Premier honours Tsolum River stewards with award

The province has recognized a local non-profit society for its innovative work to help recover fish in the Tsolum River.

The province has recognized a local non-profit society for its innovative work to help recover fish in the Tsolum River.

The Tsolum River Restoration Society and other organizations partnered with the Environment Ministry, which has been recognized with a Premier’s Innovation and Excellence Award.

“We’re very proud of the award,” TRSS executive director Jack Minard said.

After a small open-pit copper mine on Mount Washington closed in the 1960s, leaching copper eliminated fisheries in the Tsolum River watershed. Remediation work in the ’80s and ’90s improved water quality but wasn’t enough to support a healthy fisheries resource.

In 2001, a partnership developed to restore the fishery, blossoming into the Tsolum River Partnership. That year yielded the highest fish rates since 1953. By 2009, copper contamination from the site had decreased by 77 per cent, drastically improving water quality and initiating the recovery of fisheries resources. In the fall of 2009, there were more pink salmon in the river than had been seen in 50 years.

“We have quality again, ever since 2009 when that cap went on,” Minard said. “(But) We are certainly cautious….We certainly have taken a major step in the right direction, but there are still many, many more problems in the Tsolum River watershed.

“The exciting thing about this is that now we can go to work and repair the ecosystems. We can actually restore fish habitat and riparian areas, build refuge habitat, stabilize banks, stabilize sub-straits, and end up with a system that’s going to be self-sustaining. It will probably take us another 20 years to do that. But at least we can do that now…It’s really, really exciting.”

The Premier’s Awards acknowledge outstanding achievements in public service. This year, six Vancouver Island employees received awards in cross-government integration, emerging leader, innovation, leadership, partnership and service excellence categories.

“I would like to thank each of these recipients for their leadership, dedication and incredible determination,” Premier Christy Clark said in a news release. “The hard work and the successes you’ve achieved have made a significant difference to communities, families and people living across Vancouver Island.”

“The accomplishments of these award winners demonstrate that the public service is a place where people can achieve remarkable things and make a difference,” said Labour, Citizens’ Services and Open Government Minister Stephanie Cadieux, whose ministry administers the awards.

“Congratulations to the finalists and all the recipients.”

An awards ceremony will be held in Victoria next Tuesday.

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