brian Braidwood, President, Steelhead Society of BC
Ralf Kroning, Vice President, Steelhead Society of BC

Letter to Harper - Changes to the Fisheries Act - From Craig Orr

March 26, 2012


The Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus (PMCC) echoes the concerns of a large number of Canadians who strongly oppose the removal, or weakening, of habitat provisions in the Fisheries Act. Numerous negative opinions have been publicly voiced recently in regards to this issue (see appendix below).

Taking habitat protection out of the Fisheries Act would be a betrayal to the interests of Canadians, both because so many depend on fish but also because we all depend on clean water that the Fisheries Act helps protect. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Canadians place an extremely high value on wild salmon, and furthermore, believe that more—not less—must be done to protect salmon and salmon habitat. Sacrificing fish habitat in an attempt to expedite development for some large industries is short-sighted and dismisses the values of many Canadians.

The PMCC concurs with the concerns of the 625 scientists who recently urged you to abandon any initiative that would jeopardize many important fish stocks and the lakes, estuaries and rivers that support them. We agree that the weakening of habitat protections in section 35 of the Fisheries Act will negatively impact water quality and fisheries across the country, and could undermine Canada’s international credibility on environmental protection.

The PMCC also agrees with the scientists and Canadians who urge you to make changes based only on the best science and only after appropriate consultations with affected citizens.

In summary, weakening the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act would be a most unwise action, which would jeopardize a national treasure, and seriously compromise trust in government.


Craig Orr, Ph.D, PMCC Chair

On behalf of the Pacific Marine Conservation Caucus

Letter to Harper - Changes to the Fisheries Act

March 25, 2012


The membership of the Steelhead Society of B.C. (SSBC) is deeply concerned regarding rumours of proposed changes to the federal Fisheries Act as outlined in various media of late. It is the SSBC’s understanding that such changes may significantly downgrade habitat provisions of Section 35(1) of the Act and, further, may be attached to the May 29th 2012 budget bill.

The March 16th 2012 statement from federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Ashfield (at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/statement-declarations/2012/20120316-eng.htm) does little to allay the SSBC’s concerns and states that while no decision has yet been made, also imply that changes are, in fact, under consideration.

Since formation in 1970, the SSBC has been deeply involved in the restoration and protection of fisheries habitat in British Columbia. SSBC volunteers have spent countless hours fundraising for fisheries habitat and provided willing “hands on” for in-stream rehabilitation, important work that continue to this day.

The SSBC is not aware of any public consultation mechanism in place that has provided advice to government regarding significant change to the Fisheries Act, nor is the SSBC aware of any scientific imperative to enable such drastic change. Further, the SSBC would encourage a more proactive use of the existing Fisheries Act rather than reactive as so often appears to be the case.

The SSBC therefore request that you maintain current wording the Fisheries Act. 

Yours sincerely,  Brian Braidwood President

Letter to Premier - Run of the River Projects

March 1, 2012


Our organizations appreciate that your government has shifted policy direction with regardto B.C. Hydro’s requirement to achieve electricity self-­-sufficiency by 2016 based upon low water flows. It is our hope that such a change will result in a less aggressive approach for expansion of run-­-of-­-river (RoR) projects throughout B.C.


While this policy change will likely improve the financial health of the province, there are a number of RoR projects, not yet constructed, which continue to threaten its environmental health. Specifically, rivers like the Kokish on northern Vancouver Island with its unique summer-­-run steelhead; Big Silver, Trethewey and Shovel creeks and Bremner and Trio creeks (tributaries of Trethewey,) and the Upper Lillooet River—all tributary jewels of the lower mainland’s Harrison Lake—all remain threatened by needless, and expensive, RoR energy purchase agreements.


All of these rivers have high fisheries, recreational and environmental values. RoR developments will severely impact these attributes! The result of this will be the “industrialization” of these watersheds with new road systems, powerlines, and power generating infrastructure. Where once was more lenient public access, now will be gates and no trespassing signs. The original values will be impacted and likely lost forever. Your government has now clearly—and wisely—demonstrated that such potentially damaging projects are unnecessary.


