Local MP Randall Garrison and members of the Jordan River Stewardship Roundtable are working to bring the Jordan River “back from the dead,” according to a statement released by the MP’s office.
And while the statement may seem hyperbolic, there is substantial truth underlying the characterization of the waterway.
Multiple factors combined in the 1960s to entirely wipe out the once robust runs of coho and chum salmon. Then, as a result of fluctuating water flows caused by the actions of B.C. Hydro, a catastrophic habitat loss resulted in the destruction of pink salmon stocks.
Now, nearly 40 years later, salmon are gradually returning to the Jordan River.
A significant part of the original problem was caused by mining.
Copper mining began on the Jordan River in the early 1900s and continued on a modest level until 1960 when it began to ramp up to much larger scale operations. The lax environmental rules of the time allowed for practices that resulted in the leaching of heavy metals into the waterway well into the early years of this century.
Now, though, as a result of the the work of the roundtable and others, the river may be recovering. A major factor helping the river was the increase in flow allowed by B.C. Hydro from one of its dams. That flow dissolved much of the copper contamination and washed it to the sea.
“The Jordan River has had so many very serious environmental issues over the years, and to think that the river is coming back to life is incredibly hopeful and inspiring,” said Garrison.
But Garrison explained that more needs to be done.
“I support this project, and I am calling on the Liberal government to restore protections for the Jordan River. The remediation of this river has come at a great effort on the part of community members and activists, and it needs to have federal environmental protections to prevent any more environmental disasters from undoing all of the progress. truly to be “brought back from the dead,”said Garrison.
He added that he has presented a private member’s bill, Bill C-368, to Parliament that asks for the Jordan River to be added to the schedule of protected bodies of water by the federal government.
In the interim, the roundtable has worked to remove contaminated soil that remains on the river banks and improve spawning habitat one key area of the river, where biologist David Burt has overseen the introduction of new gravel to provide the type of habitat that salmon need to spawn.
The roundtable is also working on a plan to create a new channel, which would increase the available habitat for salmon.
The group has adopted the catchphrase of “Salmon in the Jordan River by 2020,” and Garrison believes that, with the support of the federal government, that goal is within reach.