In the Alouette watershed in British Columbia, water runs from the mountains and ridge tops into the local ponds, streams, and lakes. The water eventually flows into the Alouette River, then into the Pitt River and Fraser River before finally reaching the Pacific Ocean.
The Alouette River was awarded Heritage status in 1998 under the BC Heritage Rivers System (BCHRS). The BCHRS is the first provincial system of its kind in Canada and helps to promote stewardship of this natural legacy.
A water use planning review process for BC Hydro’s Alouette Project was initiated in May 2005 and completed in August 2006. It involved a review of all data collected since implementation of the September 1996 Alouette Project Water Use Plan, and an assessment of new knowledge in the basin. The assessment included noting changes in resource values and a refinement in proposed conditions for the operation of BC Hydro’s Alouette Project.
The proposed conditions in the 2009 Water Use Plan for the operation of BC Hydro’s Alouette facilities reflect the consensus recommendations of the August 2006 Alouette Project Water Use Plan Review Consultative Committee Report. The conditions for the operation of BC Hydro’s Alouette Project facilities are tied to the British Columbia Water Act.
Power in partnership
The new Alouette River Ecosystem Partnership (AREP) was recently created to improve the water resource management of the Alouette River and surrounding ecosystems in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. The partnership is made up of the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations, the City of Maple Ridge, and the non-profit environmental organization Alouette River Management Society.
The Alouette River Management Society (ARMS) was formed in 1993 by dedicated citizens who recognized there needed to be a strong community voice to advocate for the restoration and protection of the Alouette River and its watershed that had been severely impacted by the construction of the Alouette Dam system, which was completed in 1928. ARMS already had a long-standing relationship with Katzie First Nation doing projects within the watershed, so when the City requested a meeting to discuss working with them and both Katzie and Kwantlen, it was a natural progression.
ARMS is proud of the work it accomplishes as a non-profit organization that relies on volunteers and only two staff members. However, the work that is before them to protect and enhance the Alouette River requires a greater effort and so they are eager to join with the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations and the City of Maple Ridge in this historic agreement.
On November 20, 2018 Maple Ridge’s newly-elected Council was briefed on the AREP and expressed their commitment to moving this partnership forward, which was initiated by the previous council. The four parties are now set to work to improve the state of the Alouette River ecosystem in a more collaborative and united way through the AREP agreement.
The partners aim to build constructive outcomes with BC Hydro and the provincial government, with the goal of restoring salmon runs and repairing ecosystem damage created by the damming and alteration of the Alouette River on the traditional lands of the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nations over the past century.
“Katzie First Nation is looking forward to working collaboratively with the Alouette River Ecosystem Partnership. The vision of restoring the water and ecology surrounding the Alouette is so important. It reassures that we are truly thinking about the next generations. Building this understanding together is a beautiful measure and will create positive outcomes for all species, including us,” said Chief Grace Cunningham of the Katzie First Nation.
Tumia Knott, councillor of Kwantlen First Nation is similarly enthusiastic. “The Kwantlen First Nation is excited about the opportunity to work collaboratively and respectfully with our partners to develop new ways to give renewed health to the Alouette ecosystem for future generations.”
BC Hydro plans to submit their water licence application to the provincial Comptroller of Water Rights this fall to secure perpetual water rights over the Alouette Lake and River. Currently, BC Hydro has perpetual water licences for two of three water licences granted to operate the Alouette and Stave generating systems. Water licence 124724 expired on December 31, 2018 and BC Hydro intends to apply for a perpetual water licence, which all members of AREP are opposed to.
Fishing for next steps
AREP seeks direction from the Comptroller of Water Rights, or formal commitment from BC Hydro, to the restoration of the seven species of Pacific Salmon and the creation of permanent fish passage at the Alouette River Dam.
The goals of the Alouette River Ecosystem Partnership are to:
- Create a functional watershed ecosystem in the Alouette River area that restores all seven species of Pacific Salmon;
- Provide a scientifically sound and functional fish passage that reconnects the watershed above the dam with the river for the benefit of all species of salmon and freshwater fish;
- Protect and enhance the current freshwater species;
- Enhance wildlife resources in the ecosystem;
- Develop recreational and educational opportunities with BC Parks and other partners.
“The Alouette Watershed represents a significant resource for our community. Our partners with the Katzie First Nation and Kwantlen First Nation have helped educate us on the historical and cultural significance of the ecosystem. The environmental stewardship by the dedicated ARMS volunteers has demonstrated what is possible in fish and wildlife restoration. We trust that BC Hydro sees the benefits in supporting the goals of the partnership in our community and for their customers around the province,” said Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden.
AREP has sent letters to both the Comptroller of Water Rights and BC Hydro requesting meetings on this important matter and look forward to ensuing discussions.