Further industrialization of free-­-flowing salmon-­-bearing rivers and creeks for RoR purposes will add to the difficulties that are being faced by this province’s wild populations of salmonids and other species. 


We therefore urge you to reverse RoR policy on these rivers of concern and remove the unnecessary threat to salmon, steelhead and trout stocks.

Yours truly,

Perry Wilson (BCFFF President)

Rod Clapton (BCFDF President)

Craig Orr (Watershead Watch Salmon Society Executive Director)

Keith Douglas (North Coast Steelhead Alliance)

Brian Braidwood (SSBC & Kingfisher Rod and Gun Club President)

Jessea Grice (SSBC Northern Branch Chair Person)

Hydro Project Approval Threatens Steelhead and Salmon Habitat

The habitat for the steelhead rainbow trout, is under threat due to plans by a private power project to divert the Kokish River into a pipe. For the first time, the B.C. government has approved a run-ofriver power project that diverts water from salmon or steelhead habitat. It means that no wild river in B.C. is safe from diversion and industrialization, regardless of its value to fish and wildlife.

The Kokish River is a small, wild stream on northern Vancouver Island. It cascades from Ida Lake through a steep white-water canyon to the ocean at Beaver Cove near Port McNeill.

This 10-kilometre long stream is home to a rare population of wild summer-run steelhead - seagoing rainbow trout that migrate to the ocean at a young age and return to their river as salmon-sized adults one to three years later.

Summer-run steelhead are usually found in streams that are so steep and fast that cold-blooded fish can't ascend them in the winter because the water is too cold to allow for the necessary high leaps. Only three streams on the east coast of Vancouver Island still have reasonably healthy runs of wild summer-run steelhead, highly prized by anglers and an important contributor to the local tourism economy.

The private power project approved by the province would divert much of the Kokish River into a pipe three metres in diameter and nine kilometres long. The entire length of the diversion is important rearing, spawning and migration habitat for summer-run steelhead, other trout, char and salmon.

The project also involves construction of a diversion weir, water intake, and fish ladder just downstream of Ida Lake and a power house, switchyard, tailrace and half a kilometre of transmission line a short distance upstream of Beaver Cove.

If the project proceeds, we anticipate at least three major, ongoing fisheries habitat impacts:

         - The amount and quality of fish habitat will be severely reduced as a

            result of decreased stream flow.


         - Adult fish migrating upstream will be blocked or delayed at the both

            the upstream water intake and the downstream tailrace, as well as in

            the reduced-flow diversion reach.


         - Juvenile fish migrating downstream will encounter entrainment, blockage

            or delay when migrating downstream by the water intake, and further

            delay in the reduced-flow diversion reach.

These impacts would be very difficult and perhaps impossible to successfully mitigate. If you take large amounts of water out of an already small stream and create additional migration barriers, it's not going to be good news for fish, despite anything the Environmental Assessment Office may tell you.

The Capilano and Seymour Rivers in North Vancouver were once world famous for their summer-run steelhead. Water is extracted from these streams to supply domestic water for Metro Vancouver. Despite millions of dollars spent on habitat and hatchery enhancement over several decades, Capilano and Seymour summer-run steelhead are close to extinction. The lesson is that protecting habitat is the only certain way to protect salmon and steelhead.

With the province approving, for the first time, a project that diverts water directly from salmon or steelhead habitat, the stakes are now very high. We used to think that run-of-river power would only be approved in rivers with no or minimal fish values.

If the Kokish is not off-limits to power production, then no river in B.C. is safe. The provincial government would like us to view this as "green power." It's hard to understand how
compromising a very valuable and unique fish habitat can be considered green or sustainable. Twenty years ago, no one would have predicted that today B.C. would have more run-of-river power projects than it has summer steelhead streams.

In our quest for more power, do we really need to put the Kokish into a pipe? Let's remember that once they're gone, wild fish and wild rivers are gone forever.


By Poul Bech, Vancouver Sun December 17, 2011

Poul Bech is a director of the Steelhead Society of B.C. and vice-president of the B.C. Federation of Fly Fishers. Now retired, he was a B.C Fisheries branch technician working with Steelhead from 1979 to 1997. In 2010, he was the recipient of the Cal Woods Memorial Conservation Award.