Some of the 25,000 Chinook salmon smelts released at the Nicomekl Enhancement Society open house on Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Langley Advance Times file)

Some of the 25,000 Chinook salmon smelts released at the Nicomekl Enhancement Society open house on Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Langley Advance Times file)

Drought is hampering salmon run, says Langley hatchery

Nicomekl River levels are too low for Chinook to get past dam

Drought conditions have reduced Lower Mainland river levels to the point where Chinook salmon have been unable to cross the sea dam on the Nicomekl River in Surrey, said Nigel Easton, president of the Nicomekl Enhancement Society that operates the volunteer-run hatchery in Langley.

“All our fish are sitting at the dam,” Easton told the Langley Advance Times on Sunday, Oct. 16, after visiting the dam located near King George Blvd.

“There’s a lot of salmon swimming around.”

Because the sea dam has no mechanical gates that can be opened, if water levels aren’t high enough, salmon can’t get through. It was slated for an upgrade by the city of Surrey, as part of a flood mitigation program funded by the federal government, but work on a new dam has yet to begin.

While there is concern about water levels, “it’s not a crisis yet,” Easton remarked.

“We believe as long as the rains come before mid-November, we’ll be okay.”

It will have to be substantial rain, however, enough to raise the river levels.

Environment Canada was forecasting a chance of rain for Friday, Oct 21, and showers on Saturday Oct. 22.

READ ALSO: ‘Flabbergasting’ lack of rain has returning salmon dying in droves on B.C. central coast

A severe Level 5 drought warning has been issued for the Lower Mainland and seven other regions, the East Peace, East Vancouver Island, Fort Nelson, North Peace, South Peace, Sunshine Coast and West Vancouver Island.

A provincial emergencyinfobc.com web page explained the rating means “conditions are exceptionally dry and adverse impacts to socio-economic or ecosystem values are almost certain. All efforts should be made to conserve water and protect critical environmental flows.”

Since August 1, 50 millimetres of precipitation has been recorded in Metro Vancouver watershed areas, a fraction of the normal average of 400 millimetres of precipitation seen between August 1 and mid-October.

Malcolm Brodie, chair of Metro Vancouver’s Water Committee, said current water use is about 20-per-cent higher than normal for the region this time of year.

“Our reservoir levels are lower than we typically see for this time of year, and this higher-than-expected water usage is leading to ongoing drawdown of our water storage reservoirs,” Brodie said.

Seasonal stage 1 lawn watering restrictions, set to end Saturday, Oct. 15 were extended to the end of the month by the Metro Vancouver Regional District.

Residents and businesses are permitted to water lawns one morning per week, with designated days determined by property address and type. Trees, shrubs, and flowers may be watered in the morning when using a sprinkler, or any time when hand watered or using drip irrigation. Edible plants are exempt from the regulations.

READ ALSO: B.C. drought benefits some farmers, extending harvest and reducing rot


Have a story tip? Email: dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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