$500,000 plan for South Surrey hatchery upgrade

For first time, Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club to seek corporate support

Rearing pond at the Little Campbell Hatchery. (Tracy Holmes photo)

A request to replace infrastructure at the Little Campbell Hatchery has Semiahmoo Fish &Game Club members looking at a project that could cost $500,000.

Club president Bob Donnelly said the extensive work was asked of the club by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC about a year ago.

The work was something club members had considered themselves in the past, Donnelly told Peace Arch News. But to comply, “we have to change everything.”

The hatchery is located on 29 acres at 1284 184 St. in South Surrey – land that the 60-year-old club has called home since 1978.

Built in 1984, it consists of rearing tanks, ponds and channels, as well as incubation facilities and settling ponds, all used to raise coho and chinook salmon, as well as cutthroat and steelhead trout.

While Donelly said there has never been a major issue impacting the health of fish at the hatchery, increasing concern over the potential for that as a result of the different species sharing the same water – brought to the forefront by disease concerns in recent years with wild salmon exposed to farmed salmon – is driving the push for change.

“Technically, it could happen,” Donnelly said. “The same source of water flows over three species of fish, sometimes four. If we were a hatchery that just raised chinook and coho until fry stage, we wouldn’t have an issue.”

Plans devised to address the concerns include filling in a pond that is used for coho and installing a series of large tanks on the site that would enable each species to have its own water. The big tanks would also be easier to clean and would provide the fish the “big, circular environment” they seem to prefer, Donnelly said.

The water to each would first be pumped through an upgraded bio-filter system, oxygenated and its ammonia removed.

“That’s the only way we can see to isolate the water,” Donnelly said.

“But it is an expensive proposition.”

The club has been putting aside funds to prepare for the work, which will be a multi-year endeavour undertaken without a break in hatchery operations. Donnelly expects the non-profit organization will have to raise more than $100,000 of the cost.

In what Donnelly says will be a first in the volunteer-run club’s history, corporate support will be sought to help raise the balance.

“We’re going to have to reach out to the community. That’s a big bill that we can’t manage on our own,” he said.

He believes the facility’s history and its success in boosting fish stocks in the Little Campbell River will encourage people and businesses to get on board.

“I think we have a good story to tell,” Donnelly said. “We just need a little bit of help now to keep it going.”