Please find enclosed my submission to your commission.
A Submission to the Cohen Commission
While it is my understanding that you are inquiring into
the health of the Fraser River sockeye, I would like you, for the
moment, to direct your attention back to the beginning, back to the
Adams River and Shuswap Lake. Things that happen here or do not
happen here, will very much affect the salmon and your deliberations.
History has placed me at the origins of the sockeye
salmon run. I live about one kilometer from the mouth of the Adams River, am a member of the Salmon Society and for the past five years have been active in Shuswap Lake and its affairs. My wife and I write a newspaper column for Salmon Arm AM called, â€œLake Life,â€ in addition to my freelance radio spots on CHNL (Kamloops). Five years ago, we
created a video entitled, â€œWater, Water, Everywhere,â€ that captured local citizens reaction to lake dumping in any form. They unamously rejected such practice.
Three years ago, as a member of the Shuswap Lake Coalition, a local volunteer group, I was asked to attend a meeting at Three Buoys Houseboats in Sicamous. Their Operations Manager, Howie Cyr, invited myself and another Coalition member to participate
in a gathering to discuss the cessation of dumping grey water into the Mara and Shuswap Lakes. Grey water was coming from houseboats operated by Three Buoys, Waterway and Twin Anchors Houseboats, all located in Sicamous. The prohibition against dumping grey water had been on the Provincial Government books for 30 years, but had never been enforced.
Also present at the meeting were representatives of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the Ministry of the
Environment. Despite some dissenting voices from some of the other houseboat companies, by the end of the meeting, they had agreed to stop dumping grey water into these lakes by 2010.
As you might know, grey water is the generic term used for water that comes from hot tubs, kitchen sinks and showers found
on houseboats. Every day during the summer and early fall, these untreated â€œwaters,â€ are simply dumped into our lakes from some 250 to 300 rental houseboats, as well as private houseboats sold by these companies and now owned by individuals. Both these lakes are sources of drinking water for the surrounding population.
Specifically, these dumped waters contain harmful chemicals from soaps and cleaners, pharmaceuticals from prescription drugs as well as surfactants, the active ingredients found in soaps. The inclusion of these materials in all forms of water has caused mal formed fish and fish that change their gender from male to female. The conclusion drawn here, is that continued use of these materials will reduce or impede the natural birth and life of salmon and therefore limit the number and health of these fish that find their way to the Pacific each year. Such a practice of dumping grey water
has been illegal in the United States for several years.
It was therefore with some considerable dismay that we found out a week ago, the houseboat industry has been told it can
keep dumping grey water into these lakes for another year, perhaps more. This information came in a memo from Neale Waters, a Ministry
of Environment employee stationed in Kamloops, apparently on order from Environment Minister Barry Penner. It is our understanding that the companies, who promised to cease dumping grey water by this spring, approached the minister and the Regional District with this request. The public was informed after the decision was made.
Our appearance before this inquiry, is motivated by what we consider a breech of trust promised by these companies and the
Minister of the Environment. While involved in the beginning process three years ago, we were not asked to be a part of the discussion that led to the abandoning of this goal, but were informed by memo
without right to redress. While the public and water consumers around these lakes were similarly informed, the minister and his officials as well, have left them out of this decision.
Therefore, not only is the process misplaced or mishandled, but also the decision itself lacks good understanding of the environmental factors involved that will have a negative effect on both fish and humans.
Our second reason for appearing before you is the apparent disregard for the very origins of salmon. Born and hatched in the Adams River, the most prolific hatching grounds in North America, they spend the first year of their lives in Shuswap
Lake. Not four hundred meters from the Adams River outfall and hatching watercourses, a development has been established by a
Kamloops resident. It is his intention to establish not only beachfront property of several hundred units, but to allow boats to be moored on the adjacent shoreline. To this end, he has placed seventy buoys in the waters directly across from the outfall of the Adams River, buoys for which he has no permission, but nevertheless remain there. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans seems unavailable or incapable of removing these buoys or indeed, asserting their authority.
Underneath these buoys lie the lake trout, waiting for the salmon fingerlings that exit the river and in their first and formative months of life, use the shallow waters of the Shuswap to wend their way into the life of the lake. Along with the natural
disruption caused by motor craft comes the inevitable gas and oil that will be spilled in the adjacent waters, gas and oil which will kill or disfigure any fish they come in contact with. Despite rallies, letters of protest to M.Pâ€™s, MLAâ€™s and constant urgings, the Regional District and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well
as the Ministry of the Environment has turned a blind eye to this development allowing yet another nail in the coffin of the sockeye. This is our signature species of this province, a keystone species
that feeds bears, eagles and other wildlife while replenishing the land with needed minerals. If this is the keynote species, this land and water is where that life-giving cycle begins.
The destruction of this species, the destruction of these birthing grounds will surely mean the end of sockeye salmon and
likely some or many of its allied species. That destruction is now well underway and must be stopped. Examining the causes of salmon decline in the Fraser without any mention of the problems and issues
facing the salmon fry is like trying to define a salmon by examining one fin of the fish. Impossible.
We are connected, all of us. From Adams River to Shuswap Lake to Little River to Little Shuswap Lake to the South Thompson to the Thompson to the Fraser to Vancouver and the Pacific we form an unbroken chain if life. We ask you not only to protect the Fraser, but also ask you to look to the origins of these waters, to the origins of the sockeye here in the Adams and Shuswap Lake. They and we need your wisdom. Thank you for listening.