The virtual public engagement process for the proposed passive weir on Endako River concluded in the last week of June and a report on the results has been released by the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance (UFFCA).
Most public engagement to date was conducted online via surveys and webinars. A hybrid in-person/online session was held with members of the Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation (Burns Lake Band) after relevant COVID restrictions were lifted.
A total of 113 people participated in the engagement process of this project, between 65 completed surveys and 49 engagement session participants. 49 of these participants self-identified as lakeshore property owners, “indicating a high proportion of qualified objectors” included in the engagement sessions.
The idea of a weir on the Endako river was first proposed in 1990’s when Dennis Ableson, a fish biologist working in the area, began studying the sub-population of Chinook that spawn where Shovel Creek meets the Endako. His findings, along with data from the UFFCA’s research, have shown a serious decline in these Chinook.
In 2003, the weir was proposed by the Burns Lake Band was met with opposition and concern from the community members at that time and the weir project was shelved.
In June, the UFFCA brought back the weir idea with modifications and opened its doors to public engagement. Around 68 per cent of the participants showed concern over the decreasing populations of salmon. When asked about the increase in average water levels, which is the primary change that could affect residents, 37 per cent respondents believe that the project will affect them significantly. However, when asked to clarify their concerns, 40 per cent of respondents indicated concerns over issues that the project has no bearing on, such as high-water levels. 34 per cent believe that the project would have no impact or a positive impact while 22 per cent indicated concerns over loss of shoreline or erosion related to the project’s potential impacts.
The erosion-related concern was also expressed by the village Mayor and council during a council meeting. They also wondered how the passive weir would impact the municipal wastewater infrastructure. UFFCA has now commissioned two reports in the hopes of addressing these concerns and will present the findings to the village by mid-July.
According to the public engagement report, based on the population of Burns Lake, the sessions and survey reached over six per cent potential stakeholders. However, with internet connectivity being a factor in people not being able to attend the virtual sessions and restrictions loosening, UFFCA has decided to hold additional in-person engagement sessions.
While a date on the in-person engagement session is undecided, UFFCA has said it will likely be held by mid-July.