BC Hydro says it is increasing fish mitigation efforts in response to the severe drought in the Arrow Lakes region.
With water levels on the Arrow Lakes Reservoir well below normal for the past several months, concerns for fish have increased.
“While protecting wildlife and the environment is a top priority, the impacts of the severe drought have resulted in stranded fish and mortalities,” acknowledged BC Hydro in a statement released Sept. 15. “We want the community to know we are taking this extremely seriously.”
Residents can expect to see more environmental professionals in the West Kootenay region monitoring conditions and returning stranded fish to the water. Teams are currently working across the 230-kilometre long reservoir, but in many areas salvages are not safe for crews due to the deep mud.
To date, BC Hydro says it has returned over 36,000 sucker, dace, pikeminnow, redside shiner and sculpins to the water.
BC Hydro is also working with the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program and the province to survey creek mouths in advance of spawning migration to assess passage, as well as collecting additional water temperature data. Ground and aerial counts for kokanee are currently underway and spawners are being observed in key tributaries.
Meeting Columbia River Treaty obligations also plays a role in water levels in the reservoir. That treaty with the United States is currently being renegotiated.
In a statement, B.C.’s lead for the Canadian delegation on the Columbia River Treaty talks, Kathy Eichenberger, said, “The Canadian negotiation delegation is acutely aware of the low water levels on Arrow Lakes Reservoir this year and the devastating impact this is having on communities, wildlife habitat, fish populations, tourism and recreation.”
She says the Canadian delegation is advocating for improvements in the treaty to reduce these types of impacts in the future.