The construction of Sooke’s new $1 million salmon hatchery is on schedule and well on its way to becoming one of the few such facilities in Canada.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society and the Juan de Fuca Salmon Society’s initiative, particularly since the project, to this point at least, has been entirely self-funded.
“Of course, we would welcome the Province or the federal government to step up and help, but nothing has been coming our way as yet,” said Mike Hicks, the CRD’s Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director and one of the driving forces behind the hatchery project.
“I asked the Minister of Fisheries for help three months ago and haven’t even had a reply to the request. We haven’t gotten so much as a postcard back, so we’re just not going to sit and wait.”
Still, Hicks describes the new partnership between the Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society and the Juan de Fuca Salmon Society as “a formidable force” and said that they will proceed without help if necessary.
The construction at the new site along the Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre has been progressing with the help of some local businesses and the tireless work of Sooke volunteers.
“The base is done…the site is cleared and the rock foundation is in and the next step is to build the foundation and pour it,” said Hicks.
“That’s being done with the help of Clarkston Construction and Butler Concrete and the generosity of a lot of other people who have donated to the project.”
The construction process to this date has been no small task as the group had to first complete all the permit applications and engineering requirements. Then came the task of creating a proper base upon which the foundation could be poured.
“Butler contributed 80 truckloads of rock that they donated. That was a huge help for us,” said Hicks.
The timing of the construction is critical as well, given that the societies have to wait until the immature salmon currently in tanks are old enough to be released from the existing Jack Brooks Hatchery.
“They’ll be releasing all their fish and at that point, we can move all the tanks and hatchery equipment over to the new site.
That’s why our goal is to have the foundation poured in March and the construction completed in time to move the operation this year,” explained Hicks.
The new hatchery will have the benefit of a new agreement with the Capital Region district that will see the increase of the Sooke reservoir water supply to the new hatchery.“This is going to be invaluable for the Sooke River Chinook and that, in turn, is good for the southern resident killer whales, recreation and commercial fishermen and the First Nations fishery,” said Hicks.