The Need for Fish-Friendly Floodgates

The Fraser River, BC’s longest, is known for its large salmon runs, and the Fraser Valley provides habitat that is critical for salmon to survive. But, over time, old or poorly designed flood management and dike infrastructure has narrowed or closed off channels, making it next to impossible for salmon to make their way to the Fraser River. Some outdated pumps and gates actually grind fish that attempt to pass through.

While it is possible to manage floodgates and have fish-friendly pumps that allow salmon passage through floodplain areas and dike infrastructures, a recent ELC report prepared for Watershed Watch Salmon Society reveals that proper management either isn’t being done at all or doesn’t have adequate oversight. Either way, salmon populations are suffering.

“No one is effectively overseeing the more than 1,400 km of salmon habitat behind floodgates in the lower Fraser Valley,” says ELC Executive Director Deborah Curran, who supervised the project. “It’s quite startling to see that the fish-related impacts of over 155 pump stations and floodgates is not subject to systematic ecological review or monitoring.”

The ELC paper examines the legal requirements to manage fish and fish habitat and makes six recommendations to improve flood management infrastructure. Flood control infrastructure in the Fraser Valley is currently undergoing regional planning for infrastructure upgrades to address the potential of flooding due to sea-level rise and other climate change impacts. This makes it an ideal time to address the need for fish-friendly changes.

“By raising awareness with solutions put forward in this report, our hope is that local and provincial governments will recognize the need and move to protect fish and fish habitat for future generations,” says Deborah.


Legal Review of Flood Management and Fish Habitat in British Columbia