Dam to be decommissioned by DFO

Water important for coho survival

About eight to 10 kilometres past Young Lake there is an earthen dam at Brown’s swamp that is a reservoir used by the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society (SSES)to direct water into DeMamiel Creek.

Every summer there is an issue with the amount of water in the creek and the effect that low water has on the spawning coho salmon.

The dam was built in the late 1990s and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was involved in the original construction.

“It’s hugely important for Sooke coho,” said SSES president Mel Hull. “The vast majority spawn in DeMamiel Creek and as a result the hatchery ones go to Young Lake.”

Hull said they like to keep the lake refreshed so the fry survive in Young Lake.

He said what they use the dam for is to release water into the upper reaches of DeMamiel Creek during the summer.

Now, for a variety of reasons, the least of which is the fact that last year a similar type of dam burst in the Oliver area setting off a five-kilometre torrent of mud and debris, wiping out five homes and a large agricultural area, DFO wants to rid itself of the structure. The cost of doing an inspection on the dam is between $30-$60,000 and because the dam is difficult to get to, a helicopter would be needed. Add to that the shortage of water for the 100 summer days.

“There is a fair amount of risk of water behind dirt,” said Tom Rutherford of DFO. Rutherford is the acting sector head for Resource Restoration and Community Involvement. They are subject to uphold the B.C. Dam Safety Regulations.

“It is eerily the same, the same height, the same distance to houses,” said Rutherford of the dam that burst.

Other reasons include liability, the inaccessible site, reconfiguration of the outlet, and the benefit for the cost.

“Right now we hold the liability,” said Rutherford. “We’ve considered the view of the society. If you guys want the licence (for the dam) my advice would be, ‘you guys don’t want to go there.’”

He said the offer was made and his advice was, “don’t touch it.”

With any of the earthen dams scattered throughout the province, DFO is looking at all of their licenced structures.

“This is the only one, to my knowledge, that we’ve done an analysis on and said, ‘oops,’” said Rutherford.

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