by Wilderness Committee, Pacific Free Press, April 26, 2012
Two days after the Wilderness Committee revealed the controversial Kokish River hydro proposal was going to be built, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) finally officially informed the public with an announcement on a government website.
Kiewit, the contractor for the Kokish River power proposal had started running help wanted ads specifically for the Kokish project in local papers last Friday April 20 days before DFO had made their decision public.
“I am not sure who is in charge when you have a construction firm informing the public before DFO has even issued its approval,” said Gwen Barlee, Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee.
“This is an embarrassing and sad day for DFO and an indication of what we can expect in the future. If DFO can’t protect an important salmon river with two endangered runs of steelhead I don’t think any river is safe from industrial exploitation.”
The contentious 45 MW project has been vehemently opposed by a diverse group of wilderness tourism businesses, fishing and outdoor recreation groups including the BC Wildlife Federation, the Steelhead Society of BC and the BC Federation of Fly Fishers due to the high fish values in the Kokish River.
The Kokish River is located 15 km east of Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. Kwagis Power, owned by Brookfield Renewable Power and the Namgis First Nation, has applied to dam and divert the 11 km river into a 9 km pipe. The BC government signed off on the project in December 2011, but approval from DFO was is needed before construction started.
“DFO has no capacity to oversee this project and will have less capacity in the future once the federal government has finished gutting the Fisheries Act and decimating DFO’s budget,” said Barlee. “On top of it all DFO is aware of considerable non-compliance on operating private power projects and have yet to issue a fine or lay a charge with projects that have repeatedly killed fish. People who care about wild salmon and wild rivers should be very concerned about this approval.”
The Kokish is important habitat for five species of wild salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, Dolly Varden, eulachon as well as endangered runs of summer and winter steelhead. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is on the record stating that the Kokish is a high-value river with a sensitive fish population.
For Immediate Release - April 26, 2012
Gwen Barlee, Policy Director, with the Wilderness Committee
For a list of organizations dedicated to keeping the Kokish wild go to: savethekokish.ca
DFO decision on the Kokish: http://www.ceaa.gc.ca/050/details-eng.cfm?evaluation=46535