An environmental technician at Mount Polley Mine near Williams Lake has observed dozens of sockeye salmon showing up in Hazeltine Creek in recent days.
Since the Mount Polley Mine breach in August 2014, the creek has undergone extensive remediation work.
“I am pleased to notify you that yesterday I observed 104 adult sockeye salmon in the newly remediated portions of the lower reaches on Hazeltine Creek,” Holmes noted in an e-mail to the mine’s public liaison committee. “Most of the fish were above the confluence with Edney Creek and were found up to the gradient barrier above the Ditch Road bridge.”
Holmes confirmed no fish were observed above the confluence in Edney Creek due to low flow conditions, but noted higher flow conditions in Hazeltine Creek have been made possible in spite of the drought the area has experienced by impounding water in Polley Lake.
Holmes noted although the discharge from the lake is still relatively low it is significantly more that many other streams in the region, and many of the fish appear to have paired up and were actively spawning.
“If it is of interest to you, now is a good time to observed the aquatic habitat being used by salmon and I encourage you to make the trip and check it out. If you have any questions or concerns please bring them to my attention. Stay healthy and stay cool,” Holmes noted in the email.
In August of this year, remediation work was completed on the creek that began after the breach in 2014.
That work included bringing in 40,000 truckloads of rock used to build a foundation channel along Hazeltine Creek from Polley Lake to Quesnel Lake.
“Next, section by section, the remediation team modified the initial channel and added sinuosity and habitat features to provide in-stream cover for fish, enhancing the habit value,” the mine noted in an emailed response. “These features included spawning platforms, pools, riffles, rock boulder clusters, root wads and logs.”
The biological design for habitat features was developed collaboratively with Mount Polley’s technical experts, Williams Lake First Nation, Xat’sull First Nation and, at the regulatory level, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, collectively the group is referred as the Habitat Remediation working Group, the company added.
Trout have been using portions of the creek to spawn since 2017.