British Columbia

Endangered Rivers List highlights threats to B.C. waterways

The 2016 Endangered Rivers List details the province's most imperiled rivers and what puts them in such jeopardy.

Damming, water extraction, climate change put B.C. rivers on 2016 list

Boulders narrow the Seymour River. The Seymour was listed by the Outdoor Recreation Council as one of the province's most endangered rivers. (CBC)

Rivers across B.C. are threatened by urbanization, pollution, industrial development, damming, excessive water extraction and climate change, according to the Outdoor Recreation Council.

That's why the group is releasing their 2016 Endangered Rivers List, which "details the province's most imperiled rivers" and what puts them in such jeopardy.

"The list strives to increase public awareness about the diversity of threats facing rivers," Mark Angelo, rivers chair of the Outdoor Recreation Council told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

One such river facing a diversity of threats is the Fraser, which was added to the list this year. It is threatened by climate change as warming summers heat up the water and reduce populations of native species.

"It just highlights that we've got to deal with [climate change] even more aggressively, because if we don't, we are concerned that more and more native species will eventually move northward," he said.

"There was also a recent report that suggested aboriginal fishing catches ... could be reduced by as much as 50 per cent by 2050 as marine species move up the coast in search of cooler waters."

Other threats facing the Fraser, according to Angleo, is development in the estuary region, including the Roberts Bank development, the new Massey Bridge, and the new jet fuel terminal.

Natural threats also a concern

Another river under threat is the Seymour, but it is a more natural threat in that case. A massive rockslide in 2014 dropped 50,000 cubic metres of debris into the river, choking off a salmon migration route.

Angelo says the diminished salmon run is affecting other species in the area that feed on the fish, such as bears, minks, otters and eagles.

"One of the reasons it's on the list this year is because of a proposal that's now been put forward to try and mitigate or repair the damage," he said. "We're trying to highlight that and generate funding for that, because we believe it's really important that that project go ahead."

That proposal calls for explosives to be used to create a new salmon channel over two to five years at a cost of $200,000 per year. The council is asking for the federal and provincial governments to pay for that work.

Until a more permanent solution is developed, the fish are being carried around the blockage by hand, a solution Angelo calls "unsustainable."

Other rivers that made the list this year are the Cowichan River, Shawnigan Creek, the Thompson River, the Peace River and the Skeena Estuary.

With files from On The Coast

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Damming, water extraction climate change, more: threats to B.C.'s rivers listed