The Columbia River below Castlegar to the US border is a world-class trout fishery, attracting an increasing number of anglers from around the world to ply its clear waters. Unfortunately, that’s where the attractiveness ends, because the rusted-out vehicle wrecks, heaps of scrap metal, and discarded concrete slabs along both riverbanks are a world-class eyesore.
The biggest shame is that it’s entirely avoidable. The Columbia Basin Trust, which doles out millions of dollars each year to social and economic causes, has somehow managed to shirk, in this case, one of its prime directives — environmental stewardship. Equally culpable are Teck, Zellstoff Celgar, and BC Hydro, who collectively spout ample rhetoric about cleaning up the environment, yet all stand idly by and allow this travesty to persist.
I mean, seriously, what would it take? A few pieces of heavy equipment and some chains along the banks. A river barge and crane. Several days’ worth of labour by some of the largest mining, pulp, and hydro operators in the country.
As a professional fly fishing guide, my clients spend thousands of dollars each season in the local economy. They buy meals, stay in motels, rent cars. So you can imagine my chagrin when I have to tell them that we’re fishing the Wreck Hole, or that they’ll need to be careful not to hook their flies on the kitchen stove in the shallows. As one fellow told me last fall, “It’s the first time I’ve ever caught a steering wheel.”
A handful of other guides work the river as well. As do multitudes of regional fishermen, kayakers, canoeists, jet boaters, dog walkers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts — either on the water or along the junk-laden shores.
The Columbia Basin Trust’s own website lists “ecosystem restoration and conservation” as a strategic priority. Really?
Teck, from its smelter headquarters in Trail, boasts about its efforts to improve the river valley and residents’ quality of life. Huh?
If the Trust and its corporate benefactors can’t take the time to clean up the Columbia, then local municipalities and the provincial government should force their hands. It’s that simple.
Chris Dawson, Winlaw