Fish Habitat Enhancement
In Canada, the Fisheries Act requires that hydroelectric projects avoid causing serious harm to fish and fish habitat. If a project is predicted to result in a loss of fish habitat, we build new fish habitat enhancement areas to offset the loss. In British Columbia, we have constructed six habitat areas totalling more than 75,000 m2 and we expect to complete three more totalling 10,000 m2 in 2015. At some of these sites, adult Pacific salmon migrate inland each fall from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. The thousands of young salmon produced annually go back to the ocean each spring, and then return again as adults, thus completing their life cycle. In 2014, independent monitoring studies at the Kwoiek Creek facility found that the new 1km long fish habitat compensation channel supported spawning and rearing of rainbow trout mere weeks after the channel was accessible to fish in the spring. By the fall, the density of fish in the channel was already similar to the adjacent natural section of Kwoiek Creek. This is great news and a very positive sign for upcoming spawning seasons. These habitat enhancement areas will continue to operate throughout the multi-decade operating life of our hydroelectric facilities.
Grizzly bears are an iconic species, particularly in British Columbia. At our hydroelectric project sites, we work to effectively manage human activities in an effort to respect the species and its habitat. During the construction phase of the Upper Lillooet Hydro Project, for instance, Innergex is implementing extensive measures to minimize potential impacts on grizzly bears and their habitat, including foraging sites and salmon spawning streams. In addition, a Human-Wildlife Interaction Management Plan and a Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan have been implemented to maximize the safety of grizzlies – and humans – during construction and operation of the project.
In September 2013, Innergex contributed $300,000 to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to carry out a five-year study into the grizzly bear population present in the Upper Lillooet River drainage area, where Innergex’s Upper Lillooet Hydro Project is located. As part of the project’s Environmental Assessment Certificate requirements, the provincially led regional research program will conduct a grizzly bear inventory and a monitoring and evaluation program to understand the impacts of development on the grizzly bear population. Innergex’s contribution will be used for collaring and monitoring of female grizzly bears and collection of hair-snag/DNA samples.
Innergex is implementing extensive measures to minimize potential impacts on grizzly bears and their habitat.
Ashlu Creek: Positive Results for Fish Populations
Our monitoring program at the Ashlu Creek hydroelectric facility yielded positive results for fish populations.
When we began construction of the Ashlu Creek facility in British Columbia in 2006, our Fisheries Act Authorization required us to design and construct 5,000 m2 of new fish habitat to protect the great variety of fish that inhabit the creek. But given the amount and availability of surrounding land near the project area, we saw an opportunity to contribute even more. All told, we built 52,605 m2 of new fish habitat, roughly 10 times more than the requirement. The five-year (2010-2015) monitoring program conducted by independent consultant Ecofish Research found very positive results: there is no evidence of negative environmental effects from either the construction or the operation of the Ashlu Creek facility. This is a significant achievement, as the project was developed during a time of concern that run-of-river hydro projects would have a negative impact on fish. We are pleased that the evidence of our monitoring program tells a different story.
Here are a few of the conclusions taken from the summary report:
• There has been no adverse effect on the fish community in the 4 km section of the creek temporarily diverted to generate renewable hydroelectricity.
• The total biomass density (total fish weight by area of stream) of rainbow trout in the diversion reach was 29% higher than in the upstream reach.
• Monitoring of water temperature, water quality, and revegetation did not identify any adverse effects.
• A diverse community of wildlife continues to inhabit the project area, including beavers, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, elk, grizzly bears, and grey wolves.
• There is no indication of a drop in the number of Pacific salmon using the Ashlu Creek diversion reach for spawning.
• The new fish habitat area we built produces an estimated 175,000 coho salmon fry every year, a very large number that does not include pink salmon, large numbers of which also spawn in the fish habitat area.
Similar positive fish and wildlife monitoring results have also been observed at many of our other British Columbia hydro facilities in operation. Not only is this very encouraging, it is also helping to change the understanding of the environmental impacts of run-of-river hydro on fish populations.