Located approximately halfway between Sooke and Port Renfrew, the Jordan River was an important salmon-producing river. Unfortunately the past 100 years have not been kind to the river and the various fish species that it once supported.
The construction and operation of a hydroelectric dam and power plant starting in 1911 plus a series of mine disasters in the early 1960s destroyed the original estuary and most of the habitat necessary to support fish populations.
The controlled release of water from the Elliott Dam severely limits water flows into the lower reaches of the river and high-energy outflows from the current power plant have destroyed spawning grounds. Copper contamination from a mine waste site located adjacent to critical salmon habitat has been seeping into the river for almost 60 years.
These issues have plagued the river for years and have resulted in the complete demise of a river system that had historically produced tens of thousands of salmon annually. Since 1960, coho and chum salmon annual escapement estimates have ranged from zero to less than 60 fish.
The river flows into the Strait of Juan de Fuca at the half way point of the current fishery closure. Perhaps symbolic of the current state of the overall salmon fishery but even more troubling, it illustrates a lack of willingness by government and industry to protect our resources.
Over 100 years of timber harvesting, power generation and mineral exploitation has provided significant financial benefits but an ongoing disregard for the ecology of this river and poor oversight by government agencies has contributed to a problem that is now impacting local communities.
It is time for these groups to be accountable for the damage done and fund initiatives that will maintain necessary water flows, improve water quality and restore critical habitat.