People from the five northern Secwepemc communities were in Williams Lake Wednesday for an update on the Mount Polley Mine spill.
During a member-only meeting held at the Gibraltar Room, community leaders and members from Williams Lake, Soda Creek, Canim Lake, Canoe/Dog Creek and Esket First Nations heard representatives from the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTQ) Response Team, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Energy and Mines, Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC) and the Quesnel River Research Station share information on their responses to the breach.
In a morning presentation, fisheries biologist Dr. Elmar Plate of LGL Ltd. who is part of the NSTQ response team, said sockeye salmon, some coho, and rainbow trout coming in from Quesnel Lake would normally spawn in Edney and Hazeltine Creeks.
However, Hazeltine was completely scourged during the Aug. 4 mine breach, and will not be available by spring or fall.
For now Hazeltine Creek has been redesigned to stop erosion that is coming from the tailings, Plate said.
Edney Creek was only affected in the lower part so the hope is to reconnect it to the lake so that rainbow trout can spawn in May and June and the salmon can spawn there in the fall.
“Fish may hopefully go ahead and spawn,” Plate said, adding Mark Gaboury, who has experience in creek restoration, has been invited to the spill site a few times and will be brought again in the future to help recreate possible scenarious for Hazeltine Creek to be restored.
“It will never be the same creek obviously, but there were fish spawning in there, beavers in that valley, and we hope one day to have that again,” Plate said.
Environmental consultant Brian Olding, also part of the NSTQ team which represents the Williams Lake Indian Band and Soda Creek First Nation, said the team is a good example in B.C. of two First Nations working with a large corporate entity.
“We’re just about there where we want to be on an equal basis with them,” Olding said. “We’re designing objectives, their designing objectives, we are reviewing these together and that’s the way we intend to be through the rest of this process of restoring everything that’s in that area.”
The main issue from a First Nations point of view is still the unknown toxicity of the tailings, Olding said.
As he pointed to an aerial slide showing the mouth of Hazeltine Creek going into Quesnel Lake, he said the debris extends underwater way to the other side of the lake and probably stands about two to three metres high.