We have means to increase fish stocks
25 Jun 2018
Editor’s note: This is the first part in a five-part series running all week that will conclude with some interesting suggestions for Skaha Lake Park with an eye to improving the aquatic habitat there.
Two years ago, I decided to do a study that would focus on Skaha Lake Park. The first thing I focused on was this precious piece of flat land. It is surrounded by two lakes, a city and hills to the west and east. It is about half the size of Skaha Lake, divided by a channel and two cultures.
I have had a number of meetings with members of the Penticton Indian Band, all very friendly and very informative. It was recommended I visit the fish hatchery and talk to Norman Johnson, hatchery operations biologist.
I was amazed to see the sophisticated building and equipment which is run by the Okanagan Nation Alliance. This is a $15-million property, a huge surprise to me as I had no knowledge of this prior to my visit. After our last discussion, it was obvious I had to study the Columbia River Treaty.
In 1964 the Columbia River Treaty was negotiated with the U.S. and Canadian governments. B.C.’s part was to store water for flood control and hydro power and to build the Mica, Duncan and Keenleyside dams.
The U.S. built a significant number of dams – generating stations, all on the Columbia River, making the river the largest producer of hydro power in North America.
To ensure the provisions of the Columbia River Treaty were met, BC Hydro and the U.S. Bonneville Power Authority, plus the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were appointed.
The BPA is a non-profit organization and their annual revenue is approximately $3.2 billion. BPA funds one of the largest fish and wildlife programs in the world.
This all sounds like success, but in the process of building the dams they cut off all saltwater fish access to lakes and streams needed for spawning. For our area that included sockeye salmon. This particular fish is an important part of the Aboriginal culture and food chain.
Through means of which I am not aware, the BPA have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring back the sockeye salmon by removing dams and putting in fish ladders. By some good fortune we are at the headwaters and have a hatchery here to increase fish stocks.
How often do we ever see a species lost to their environment and then reintroduced? Hardly ever!
Peter Osborne is a Penticton resident with a passion for the city.