The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) in the Columbia region is a partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., First Nations and public stakeholders whose main purpose is to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams.
The National Resource Professionals (NRP) started in 1999 to replace nutrients that would otherwise into the reservoir but are trapped upstream by dams. The nutrient additions are intended to support the food chain, starting with micro-organisms, and lead up to kokanee and piscivorous (fish eating) bull and rainbow trout. However, managing the NRP can be a challenging prospect. That management falls to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), which is also responsible for setting fishery objectives and managing freshwater fisheries across the province. To support the Arrow Lakes Reservoir fishery, the FWCP provides funding for both the NRP and the Hill Creek Spawning Channel (HCSC). The FWCP funds approximately 75 per cent of the annual cost of the NRP in Arrow Lakes Reservoir while Columbia Power Corporation provides the remaining 25 per cent.
In the years following the start of the NRP, angling results for larger rainbow trout, bull trout and kokanee biomass has increased compared to the pre-nutrient addition period. However, angling results in more recent years have been relatively poor.
The challenge is that the Arrow Lakes Reservoir is a huge and complex system, with many variables and large volumes of water flowing through it.
“Ensuring optimal uptake of nutrients will continue to be a challenge,” said FLNRO fisheries biologist Marley Bassett, who coordinates the NRP in the Arrow Lakes Reservoir.
While the NRP is believed to be improving the overall productivity of the entire reservoir food chain, productivity fluctuations and cycles can be seen in historical data.
Ultimately, decisions regarding the program are made by the FLNRO — they are responsible for fisheries management objectives across the Province, including the Arrow Lakes Reservoir. The FWCP does not set management objectives and does not manage the fisheries.
There has been confusion over where the responsibility lies, said Trevor Oussoren, Program Manager, Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program – Columbia. “We work very closely with FLNRO and it is one of our program partners alongside BC Hydro, First Nations and public stakeholders. In fact we have a long-term agreement with FLNRO to deliver many of the fish and wildlife projects that we fund, including the Nutrient Restoration Program on the Arrow Lakes Reservoir.”
The FWCP strives to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams. The Board, with local decision-making, works closely with a variety of partners to ensure that the funds received from BC Hydro are carefully allocated in order to maximize the benefits for fish and wildlife.