Acid runoff from this abandoned Mount Washington copper mine effectively killed the Tsolum River. The work of the TRRS has been integral in the river’s revival. Photo submitted

Tsolum River salmon count results in

More salmon returning to river which was declared “dead” in 1999

The Tsolum River Restoration Society (TRRS) has completed their annual spawning pink salmon count, and estimates that at least 84,000 pinks returned to the Tsolum River to spawn in fall 2017. Fish were observed moving into the river as early as August 22, with peak spawning occurring in late September. 2017 marks the “odd year” of the pink salmon two-year cycle, and has recently been a highly successful year. In comparison, very few pink salmon return to spawn during the even year cycle.

There have been increasing reports of people observed fishing in the Tsolum River. The TRRS reminds the public that the Tsolum River is closed year-round to all fishing (including catch and release fishing) and for all species. This closure is highlighted in the BC Freshwater Fishing Regulations. For more details about the closure see http://bit.ly/2Ar7Ygg

To file a report of illegal fishing in the Tsolum River, call 1-877-952-7277 or text #7277 to reach the Conservation Officer reporting system.

Why the fishing ban?

There used to be an open pit copper mine near Mt. Washington that operated from 1964 to 1967. After the mine was abandoned in 1967, a process known as “acid mine drainage” (AMD) began, as rain and snow melt percolated through the exposed copper ore. Water reacted with the exposed rock to create an acid leachate, which was laden with heavy metals including copper and cadmium. This acidic runoff flowed into Murex Creek and into the Tsolum River, where it killed most of the fish living in the river. The process continued, and eventually earned the Tsolum River the dubious honour of being the most endangered river in B.C. in 1999. In 2000, the Tsolum was declared “dead” by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The depletion of stocks that resulted from the AMD caused the river to become a “river of special conservation concern” and resulted in the fishing closure that continues to this day.

Through the combined effort of many people and organizations, including local Steelhead Society members, MLA’s, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Environment Canada, the B.C. Mining Association, Timberwest, the K’omoks First Nation and the TRRS, a successful solution to the leaching mine site was constructed in 2010. A $4.5 million membrane was placed over the mine site that sealed the surface, preventing further leaching of toxins into the Tsolum River upper reaches.

Although the source of toxic run-off has been fixed with the capping of the mine, the year round fishing closure in the Tsolum River is still in place. Since the river was remediated only 7 years ago, not enough time has passed to allow for popular angling species such as Cutthroat and Steelhead to fully recover. These longer living species need more time to build in size and population. Salmon runs are also recovering, and are being monitored year round by members of the TRRS.

The TRRS continues to focus on restoration of the river and riparian habitat. In addition to year-round monitoring of water quality and fish populations, the society has plans for several instream projects in the next couple of years including extensive gravel bar live staking (planting of willows to stabilize gravel bars), riparian planting, and measures to trap bed material to stop excessive volumes moving through the system.

Free trees for riverfront landowners

The TRRS has free two-year-old conifer trees available to riverfront landowners! Please contact us at tsolumriver@shaw.ca, or call 250-897-4670 for more information about the society; you can also learn more at www.tsolumriver.org.

If you would like to help the Tsolum River Restoration Society with its restoration efforts, consider becoming a donor, or a member /volunteer with the organization. The Conservation Centre (2356-A Rosewall Crescent, Courtenay) will host an open house on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. You can support the society by making a donation, or by purchasing its t-shirts or art cards for Christmas gifts. Warm drinks and Christmas treats will be served. Project Watershed and Comox Valley Land Trust will also have gift items for sale at the open house.

Just Posted

Police continue to investigate machete attack

Police have canvassed nearly 200 businesses for video surveillance of the recent… Continue reading

Cricket players get interrupted by racist remark in Courtenay

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Courtenay woman desperately searches for missing dog

Anyone who owns a dog will understand the anguish of a Courtenay… Continue reading

Valley chef Ronald St. Pierre to be inducted into BC Restaurant Hall of Fame

A Comox Valley chef will soon join other culinary legions in the… Continue reading

YANA Ride in Comox raises thousands for families with medical needs

In its seventh year, the event attracted the maximum 600 riders on Sunday

VIDEO: Facebook rolls out tool to block off-Facebook data gathering

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the “clear history” feature more than a year ago

66% of B.C. residents want opt-out system for organ donation: poll

Support was lowest in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces

Vancouver Island rainbow crosswalk covered in mysterious black substance

Black substance spilled intentionally near Qualicum Beach school and difficult to remove

RCMP originally planned to arrest Meng Wanzhou on plane, defence lawyers say

The allegations have not been proven in court. Meng was arrested Dec. 1 at Vancouver airport at the behest of the U.S.

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Ethics commissioner ready to testify on Trudeau, SNC-Lavalin: NDP critic

A new poll suggests the report hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall

Inflation hits Bank of Canada 2% target for second straight month

Prices showed strength in other areas, including an 18.9 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

Vancouver Island RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly Qualicum Beach woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Most Read