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Failing Dam Could Damn Major BC Salmon Streams

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA - One of British Columbias most economically vital salmon streams is teetering at the edge of a major fish kill.

According to Scott Simpson of the Vancouver Sun, the federal salmon hatchery at Robertson Creek in the Port Alberni region is the linchpin for high-end sport-fishing lodges from Barkley Sound to Alaska, but its performance is contingent on water stored behind an aging dam that is considered to be at imminent risk of failure.

The news report says that the condition of the small wooden dam at Boot Lagoon on Great Central Lake is so grave that the lake has been drawn down to 50-year lows, lest a spring freshet causes a breach that could flood and destroy the low-lying hatchery downstream.

The draw-down took place last October, and local conservationists say up to 200,000 coho fry were stranded and died in pools left behind as the lake dried up, and the eggs laid by thousands of shore-spawning sockeye were also lost.

DFO is now monitoring the level of Robertson Creek full-time in case eight million salmon eggs now resting at the hatchery are dewatered in a winter dry spell that has seen precipitation drop to 50 per cent of typical levels on Vancouver Island, reports the Vancouver Sun.

DFO area chief Bruce Adkins said Tuesday the lake level is high enough to support a gravity-fed pipe from Great Central Lake to Robertson, and there’s a backup system available if the lake drops below the intake.

Local conservationist Bob Cole, however, is warning that the volume of water from the pump would be barely enough to keep the eggs oxygenated, and that DFO lacks the financial resources to minimize the risk of a system failure.

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