May 8, 2012
TSOLUM RIVER CONSERVATION GROUP HONOURED BY PACIFIC SALMON FOUNDATION
From left to right: Brian Riddell, President & CEO, Pacific Salmon Foundation; Jack Minard, Executive Director, Tsolum River Restoration Society; Wayne White, Founding President, Tsolum River Restoration Society; George Hungerford, Director and Founding Chairman, Pacific Salmon Foundation; E.L. (Ned) Pottinger, Chairman, Pacific Salmon Foundation. Photo by Sam Chua, Sam Chua Photography
VANCOUVER – The Tsolum River Restoration Society has received the 2012 Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Hungerford Award. The award, named in honour of the Foundation’s founding chairman, Olympic rower and Vancouver community leader George Hungerford, recognizes and rewards exemplary efforts in Pacific salmon conservation and restoration.
The Tsolum River Restoration Society has been on the forefront of cleaning and restoring the river that was named British Columbia’s “most threatened” river in 1999. The river is downstream of a copper mine that operated for four years on Mount Washington. After its abandonment in 1967, the mine continued to leach toxic chemicals into the Tsolum River and two of its tributaries for more than 40 years. But, due to the efforts of the Tsolum River Restoration Society’s volunteers and partners, the once declared “dead” river is now seeing coho and pink salmon return once again.
In 2003, the Tsolum River Restoration Society took initiative and formed the Tsolum River Partnership, a unique collaboration to reduce copper pollution in the Tsolum River. This partnership included community volunteers and First Nations, TimberWest Forest Corporation, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, British Columbia Ministries of Environment as well as Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Pacific Salmon Foundation, Mining Association of British Columbia, Natural Resources Canada, NVI Mining, and Environment Canada.
Volunteers have been the backbone of the group’s success. In making the award announcement, the Foundation highlighted the important contribution of the late Bob Hager, who passed away last year. Hager made significant financial investments during the early days of the clean-up effort. This inspired the provincial government to invest $4.25 million to cover the mine with a protective lining to prevent further copper from leaching into the Tsolum River.
“Instead of fish avoiding the Tsolum River because of copper toxicity, we have now cleaned the water to the point that fish will again return to it,” said Jack Minard, executive director of the Tsolum River Restoration Society. “In 2009, 40,000 pink salmon returned to the Tsolum while cutthroat trout populations improved, and more coho have been observed in the river since 1999.”
Minard has observed that capping the mine has improved water quality in the Tsolum. Copper contamination from the mine site has decreased by 77 per cent and water quality goals set for the river were met for the first time in 2010. In addition, aquatic insect populations, an important food supply for Pacific salmon and trout, have once again returned to the Tsolum River, leading the way for the return of larger populations of fish.
The restoration was not easy and required the commitment of many people and the collaboration of numerous groups. In 2002, the Tsolum River Partnership took on the final push to remediate the mine leaching and to recover Pacific salmon. The importance of the partnership and successful implementation of the remediation project won the Society the Premier’s Award for Innovation in Partnerships in 2010/2011.
About the Pacific Salmon Foundation:
The Pacific Salmon Foundation was created in 1987 as an independent, non-government, charitable organization to protect, conserve and rebuild Pacific Salmon populations in British Columbia and the Yukon. The Foundation’s mission is to be the trusted voice for conservation and restoration of wild Pacific salmon and their ecosystems and works to bring salmon back stream by stream through the strategic use of resources and local communities. www.psf.ca
About the Tsolum River Restoration Society:
The Tsolum River Restoration Society is a volunteer-run charitable organization that promotes sustainable stewardship of the Tsolum River Watershed and protects its river from activities that may damage to health of its ecosystem. The Society fully engages the community, agencies, industry, governments, experts, funders and its members to promote the river’s existing infrastructure, enhance Pacific salmon stocks, and improve water quality for the wildlife of the Tsolum River Watershed. www.tsolumriver.org