Making progress on a fish-friendly Lower Fraser

May 24, 2024

By: Dene Moore

In the early years of the 20th century up to 40 million would return to spawn in a good year to the Fraser River, the longest salmon-bearing rivershed in British Columbia. It was one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet.

Then came bridges, and railways, and cars, and concrete. And people – millions and millions of us – to log, and build, and develop, and mine many of this province’s once-plentiful populations of wild Pacific salmon to the brink.

In the Lower Fraser floodplain, in particular, as much as 85 per cent of historic floodplain habitat was cut off to salmon by dikes and roads and other milestones of human “progress.” Such was the case for Joe’s Lake, a lush wetland habitat near Deroche in the Fraser Valley. After major floods in the Lower Fraser in 1948, dikes were built throughout the region, including the dike that severed Joe’s Lake from the Nicomen Slough floodplain.

Watershed Watch and our project partners, the Leq’a:mel Nation and Resilient Waters, were thrilled recently to officially cut the ribbon on a fish-friendly floodgate installed on Joe’s Lake. The simple, sluice-style gate is an effective protection for the local communities against seasonal flooding that also allows salmon access to the five-hectare wetland that had been cut off for more than 70 years and where we hope to see salmon return in the near future.

“The North Nicomen wetland is of great importance to our nation,” said Chief Alice of the Leq’a:mel Nation. “As we work to heal our watershed, we seek to restore and reconnect impacted waterways for our salmon relatives and other species.”

Joe’s Lake before. (Credit: Fernando Lessa and Resilient Waters)

It’s not something the nation could tackle alone. The project was a collaboration of local citizens and members of the nation, as well as organizations that helped bring all the needed elements together.

“Together we are stronger, so we are pleased to see the partnerships and relationships of trust that have led to this momentous occasion in our territory,” Chief Alice said. “Our territory’s first fish-friendly floodgate that both protects the community and allows fish in and out for much of the year is something to celebrate!”

The Joe’s Lake project – made possible by a partnership between Resilient Waters, Leq’a:mel First Nation, and the North Nicomen Diking District, with funding support from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund and the Pacific Salmon Foundation – was not the first fish-friendly floodgate we’ve installed and it won’t be the last.

Last fall, our partners at Resilient Waters, in conjunction with the City of Surrey, restored salmon access to Bon Accord Creek after 70 years of being cut-off. In that case, a relatively cheap, low-tech infrastructure called flexi-baffles were installed in a 150-metre concrete flume to allow fish to swim up the flume to spawn.

A fish-friendly floodgate installed on Joe’s Lake. (Credit: Leq’a:mel Nation)

“It’s important when we have lost that connection over the years to look at ways to reconnect,” said Fin Donnelly, provincial parliamentary secretary for watershed restoration.

Through our Connected Waters campaign, we aim to reconnect 1,500 kilometres of salmon habitat currently blocked by outdated flood infrastructure in the lower Fraser floodplain. The Joe’s Lake project is a relatively small example of how flood resilience can be done differently throughout the Lower Fraser, said Dan Straker, project manager of Resilient Waters.

“The new floodgate is just the beginning of many more possibilities in the North Nicomen Wetlands. It makes for a great testing ground for projects and techniques that can be adopted elsewhere,” he added.

 

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Making progress on a fish-friendly Lower Fraser

May 24, 2024

By: Dene Moore

In the early years of the 20th century up to 40 million would return to spawn in a good year to the Fraser River, the longest salmon-bearing rivershed in British Columbia. It was one of the greatest animal migrations on the planet.

Then came bridges, and railways, and cars, and concrete. And people – millions and millions of us – to log, and build, and develop, and mine many of this province’s once-plentiful populations of wild Pacific salmon to the brink.

In the Lower Fraser floodplain, in particular, as much as 85 per cent of historic floodplain habitat was cut off to salmon by dikes and roads and other milestones of human “progress.” Such was the case for Joe’s Lake, a lush wetland habitat near Deroche in the Fraser Valley. After major floods in the Lower Fraser in 1948, dikes were built throughout the region, including the dike that severed Joe’s Lake from the Nicomen Slough floodplain.

Watershed Watch and our project partners, the Leq’a:mel Nation and Resilient Waters, were thrilled recently to officially cut the ribbon on a fish-friendly floodgate installed on Joe’s Lake. The simple, sluice-style gate is an effective protection for the local communities against seasonal flooding that also allows salmon access to the five-hectare wetland that had been cut off for more than 70 years and where we hope to see salmon return in the near future.

“The North Nicomen wetland is of great importance to our nation,” said Chief Alice of the Leq’a:mel Nation. “As we work to heal our watershed, we seek to restore and reconnect impacted waterways for our salmon relatives and other species.”

Joe’s Lake before. (Credit: Fernando Lessa and Resilient Waters)

It’s not something the nation could tackle alone. The project was a collaboration of local citizens and members of the nation, as well as organizations that helped bring all the needed elements together.

“Together we are stronger, so we are pleased to see the partnerships and relationships of trust that have led to this momentous occasion in our territory,” Chief Alice said. “Our territory’s first fish-friendly floodgate that both protects the community and allows fish in and out for much of the year is something to celebrate!”

The Joe’s Lake project – made possible by a partnership between Resilient Waters, Leq’a:mel First Nation, and the North Nicomen Diking District, with funding support from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund and the Pacific Salmon Foundation – was not the first fish-friendly floodgate we’ve installed and it won’t be the last.

Last fall, our partners at Resilient Waters, in conjunction with the City of Surrey, restored salmon access to Bon Accord Creek after 70 years of being cut-off. In that case, a relatively cheap, low-tech infrastructure called flexi-baffles were installed in a 150-metre concrete flume to allow fish to swim up the flume to spawn.

A fish-friendly floodgate installed on Joe’s Lake. (Credit: Leq’a:mel Nation)

“It’s important when we have lost that connection over the years to look at ways to reconnect,” said Fin Donnelly, provincial parliamentary secretary for watershed restoration.

Through our Connected Waters campaign, we aim to reconnect 1,500 kilometres of salmon habitat currently blocked by outdated flood infrastructure in the lower Fraser floodplain. The Joe’s Lake project is a relatively small example of how flood resilience can be done differently throughout the Lower Fraser, said Dan Straker, project manager of Resilient Waters.

“The new floodgate is just the beginning of many more possibilities in the North Nicomen Wetlands. It makes for a great testing ground for projects and techniques that can be adopted elsewhere,” he added.

 

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One Comment

  1. Rohit Mane June 12, 2024 at 4:06 am - Reply

    Kudos to the commendable efforts toward creating a fish-friendly Lower Fraser! This proactive approach not only preserves biodiversity but also sustains the livelihoods of communities reliant on healthy aquatic ecosystems. Vital progress indeed!

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