Wiped out 105 years ago by a dam, coho salmon set to return upstream of Coquitlam Dam

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      Fisheries and Oceans Canada plans to reintroduce coho salmon upstream of the Coquitlam River this fall.

      This means that coho will start spawning again in one of their traditional breeding areas after more than a century.

      In 1915, the Vancouver Power Company, now B.C. Hydro, constructed a hydroelectric dam in the upper portion of the Coquitlam River.

      According to a Metro Vancouver staff report, this led to the destruction of coho salmon in the reservoir about 105 years ago.

      “Returning coho salmon have not had access to waters upstream of Coquitlam Dam for spawning and rearing habitat since the first large dam on the Coquitlam River was completed by the Vancouver Power Company in 1915,” the report recalled.

      The report stated that coho salmon were “extirpated” in the upper reaches of the river “approximately 105 years”.

      Report author Jesse Montgomery, division manager for environmental management in Metro Vancouver’s water services, endorsed the plan to reintroduce salmon.

      This requires approval by the board of regional government.

      Montgomery’s report forms part of the Metro Vancouver board’s agenda on Friday (July 31).

      Montgomery noted that the Kwikwetlem First Nation (KFN) indicated that the reintroduction of the salmon species “above the dam is of significant cultural importance to their nation”.

      “Salmon are an invaluable resource as a critical element of coastal indigenous cultural identity, spirituality and sustenance,” Montgomery wrote.

      Montgomery noted that there are “no anticipated impacts to water quality or water utility operations and no financial implications” from the request made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

      The Coquitlam reservoir supplies drinking water for residents in the Lower Mainland.

      A letter by the federal fisheries department to Montgomery related that the Coquitlam Dam “cut off access to tributaries for Coho and other salmon species that historically utilized spawning/ rearing habitat in the upper Coquitlam watershed”.

      “The transport of adults to the upper watershed provides an opportunity to improve our wild salmon objectives in the Coquitlam watershed as well provide an opportunity to study their spawning survival and their ability to migrate out successfully,” the letter noted.

      It also stated that the upper Coquitlam River “contains some of the most pristine salmonid habitat in this region, and is therefore an ideal candidate to re-establish wild salmonid stocks that will be more resilient to future stressors such as climate change”.

      In his report, Montgomery wrote that adult coho salmon available for reintroduction upstream will be returning to the lower Coquitlam River in October 2020.