For the last six years, Dustin Snyder and his father Alan, would go out to Cross Creek, a tributary to Babine Lake, before spawning season to clear out debris from two culverts. The reason is because the clogged culverts were blocking salmon from travelling through the stream.
Each year, they would clear the debris, and try to divert the water to another perched culvert to try to help with passage, but they knew more needed to be done.
Dustin decided to reached out to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI), along with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and Lake Babine Nation (LBN) about the issue. Thanks to his efforts, the three organizations convened to complete the installation of two new culverts with open bottoms, making the area completely passable for adult and juvenile salmon.
As a result of the project, which took place in August of 2021 the enumeration on the creek is over 900 salmon for the year, compared to just 127 in 2020 according to the LBN fisheries department.
“I have volunteered in conservation projects for many years, most fish or salmon related. Often, the issues are very complex, needs many partners and take years to complete,” said Dustin, who works as Director of Stock Rebuilding Programs for the Spruce City Wildlife Association in Prince George
“From my view, this was was some low hanging fruit, a problem with a simple solution and many who stand to gain. Having said that, it takes some pushing sometimes to get a project to move, one cannot stand by and assume that it will be taken care of because you sent an email or signed an online petition.”
Though he was a self proclaimed conversation starter on the project, Dustin knows that it took collaboration from many different sources to get it done.
“There are multiple project partners on this, including the Canadian Wildlife Federation, DFO, LBN, B.C. Parks, other in-kind and funding from MOTI environmental restoration programs and the joint provincial and federal B.C. salmon restoration and innovation fund,” said Sean Wong, senior biologist for the MOTI.
“I first became aware about the fish passage concern for Cross Creek from LBN who initially expressed concerns. For my part, I was involved for environmental and fisheries technical components and also for the main field delivery of the new open bottom arch assembly for construction.”
According to Wong, the overall project cost $600,000, which included a habitat assessment by LBN, a site survey by DFO, as well as design, planning and installation.
“For these types of project the goal is to provide as close as possible to restored fish passage as to what would occur in a naturalized stream section. I think without the work this summer, including the temporary bypass channel, this healthy salmon escapement would largely have been blocked by the previous culvert configuration because the low flows would have exacerbated passage,” said Wong.
For Dustin, impacting change for the good of the salmon population was the driving force behind bringing awareness the necessary people to get this project off its feet.
“It took some on the ground work and reminding the right people ‘this is still a problem’. Many people rely or like to take part in fishing, and sockeye is a fantastic and healthy food source that gets people into nature and connects them with the resource. In order to continue to enjoy that though, we need to meet that resource in the middle and protect it at the same time so that future generations can continue to enjoy its benefits.”