The Alouette River Management Society and its partners were excited to announce a sockeye returned to the South Alouette River after an absence of over 80 years. DNA on the returning sockeye confirmed it as Alouette origin – direct descendants of kokanee “landlocked sockeye” when the dam was constructed in the late 1920’s. All indications point to the 2005 accidental release of kokanee from the Alouette Dam – our local term “sockanee” – that escaped in 2005 when the spillway of the dam was opened for a surface release.
During the week of August 13, 2007, sockeye were found in the holding pens at the Allco Fish Hatchery. Approximately 18 mortalities of sockeye were found later that day by BC Hydro employees at the base of the dam, the sockeye having tried unsuccessfully to reach the reservoir through the low level outlet flow. It is thought that the sockeye were simply jumping over the Allco Fish fence, intent on making their way home. BC Hydro has made a temporary shield over the low level outlet pipe in order to avoid any further mortalities and the fish fence has been modified at Allco to deter any sockeye from jumping over the fence.
On Saturday August 18, 2007, DNA samples from 22 fish were collected by employees of the Pacific Salmon Commission, Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Pacific Salmon Foundation. These results of tests confirm that the sockeye were from the 2005 “sockanee” smolts (juveniles) that escaped in 2005 during the ARMS, Katzie First Nation and LGL Limited project involving the tracking of coho that had been marked colour dye tags and released into Alouette Reservoir.
Similar tests were conducted with Steelhead in 2006 which resulted in lower number of kokanee smolts escaping due low reservoir water levels which resulted in a late date opening of the spillway. In 2007 there is estimated to be between 70,000 to 90,000 sockanee that traveled over the spillway on their way to the Pacific Ocean. These projects have been funded by BC Hydro’s Bridge Coastal Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program. The spillway will continue to be opened each year until 2014 through a monitoring program included in the Alouette Water Use Plan Review, once approved by the Water Comptroller in Victoria.
BC Corrections, through Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, has allowed this dream of ARMS and our community to become a reality by their dedication of staff and inmate labour to the hatchery operations. The hatchery has been in operation since 1979 and has reared over 33 million fish for the Alouette and other watersheds throughout the lower mainland. The current administration of Fraser Regional Correctional Centre and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General should be recognized for their continued support and dedication to the Allco Hatchery Inmate Work Program.
The Alouette Monitoring Committee, comprised of representatives of BC Hydro, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ministry of Environment, Katzie First Nations, District of Maple Ridge and ARMS met on Friday, August 24, 2007, to implement a plan for releasing the returning sockeye into the reservoir. Four of the sockeye were implanted with radio to track their spawning patterns in the reservoir.