Copper mine no longer polluting Tsolum River

The abandoned copper mine site on Mount Washington is no longer polluting the Tsolum River.

THE TSOLUM RIVER Restoration society and partners inspected in 2009 the seal that went over the abandoned copper mine on Mount Washington.

It’s official! The abandoned copper mine site on Mount Washington is no longer polluting the Tsolum River.

Toxic copper pollution had almost killed the Tsolum River, notes the Tsolum River Restoration Society (TRRS). In 2000 the river was declared dead.

A copper mine was active from 1964 to 1967 and was abandoned when the mining company went bankrupt. A copper leaching process began at that time and was not discovered until 1985. Once the explanation why no fish were returning to the Tsolum many agencies was discovered, companies and individuals went full out to try find a solution. The story of how they got to where they are today could fill a whole novel.

Finally, in 2006 the Province of B.C. kicked in $4.5 million and a fully engineered cover went on the old site and was sealed in 2009. There was immediate improvement through 2010 as the gravel and soils went on, 2011 saw continuing improvement and in the summer of 2012 the project was declared a success and water quality has returned to normal.

Now the work to restore the river can begin. Although we have completed over 35 projects over the years they have been reactive. Projects have been designed to remediate not protect. Our restoration activities have been opportunistic with willing landowners and access to specific project funding.

The TRRS conducts strategic planning sessions with our members and the agencies, industries and people we work with every three years. Now that water quality is no longer the major issue preventing the river from becoming healthy again, we turn our attention to the next most limiting factors.

At our 2012 strategic planning session we determined our next three years would stress fish, flows and future generations.

The fish component is about understanding our stocks and their habitats and a science based assessment is underway to predict possible stock levels for pink, chum and coho salmon and cutthroat and rainbow (steelhead) trout.

What is possible now? What can we do to increase potential and reopen a sports fishery?

The flows component is looking at ways and means to decrease flood levels in fall/winter/spring and increase deadly low flows in the summer/fall.

The Future Generations component is about engaging youth. The TRRS has already designed and is delivering an Extended Learning Opportunity at Huband Park Elementary School and is developing a watershed model for kids to play with to understand the hydrology of a watershed.

The group invites everyone to be a part of something special and successful. One of the easiest and enjoyable ways is to attend the annual general meeting Feb. 16 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Dove Creek Hall.

Parker Jefferson from the Duncan/Cowichan area will share his insight into how a deadly low flow incident wiped out most of the salmon run in the Cowichan River and how the community has responded at this time of low government involvement and resources.

Another way to assist is to become a member. We are asking all current members and new members to consider a monthly donation. All monthly donors will automatically become members. Volunteering in the many aspects of our work is available year-round. For more information you can call Jack Minard at 250-897-4670, e-mail tsolumriver@shaw.ca and/or visit www.tsolumriver.org or come to the Dove Creek Hall this Saturday at 1 p.m. and meet us in person.

— Tsolum River Restoration Society

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