In 1999 BC Hydro developed a program in to restore fish and wildlife resources that were affected by the hydroelectric activities of the Bridge-Coastal area called the Bridge-Coastal Restoration Program (BCRP) which has now been renamed the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP). This program researches the historical impact on fish and wildlife from the reservoir creation, diversion of the watercourse and the construction of the dam. A program was developed to guide overall planning for compensation investment, which has been guiding the strategic development of each watershed since the program was released in 2009. The Action Plan is set to begin at Campbell River area but might be going beyond that area as wildlife ranges grow. Moreover, the Campbell River system is contiguous with the Puntledge and Ash River systems which could lead to cooperation of activities to support the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Strategy.
The species that are included in the program are identified as at risk or of conservation concern, as well as for riparian and wetland areas and salmonids. There are many companies that got involved to help with this project, including BC Hydro, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), Ministry of Environment (MOE), as well the local First Nations and local communities. During the first steps of the development of program plans priority ideas were brought up during workshops which was a way to involve First Nations, public stakeholders and various parties that showed interest in the matter. This allowed information and opinion exchange between each group to establish plan priorities. The priority species included in the program are the Roosevelt Elk, Vancouver Island Marmot, Great Blue Heron, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Band-Tailed Pigeon and the Northern Red-Legged Frog. However, these priority programs might not turn into project funding immediately as there are limitations in the funding. The selection of which program will be funded first will be decided during the annual implementation planning cycle.
Background, Impacts and Threats
The Campbell River system is situated in Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations and Hamalta First Nations territory. The system itself includes the upper sub-basins of the Heber, Salmon and Quinsam which incorporates the opening of the Vancouver Island mountain range near the town of Campbell River. The lower river flows through the Campbell River community and discharge straight into the Georgia Strait. The upper river watersheds are within Strathcona Provincial Park and and links up with the Upper Puntledge River and Ash River watersheds. The hydro-electric development watersheds hold three dams on the Campbell mainstream and one diversion on each of the Salmon, Quinsam and Heber rivers.
There are many impacts and threats on wildlife nowadays and the main one in this report is the impact that hydro-related systems and structures have on the region. The impacts have been identified and calculated based on GIS analysis done for BC Hydro. The main impacts are controlled floodings of lakes, land, riparian areas and wetlands. The fluctuation of the reservoir levels on vegetation and riparian development reduce food sources and resting areas for wildlife and reduces migratory routes, and spawning habitat. The large size of the lake has established a natural movement barrier for animals, therefore, increasing mortality and predation rates. There could be a threat to wildlife when opposed to watershed structures and operations. There can also be an impact on the growth of plankton and littoral productivity due to high levels of flushing. There are at times several spills that have altered wildlife habitat. The other effects that include a non-hydro impact are logging, dyking and urbanisation, in the past as well as presently.
Additionally, there are many limiting factors that can prevent conserving some areas and wildlife such as loss of habitat (riparian and wetland) which has occurred in flooded valley bottoms. Moreover, habitat alterations are also a limitation through the unequal extent of inundation or drying which impacts wildlife habitat such as nesting areas and decreases prey and plants leading to a decrease in the species populations. Those impacts affect and create diversions to the migratory routes.
The Different Species and their statues
Potential species that were selected for the program were based on the CF2 ratings, some of those species are: Northern Goshawk, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Northwestern Salamander, Western Toad, Northern Red-legged Frog, Cutthroat Trout, Coho Salmon, Dolly Varden, Roosevelt Elk, Vancouver Island Marmot, Wolverine and subspecies. Each species was identified and selected through the workshops and interviews of staff and stakeholders. Additionally, the fish that are identified in the program are also under the Campbell River Salmonid Action Plan. Many studies have been done in order to identify habitat and distribution of population especially for the owl, bat and red-legged-frog population.
Nevertheless, a major limitation for the studies and program is knowledge gaps for each ‘at risk’ species.
Objectives of the Action Plan
The program is structured into two objectives but is used to look over the Campbell River system as a whole. The first objective is the maintenance and/or the improvement of the status of the species population and habitat identified in the program in the Campbell River system. From a rational point of view, there will be limitations such as the ones listed above and the measurements may vary from one species to another, which is why solution-specific targets will be established for specific species-focused projects.
The second objective is the maintenance and/or improvement of opportunities for sustainable use and activities, as there are many sustainable activities out there by the First Nations, hunters and guides. The main focus is to develop more opportunities that will improve those actions. For this second objective there are no particular targets that have been made yet.
The management program is helped by FWCP and multi-agency planning process in order to plan and implement the management actions of the program. Each action of the plan has several objectives that incorporate smaller sub-objectives. The Action Plan includes the species ‘at risk’ that have been selected on the priority list which are the Roosevelt Elk, Vancouver Island Marmot, Great Blue Heron, Northern Pygmy- Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Band-tailed Pigeon and Northern Red-Legged Frog. One focus of the study is the obstacles that limit the migration. However, concerning habitat studies, this will focus only on a specific species. The main concerns and locations of the action plan are linked to streams, wetlands and riparian areas and this is why there is an ongoing cooperation with the Riparian and Wetlands Plans and the Salmonid Action Plan. The research base organisation is developed into five categories: Research and Information Acquisition, Habitat-based Actions, Land Securement, Monitoring and Evaluations.
The Vancouver Island Marmot Action Plan is already planned and consists of a recovery strategic management project. The FWCP has already started several projects that should be supported and kept ongoing.
The Western Screech Owl projects are developing as the inventory and a small nest box (160 nests) project occurs. More projects should be developed to increase the conservation benefits.
The Northern Red-Legged Frog has been one of the amphibian species predicted to be affected the most by hydropower development. Activities to conserve the species and its habitat has been founded by FWCP but there is still a need to develop more projects.
The FWCP has not only established an Action Plan to improve the conservation of at risk species in the Campbell River area but also takes part in funding several projects that concern those species. Not all measures and targets have been identified of the end of the report but the important focus is that it is including agencies, stakeholders and communities interested in the matter, involving each of them through workshops.