Water & fish habitat
Protecting fish and wildlife in and around our system
At our reservoirs, changes in water levels can affect the spawning cycles of certain species of fish. As well, changes in plant life and nutrient levels can have an impact on the food chain. Typically, the slower moving water found in reservoirs can trap nutrients important to fish survival. To mitigate this, we've used fertilization programs to help maintain the production of fish food and sustain fish populations.
Dams can also alter the natural habitat of fish by stopping them from moving upstream to reach their spawning grounds. Fish moving downstream can be drawn through water intakes that also put their survival at risk.
We use various methods to help fish safely bypass our infrastructure. Some of these include:
- Fish ladders and screens to allow fish to travel upstream or downstream of dams.
- Downstream enhancement projects, including placing gravel in riverbeds to avoid fish strandings, creating spawning areas and installing woody debris to help to improve fish habitat.
- Collaborative initiatives, like the Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative.
When it comes to pruning and removing trees and vegetation near our power lines, we take special care to help protect fish and their spawning, resting and hiding areas.
We also support the Fish and Wildlife Compenstation Program, a joint venture between BC Hydro, the Province, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders
Water Use Plans help balance various interests
Water Use Plans help us find a balance between competing uses of water that are environmentally, socially and economically acceptable to all British Columbians.
White sturgeon recovery initiative
The Upper Columbia River population of white sturgeon — North America's oldest and largest freshwater fish — has been listed as endangered. Biologists are still doing research to understand why white sturgeon are in decline but we know that human activities — such as pollution, dam construction and fishing — are likely factors.
The Upper Columbia White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative is a collaborative venture involving BC Hydro and other concerned groups, including government, aboriginal, industrial and environmental organizations, stewardship groups and citizens. These interests are working together to research and monitor the white sturgeon.
We're committed to learning about how our operations affect white sturgeon, as well as reducing impacts where they occur. It will take many years to restore a naturally sustaining sturgeon population. However, regulations have been established which make commercial and recreational fishing illegal.
The Initiative is working to develop a long-term recovery plan that will incorporate conservation, hatchery work, water management options — which will be evaluated under the B.C. Water Use Planning process — and habitat restoration techniques.
The Hill Creek Hatchery in Nakusp has been modified to accommodate breeding and rearing of juvenile sturgeon for research and release into the Columbia River. Healthy juvenile white sturgeon will be tracked to assess what factors can help them survive in the wild.