The Salmon River Diversion dam before its removal in 2017. Photo courtesy BC Hydro

The Salmon River Diversion dam before its removal in 2017. Photo courtesy BC Hydro

Campbell River fish advocate says Salmon River much improved since dam’s removal

Founding member of Campbell River Salmon Foundation Mike Gage says the fish are back in huge numbers

Founding member of Campbell River Salmon Foundation Mike Gage, who fought tirelessly for years to see the removal of the dam on the Salmon River between Campbell River and Sayward, says the fish are back in huge numbers much further up the river now that it’s gone.

The Salmon River Diversion facility, removed in 2017, was constructed in the late 1950s to divert water from the waterway through a three-kilometre canal system into Brewster Lake and eventually in the Lower Campbell Reservoir, but fish advocates like Gage have long said the facility hampered salmon migration up an important salmon-spawning river on the coast.

The metal fish screen that was located within the concrete canal and fish ladder at the facility were barriers to efficient salmon migration, BC Hydro admitted before the dam’s removal, but their initial plan was to improve the facility rather than remove it. That plan, however, was abandoned in 2016 after it was determined it would be too costly.

Instead, the entire facility was removed, which Gage says “was one of the biggest things done for fish values in this community in quite some time.”

Gage, now 78 years old, has stepped back from his role with the salmon foundation, as well as with the Campbell River Tyee Club, for which he served as president for 13 years, but he still closely watches the salmon returns and is still as passionate as ever about improving their world.

Gage had been fighting over that river for more than a decade before the decision was finally made to remove the facility on what he calls “one of the most important drainages on the entire Island for fish stocks.”

RELATED: Battle wages over Salmon River diversion

RELATED: Hydro planning to remove dam on Salmon River

As happy as Gage was to see the facility removed after all his years of fighting over it, he didn’t expect to see such positive results for the fish so quickly. The dam has been removed for one full year now, and he says it’s wonderful to see the results.

“The coho stocks have already gone up to the 84-kilometre mark in that river now and the steelhead can do that as well,” Gage says. “It’s just fantastic.”

BC Hydro’s Stephen Watson called the diversion’s removal a significant piece in the company’s work over the past few years in terms of salmon habitat improvements in the region, but it’s still too early to say how large the long-term impact will be on fish stocks.

“The first run of coho and chinook would have been in the fall of 2017, so they’ve had two runs now and this spring will be the second run of steelhead,” Watson says, adding that they are monitoring the fish runs and working with local organizations to gather as much information as they can.

Since salmon runs vary greatly from year to year, Watson says, they will need “probably about five years” of data before they can say how significantly the populations have been helped by the dam’s removal.

“It has the potential, I think, to be very good in terms of fish productivity,” Watson says. “The fish could get above the dam prior (to its removal), but now that they have unhindered fish passage, it is only going to bode better for the health of those three fish. We’ll need a few more years to better understand it, but, certainly, it’ll be better than it was.”



miked@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) were deployed to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device on Jan. 20. (Google/Screencap)
UPDATED: Bomb disposal unit still determining nature of suspicious device found on Salt Spring Island

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The objectives of the Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society include peer support for parents and caregivers, as well as developing support services, projects, educational and employment opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. Photo supplied.
Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society offers support for families in the community

New non-profit seeking directors in cities across Vancouver Island

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

The Rogers Creek Trail main trailhead is located on the Redford Extension in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Hiker rescued after cold few hours in the bush outside Port Alberni

Alberni Valley Rescue Squad said they receive frequent calls for people lost on this trail

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

The Victoria Fire Department extinguished a 15 foot tent fire in the 500-block of Ellice Street Jan. 19. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police investigating after 15-foot flames engulf tent

Flames damage nearby business in 500-block of Ellice Street

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Hecht Beach cabin in ashes. (Submitted)
Beloved secret cabin lost to fire on the North Island’s west coast

The trappers cabin was shared with locals, but kept mostly secret

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Most Read