Letters: A legacy betrayed

Decommissioning of Bill James Dam not a popular move with locals

DFO’s decision to decommission the Bill James Dam is not rational, not research based and demeaning to the people of this community. Named in honour of a Sooke pioneer salmon conservationist the dam was constructed in the 1970s by salmon society volunteers.  At considerable expense the dam was improved in 1998. Over $250,000 of public money and donations went into the dam improvement. A control valve was installed to the specifications of DFO  (a valve that DFO now says does not meet specifications). Thousands of hours of volunteer work went into the construction and subsequent maintenance of the site by Sooke Salmon Society volunteers.

DFO’s decision to decommission the dam is based on a dam of similar capacity collapsing in Oliver.  Unlike the Bill James Dam that has a concrete spillway, the Oliver dam merely had a culvert to act as a spillway. Unlike the Bill James Dam that has a relatively gentle slope down to sea level, the Oliver dam was on a high incline with numerous farms and orchards below it. Unlike the Bill James Dam, conditions at the site are regularly monitored by volunteers.

What they did have in common is that in neither case were they monitored by DFO. Indeed officials who informed the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society of their decision to decommission the dam had never been on site.

DFO says the Bill James Dam could be hazard yet they have declined to carry out a study to access the dam’s condition. At considerable public expense they flew into the site to destroy the valve that they said was needed to maintain the dam. If the dam is destroyed thousands of dollars more will be thrown away

While they maintain that the water constitutes a hazard they also insist there is minimal outflow into Young Lake and the maintenance of DeMamiel creek summer levels has no beneficial effect for salmon fry survival or maintaining ground water supplies for householders living close to the creek. Do they have any studies to back this up?

No.

Is DFO concerned about Salmon conservation and the welfare of the people of Sooke?

You already know the answer.

Rob Henderson

Sooke