One of the excavators being used in the restoration work next to debris that will be moved to help open a side channel along the Adams River. (Jim Cooperman photo)

Urgent Adams River restoration work to support salmon run

North Shuswap company opening channels to improve flow for salmon fry

  • Mar. 25, 2020 6:00 a.m.

By Jim Cooperman

Contributor

Urgent restoration work is underway along the Adams River to benefit the Shuswap’s famous salmon run.

In recent years, fast flowing high water levels in the Adams due, in part, to logging in the upper watershed (without tree cover there is more snow and faster run-off), resulted in the depositing of debris that blocked the the river’s habitat-rich side channels within Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly Roderick Haig-Brown).

Concerned fisheries biologists reported 87 percent of the habitat was cut off and many eggs from the 2019 run were killed.

In response, the Fisheries and Oceans Canada gave the matter emergency status, stressing a need to stabilize river flow and reestablish four to six kilometres of spawning grounds.

Another concern is the potential loss of the island in front of the park’s new viewing platform, which was reduced in size from 61 metres wide to six metres. If the island were to wash out, the river could wipe out the platform and devastate sections of the forested park.

A $256,000 contract for mitigation work was awarded to North Shuswap company Spooner Industrial, to utilize excavators to open up side channels and stabilize the riverbank with rip-rock.

During a recent visit to the river, company owner Craig Spooner explained how they were on week two, with two more weeks to complete the contracted work. Already they had opened up all the channels on the south side of the river, which will divert 25 per cent of the flow and, it is hoped, prevent further problems at the mouth where the river has shifted north and threatens to destroy the sandy beach.

Read more: Column: Adams River salmon run collapse a man-made crisis

Read more: Column: Adams River salmon run in decline

When asked how many channels have been opened so far, Spooner could not provide a number as there were more than could be tracked. In some cases, it was only necessary to move some rocks and saw through logs to open channels.

Spooner also noted how the machine operators grew up in the Shuswap, care deeply about the river and understand its fragility very well.

Schools of small salmon fry could be seen isolated in the remaining water of the channel upstream from the viewing platform. An excavator would be removing the blockage to provide these fry with more water and a route to reach the lake.

A new road from the highway allows the equipment to reach the river, including large dump trucks hauling massive boulders to shore up the riverbanks. Once the work is completed, the road will remain to allow for continued maintenance work every two years. All stakeholders were consulted and approved of the restoration effort.

While restoring habitat is key to salmon survival, many experts remain concerned about the major threats to the species in the ocean, including fish farms, warming temperatures, pollution and overfishing.

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