Salmon – a resource for all

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Sounder Staff

Monday, July 15 2013

While some Nanaimo residents would like to see the Colliery Dams rebuilt so current recreational activities may continue, it’s not in the best interest of the health of the Chase  River, which has been blocked up for 100 years when the dams were originally built to wash coal. The City of Nanaimo’s original plan after the dams came down was to re-naturalize the Chase River, giving our economically, environmentally and culturally important salmon a chance to return to their ancient spawning grounds.

As Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Douglas White III pointed out in his presentation to Nanaimo City Council last Monday, rebuilding the dams, especially with a hydroelectricity component, as council intends to do, could be the most detrimental move for the health of the river, and the Snuneymuxw fishery.

Tearing down the dams will mean the loss of freshwater fishing activities because there will no longer be trout stocked and there will be no swimming pools for people to swim in. But what’s more important? Protecting a keystone species that in light of climate change, pollution, development and fish farms is struggling to survive? Or keeping a man-made structure so people can catch a few fish and take a dip in the summer? (It’s worth noting that Colliery Dam Park and Westwood Lake, which is also stocked with trout and has a lifeguard stationed there in the summer, are 11 minutes apart by vehicle.)

Restoring the Chase River to its original watercourse and giving the ecosystem and native species an opportunity to recover will offer new recreational opportunities in the park. Imagine witnessing spawning salmon within the city limits.

As the Riparian Areas Regulation is implemented province-wide to protect critical fish habitat and groups like Streamkeepers work to restore rivers and streams to the benefit of numerous species, including humans, the City of Nanaimo should take actions that complement this work, not raise monuments to environmental degradation.