Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society declares salmon emergency in Somenos watershed

Society fears salmon in the watershed may be in their last days

The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society is declaring a salmon emergency in the Somenos watershed.

The society is concerned that, if actions are not taken immediately to improve conditions for salmon in the watershed, salmon will no longer be found in the water system within a few years.

In a letter to the Municipality of North Cowichan, society president Paul Fletcher said the SMWS is asking the municipality to seriously consider the crisis at hand when making future land-use decisions in the Somenos watershed, and to consider additional funding for efforts to resolve the problem of the invasive species parrots feather in Somenos Creek.

RELATED STORY: NORTH COWICHAN TAKING ON SOMENOS CREEK INVADER

“The Somenos watershed as a prime salmon rearing habitat is coming to an end, and the stories of walking on the backs of fish may soon drift further into folklore,” Fletcher said.

“The end of the salmon may only be a few years off, as confirmed by salmon expert Dave Preikshot, the new environmental manager in North Cowichan, at the most recent Somenos management committee meeting.”

Fletcher said a significant reason for the current situation is the water quality issues in Somenos Lake and its tributaries, streams that continue to transport pollution and chemicals unabated from the Somenos drainage area to the Cowichan estuary.

He said the other significant impacts on salmon habitat are in-stream invasive aquatic plants and the ongoing loss and shrinkage of stream-side habitat bordering salmon-bearing creeks.

“Somenos Lake, a place where the Cowichan ancestors had many villages, was once thriving with fish and was a place to swim and enjoy,” Fletcher said.

“The lake is now close to a cesspool status in summer with water temperatures climbing to 30 C, while salmon cannot survive in waters above 24 C. Toxic algae blooms are frequent in the lake and the now low-flowing creeks provide very little fresh water to recharge to system. The lack of flow also contributes to the growth of the parrots feather in Somenos Creek.”

Preikshot, an aquatic scientist, worked with the SMWS as a consultant before recently joining the municipality, and had done a lot of research and work on the Somenos watershed.

RELATED STORY: SOLVING PARROT’S FEATHER INFESTATION IN NORTH COWICHAN WILL BE DIFFICULT, COSTLY

He agreed that the watershed is facing a salmon crisis, but said North Cowichan is already acting “above and beyond” its responsibilities on the issue.

“Salmon are a federal responsibility and trout fall under provincial jurisdiction, and much of the work already conducted on dealing with parrot’s feather is being funded by North Cowichan, which has been very generous,” Priekshot said.

“We are preparing a management plan and are now conducting experiments on how to control it. We’re also looking at ways to control water levels in the watershed.”

Priekshot said if the municipality can demonstrate to senior levels of government that it is doing what it can to deal with the problems in the watershed, they will be more inclined to step in with assistance to help save the fish populations.

RELATED STORY: PARROT’S FEATHER INFESTATION CHOKING SOMENOS LAKE WATER FLOWS

“There is a historic lack of interest by the federal government to invest in projects like this because, in the past, they have seen no return on their investments, but if we can show that we are moving forward responsibly with programs that show success at the local level, we may be able to get the ball rolling and turn things around,” he said.

“The fish are still hanging on in the watershed for now, despite the problems.”

As for the society’s contention that development in and around the watershed could be adding to the watershed’s woes, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said it has yet to be determined whether increased chemicals in the watershed’s water is connected to development, agriculture and/or other factors.

“That’s all part of the ongoing study of the area that we are conducting,” he said.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Editorial: Mask wearing: innocuous advice has turned into polarizing war

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

Cowichan’s Dillabaugh checks in from the NHL bubble in Toronto

Flyers’ Duncan-born goalie coach weighs in on hockey restart

37-year-old man missing from Cobble Hill area

He is described as a First Nations man, 5 foot 8 in height

Five new handyDART buses serving Cowichan

Buses to replace older vehicles being removed from the fleet

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

B.C. man who nearly died from COVID-19 reflects on one-month battle

Robert Billyard was in an induced coma to ensure his body would not fight the ventilator to breath

Wedding party bear sprayed at Okanagan campsite irks locals

Latest criminal activity at the Meadows leaves locals frustrated

Paramedics fired for allowing patient to crawl for treatment on Downtown Eastside: court documents

The man spent three days in intensive care and three months recovering in hospital from sepsis

Feds seeking private consultant to design firearm buyback program

The ban covers some 1,500 models and variants of what the government considers assault-style weapons

Face masks for teachers can impact learning on young children, experts say

Face coverings, mandatory in most indoor public places across the province, can help limit the spread of COVID-19

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Most Read