Letters: Open debate needed for dam closure

Letter writer is concerned over closure of dam which supports salmon stock

I am writing to express my concern with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) decision to decommission the Bill James dam on the north arm of DeMamiel Creek.

As an inhabitant of this watershed, and a steward of the portion of DeMamiel Creek that passes through our neighborhood, I am intrinsically connected to the abundant coho return that occurs each fall.  The inter connectedness of numerous species dependent on this fish stock is immediately apparent from a stroll along DeMamiel’s edges, especially in early November.  This fragile ecosystem on the major tributary of the Sooke River has been impacted by recent logging, development, off-road-vehicle traffic and human activity and yet it continues to foster a resilient salmonid stock.  A key component to this success is the ability to control the release of water from two upstream reservoirs in the dry summer months to ensure the survival of fish species in this ecosystem.

As an educator, I have been involved with DFO’s ‘Salmonids In The Classroom’ incubation program for the last eight years.  Each year students at many Sooke schools have the incredible opportunity to raise coho eggs from Jack Brooks Hatchery to fry, before releasing them into DeMamiel Creek.  At approximately 100 fish per classroom, the impact of this activity, not only on the coho population, but also on the education of our local children, is significant.   How can DFO support this incredible program from one perspective and decide to decommission the dam that ensures the survival of these fish through our increasingly long dry season?  With climate change, this decision has the potential to cause a significant setback to the ability of these fish species to survive in DeMamiel Creek.

I have been involved in an ongoing effort by several residents to monitor, measure and document discharge rates from DeMamiel Creek for the past four years.  Originally this activity grew out of a concern for the availability of water for domestic use during the dry months.  Currently, this data is useful in the calculation of the potential impact that a hypothetical colossal failure of this dam would have on the DeMamiel Creek watershed, including the impact on properties.  This data suggests the amount of water being reserved behind the dam, approximately eight kilometers away from the nearest dwelling or water license, will have very little impact on properties adjacent to its course.  If DFO intends to decommission this dam to reduce liability in wake of a previous dam collapse near Oliver B.C., should clear scientific evidence not be provided by DFO to demonstrate this potential liability?

Salmon species continue to be a major economic, social and natural resource to the Sooke region.  We are only beginning to digest the wealth of scientific evidence identifying the inter connectedness of natural systems and their importance on human health.  Let’s not endanger one of our most precious resources under the guise of liability and lack of funding.  If liability is truly more important, it would be prudent to clearly show this research to local residents so an open debate can take place regarding this resilient ecosystem.

Mike Bobbit