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Fish-friendly floodgate near Deroche to help restore salmon migration

New infrastructure restores fish passage to Joe’s Lake after over 70 years

A new fish-friendly floodgate near Deroche will help restore salmon migration through the Fraser watershed.

The floodgate was installed on Joe’s Lake — a disconnected wetland that was part of the Nicomen Slough floodplain before dike infrastructure was built after the floods of 1948.

According to a news release, installing this fish-friendly sluice-style floodgate has restored fish passage to Joe’s Lake after more than 70 years and reconnected over five hectares of lateral floodplain habitat previously inaccessible to salmon.

The project was funded through $3.61 million from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund. Parliamentary Secretary for Watershed Restoration Fin Donnelly said it’s the largest joint investment in salmon from the province and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Resilient Waters, Leq’a:mel First Nation, and the North Nicomen Diking District partnered on the project.

“The project’s undertaking is vast and involves the expertise of partners from First Nations, academia [and] environmental NGOs,” Donnelly said.

The project provides improved flood protection for neighbouring communities and opens up restoration project opportunities in the area.

“The dike is visible from our home and I grew up fishing and playing in Joe’s Lake,” said North Nicomen Diking District’s Al Stobbart in a news release. “Managing this diking district for the past 15 years I know how our small volunteer board has struggled to make any improvements to the dike system with the limited resources we were able to access. Many thanks to our Leq’a:mel friends and neighbours, the partners involved, and the landowner, who all all came together with a common vision to see this floodgate project accomplished for the benefit of our communities and, our natural environment.”

Watershed Watch Salmon Society and its partners on the project recognized the milestone on Friday (May 17) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Donnelly and Stobbart were joined by Abbotsford-Mission MLA Pam Alexis and members of Leq’a:mel First Nation for the ceremony.

“It’s important when we have lost that connection over the years to look at ways to reconnect,” Donnelly said.

Leq’a:mel Chief Alice Thompson said the North Nicomen wetland is of great importance to the First Nation.

“As we work to heal our watershed, we seek to restore and reconnect impacted waterways for our salmon relatives and other species. We cannot tackle these big issues alone. Together we are stronger, so we are pleased to see the partnerships and relationships of trust that have led to this momentous occasion in our territory,” Thompson said.

She says the territory’s first fish-friendly floodgate is something to celebrate.

“We know the liveliness of these waters in this area —the life that’s in there — and I’m really happy to see that this work has been completed here as well,” Thompson said.

Hatzic Watershed Stewardship Team co-chair Rick McKamey said there is still work to do. There are a number of culverts in the Deroche area that aren’t fish-friendly or aren’t functional, but McKamey expects the necessary changes to come in his lifetime.

“I’ve been on this project for a number of decades and I have to say the excitement I have within me right now makes me not want to retire at my age,” McKamey said.

READ MORE: Province commits $10 million for flood mitigation in Hatzic, Nicomen Island

Dillon White

About the Author: Dillon White

I joined the Mission Record in November of 2022 after moving to B.C. from Nova Scotia earlier in the year.
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