High snowpack raises hopes for salmon habitat on Vancouver Island

While flood fears grow in parts of the B.C. Interior, high snow levels are expected to increase Vancouver Island river levels to the benefit of threatened fish stocks.

Biggest snow levels in 7 years expected to boost river flows for fish

The Cowichan River was among streams and rivers on Vancouver Island where angling was banned in the summer of 2015 due to drought and low water levels. (Chris Corday/CBC)

While a high snowpack level threatens flooding for parts of the B.C. Interior, it may spell good news for Vancouver Island's fish. 

Accumulated snow on Vancouver Island mountains is at a seven-year peak, with a snowpack currently around 122 per cent of normal levels, according to Dave Campbell, head of the B.C. River Forecast Centre. 

"It does help as we get into more of the low flow side in the summer," he told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

"That's almost a good thing, seeing some of the snow packs on the Island because of that." 

Salmon habitat on Vancouver Island such as the Cowichan River has been threatened by drought and low water levels in recent years.

"Where you've got some of that snow coming down into there, it just will prolong that season of being able to fill or maintain that flow in the rivers and reduces the risk at least in terms of the low flow," Campbell said. 

Warm water and low stream flows are a double whammy for vital B.C. fish stocks 4:37

It is too early to predict whether enough rain will fall to maintain river flows until fall.

The risk of flooding from snow melt on the Island is low, Campbell said. 

In the southern Interior and Okanagan, the snowpack is up to 145 per cent of normal levels, he added. 

Last year, spring floods forced 2,500 people from their homes in the B.C. Interior.


With files from CBC Radio's On the Island with Gregor Craigie.