Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak addressed a delegation from the Okanagan Nation Alliance at the most recent meeting of the Regional District of Central Kootenay board.Photo: Will Johnson

Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak addressed a delegation from the Okanagan Nation Alliance at the most recent meeting of the Regional District of Central Kootenay board. Photo: Will Johnson

Restoring salmon to the Columbia River system

Okanagan Nation Alliance sent a delegation to the RDCK last week

The Regional District of Central Kootenay could ultimately play a role in restoring salmon to the Columbia River system, which is why the Okanagan Nation Alliance sent a delegation to Nelson last week to encourage government officials to help them work towards a green light.

Right now the fish are blocked from reaching Canada by a series of dams, but work has already begun to introduce technologies that will help coax them back upstream. Successfully getting them all the way into the Kootenays will likely involve the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty between the U.S. and Canada, a gargantuan task that is looming in the years to come.

But it’s worth the work, according to biologist Michael Zimmer of the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), whose people are known as the Syilx. Representing eight transboundary bands from Penticton and Osoyoos, they have overlapping areas of concern with Washington State’s Colville Confederated Tribes.

Related: ‘Making a path for Columbia salmon

“What we’ve learned is the technology is there to get the adults up, the technology is there to get the smolts back down again, so now all it’s going to take is a decision,” he said during his presentation on Thursday morning.

Then he laid out their plan, itemizing the success the Syilx have had so far introducing fisheries, campaigning for support from municipal, provincial and national levels of government, and implementing new technologies into the river system. Each dam presents different challenges, and transporting the fish past them can be accomplished by driving them up in trucks, shooting them through tubes or using fish ladders.

“We’re looking at what does the habitat look like now, because obviously it’s changed. We’ve got a series of brick walls and bath tubs, and that’s a lot different than a free-flowing river,” he said.

“Things are changing, and we want to understand what those changes are. It’s a huge challenge.”

Nelson mayor: ‘You can count on support from us’

Once his presentation was complete Thursday morning, Zimmer invited questions from the RDCK directors — and said though the Syilx aren’t asking for anything specific, they would welcome letters of support. They also asked the communities around the Columbia to consider helping fund some of their initiatives.

When it came time for Nelson Mayor Deb Kozak to speak, she shared some of what she’s learned over the past six years while working on issues surrounding the Columbia River Treaty. She said the RDCK has already been working in tandem with local First Nations and looking at ways they can help encourage the return of salmon.

“What inspires me the most is the transboundary cooperation,” Kozak said.

“I think all residents of the basin have a desire to see this happen. We do work with provincial and national levels of government on this, and we’re very enthusiastic about the prospect of salmon returning to our area.”

Related: ‘Nelson mayor returns from Columbia River Treaty talks

Related: ‘Kootenay mayors urge ‘strong stand’ on Columbia River Treaty

But there are a number of things to take into account, she said, including climate disruption and its effect on the fish habitats.

“We’re keenly interested in the effects of climate change, and what we know is some species may not fare well in warming waters. We’re going to have to look at that.”

Biologist: ‘Something needs to be done about invasives’

Besides expressions of support from a number of directors, there were also a number of local issues brought up that relate to the salmon issue: watershed management, invasive fish species and the effects the re-introduction of salmon would have on the environment they’d be returning to after decades away.

Silverton director Leah Main thanked Zimmer for the talk, and invited him to speak to her community — which is applying to create a Wildlife Habitat Area protection zone for bull trout in Silverton Creek.

In his presentation, Zimmer shared of picture of himself holding a 24-pound pike he caught near Zeitsoff-Celgar in Castlegar last fall. He said the ONA is doing river indexing, sending out crews to study population levels and fish health.

“Something needs to be done about these invasives. These pike have grown and established themselves extremely quickly. We’ve learned if they’re not suppressed, they’ll just explode.”

There are already some suppression programs in place, funded by projects such as the Waneta Dam expansion, but currently these pike pose the biggest risk to the ONA’s goals. This is one example of a initiative that could use financial support.

Essentially, director Main told him, he was preaching to the choir — the RDCK already values salmon and supports the idea of bringing them back to the Kootenays.

“I understand the importance of salmon, and I’m so glad you came to share with us today,” she said.



will.johnson@nelsonstar.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

 

RDCK regional director Leah Main addressed biologist Michael Zimmer of the Okanagan First Nation during following his presentation on re-introducing salmon to the Columbia River system. Photo: Will Johnson

RDCK regional director Leah Main addressed biologist Michael Zimmer of the Okanagan First Nation during following his presentation on re-introducing salmon to the Columbia River system. Photo: Will Johnson

Just Posted

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Nelson city council conducted an online resident survey about patios and food trucks and got over a thousand responses. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson council hears results of survey on patios and food trucks

A city’s online survey got 1,130 responses

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

One of seven kitties rescued from a property east of Grand Forks Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks women rescue sick kitties from rural property

Kimberly Feeny and Lisa Valenta spent their Friday nursing seven cats rescued east of the city

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read