Comment: No end to the crisis on the Jordan River

Re: “B.C. Hydro a willing partner in salmon habitat restoration,” comment, March 17; “B.C. Hydro’s Jordan River crisis,” comment, March 10.

Unfortunately, as Stephen Watson of B.C. Hydro noted in his response to our initial commentary, the Jordan River has been decimated by a number of industrial activities, including the generation of hydroelectricity.

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B.C. Hydro remains reluctant to fully acknowledge its role in the loss of salmon habitat and has readily deflected the blame and responsibility onto other actors. Twenty years after being mandated to develop a water-use plan, B.C. Hydro is clearly resistant to sustained and meaningful changes that will enable the flourishing of salmon in the river.

Further efforts to avoid action can be found in the most recent water-use plan in which B.C. Hydro declared the program a success, even though annual salmon counts have fluctuated from zero to fewer than 60 fish over the past 50 years. For far too long, B.C. Hydro has developed its hydroelectric operations in Jordan River unconstrained by much proven disregard for the value of the environment being affected.

The Jordan River is unique. Most of the river does flow through a narrow canyon and as a result the most productive spawning habitat was located in the lower reaches. Controlled water flows from the dams reduced habitat, and power-plant discharge has completely undercut and removed the gravel, a critical component of spawning habitat.

Both the Elliot and Diversion dam structures inhibit the capacity to replenish gravel deposits to maintain spawning habitat. Despite Watson’s unwillingness to acknowledge them, these realities are unarguable.

It is correct that an ongoing discharge of copper into the river and the loss of the original estuary have contributed to the dire situation, but until efforts are made to secure and maintain spawning habitat, the river will not sustain significant salmon populations. This is an issue that the legacy mining company has been proactively working with the community to remediate.

As we pointed out in our earlier commentary, first steps for B.C. Hydro to remediate its historical impacts are relatively simple. B.C. Hydro and other corporate groups that have and continue to benefit from the river must take meaningful action.

Our communities depend on a healthy and vibrant environment. Those responsible for the damage should be responsible for its restoration.

We strongly encourage people to review the current water-use plan online and assess for themselves if B.C. Hydro’s efforts in restoring the Jordan River have been adequate.

Wayne Jackaman, BSc (geography), is a director of the Juan de Fuca Salmon Restoration Society. Neil Nunn is a PhD candidate in geography and planning at the University of Toronto. Both are residents of Jordan River.

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