The Alouette River Watershed – Water Use

In 1992 BC Hydro was asked by the government to conduct an Electrical Systems Operating Review (ESOR), which included a review of their operations on the Alouette system.

In 1993 BC Hydro told to review in more environmental detail by the NDP government.

In 1994 BC Hydro held a meeting called Alouette Fisheries Technical Team (AFTT) to unfold their desire to conduct an In Stream Incremental Methodology Study costing about $370,000. This would test the benefits from various river flow rates for fish. ARMS was not invited to this meeting as it was seen as a agency technical team agenda only. ARMS attended anyway which was a first for the public to speak at this level and express our concern with the review structure not including ARMS. ARMS arrived on their committee after that and where accepted.

In 1995 ARMS became concerned that increased flows to the river were bogged down waiting for the report to be completed by the AFTT. The District of Maple Ridge, MLA, Katzie First Nation, Robson and Associates, ARMS, MOE, DFO, Corrections met in BC Hydro’s boardroom and hammered out an agreement for an interim flow increase to 70cf/s, which was 3.5 times greater than existing flows at that time. Final flow volumes were to be determined by the report from the AFTT. On November 29th 1995 found a chain of storms built the Reservoir elevation faster than the diversion flows to the Stave Reservoir and a flood was experienced in the river by residents living along the river.

In 1996 BC Hydro found that fishery issues alone would not address the public concern for their system operation methods on the Alouette. In March 1996 BC Hydro unfolded a process hoping to get a public buy which they call Alouette Operating Plan Review Process. A stakeholder committee was stuck made up from Municipal, Provincial and Federal Government agencies, the community at large, ARMS, First Nations and BC Hydro.

Fifteen meetings were held over a six month period which culminated which a consensus agreement. This agreement became the Alouette Water Use Plan (A-WUP), the first agreement of its kind in the Province.  The agreement included full flow release from the Reservoir to river control pipe, increasing the base flows to an average of 92 cf/s. A monitoring fund of $50,000 per annum was also provided to monitor the effect to fish with the increase of flow.  The agreement also provided for the elevation of the reservoir to be raised from May long weekend to September long weekend each year.  For more details on the Alouette WUP, see http://www.bchydro.com/environment/wateruse/wateruse30842.html

Watershed management  - Rotary Trap at 216th

Rotary Trap at 216th

A management team, the Alouette Management Committee (AMC) comprised of DFO, MOE BC Hydro, Katzie First Nation, District of Maple Ridge and ARM to determine how the $50,000 would best be spent.  It was decided that the AMC would conduct a juvenile assessment and an adult return, at a cost of $25,000 each, both of which started up in 1998 season.  Due to rising costs associated with these studies, the adult enumeration was only run for two year, as the AMC decided the juvenile assessment would provide the best data for assessing the increased flow.  A summary of the first eight years of the juvenile assessment.

In the fall of 2005 marked the 10th year of the increase in flows to the Alouette.  The original WUP called for a review of the data after 10 years.  A number of day long meetings were held to review the data and recommend to the Water Comptroller what monitoring programs should be conducted in the future.  Water Use Planning had come a long way over the 10 years with far more detailed monitoring programs included.

A draft of the recommendations that came from the committee, which still require approval of the water comptroller’s office in Victoria, can be reviewed.

The Alouette Water Use Plan will again be reviewed in 2014, which is when the Stave Water Use Plan is up for review, as BC Hydro would like to have both WUP’s reviewed together.