Low water flow in Elgin Creek is leaving salmon heading to spawn in the waterway’s upper reaches stuck downstream.
Larry Ramsell, who has watched the coho make the annual trek through his Crescent Road property for decades, said this week he’s seeing dozens of the fish gathering near the culvert that leads to the higher spawning grounds.
But that’s as far as many of them are getting.
“There’s not enough water coming down the creek and they’re stuck here at my place,” he said Monday. “Forty or 50, just laying there. They’re dying with the eggs in them.”
Water flow in Elgin Creek has been an issue for at least a decade. Prior to 2007, lower reaches of the creek would run dry, threatening the coho populations. To ensure the fish had a fighting chance, Ramsell pumped water from his own property.
In July 2007, the City of Surrey – with the help of funds from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Pacific Salmon Foundation – began pumping water into the creek from an emergency stand-by well in Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest. Flowing at a rate of 30 litres per second, the pump was intended to augment the creek when the water flow was low.
Due to problems with the well’s groundwater-level monitor, the pump hasn’t been on for about a month. While Ramsell has tried to fill the gap, “there’s still not enough flow,” he said. “They can’t get up any more than about a half a mile beyond Crescent Road.”
Carrie Baron, Surrey’s drainage and environment manager, said Wednesday that the well will be fixed in time for the 2012 dry season. The necessary part has been special-ordered, she said.
Noting the pump was never meant for year-round use, Baron said some streamkeepers have grown accustomed to the higher flows it has created and worry when the levels drop.
But the current low-flow is not an emergency, she said.
“Typically, your streams don’t need it now,” she said. “It’s not like the creek’s gone dry. The salmon aren’t going to die if they don’t have this water right now.”
Ramsell, commending the city’s ongoing support, agreed the situation is not dire. But it could be better, he said.
“I think we’ll survive,” he said, noting each salmon that successfully spawns lays about 2,500 eggs. “We’ll probably have quite a few fish for next year.
“But there could be so much more if these guys could get up.”