fish dreams 

Fish heads The water flowing through the River of Golden Dreams has cleared up, but a B.C. Ministry of Environment investigation into a construction mishap last Friday is underway. Construction crews were installing a water main roughly 100 metres upstream of Highway 99 across from the Meadow Park Recreation Centre when a system designed to divert river water around the construction area failed, greatly increasing the siltation levels in the river water. The water main was being installed by the developer of the Nicklaus North Golf Course to connect the near- complete facility to municipal services. Early this week, Ian Fairweather, president of the Whistler Angling Club was wondering why the municipality is spending time and money to study — and possibly enhance — the fishery potential of the River of Golden Dreams, while the impact from development — often cited as one of the reasons for the decline of the once-famous local angling — still threatens fragile fish bearing habitat. "I will be filing a complaint with the Ministry of Environment on behalf of the Whistler Angling Club," Fairweather says. "I seriously question the effect of the silt going down the river… it's unacceptable." An official with the Ministry of Environment, has directed Squamish Conservation officers to investigate the complaint. If a problem is found the ministry could proceed with a stop work order against the golf course. Rob Miller, assistant engineer with the RMOW public works department, says the incident occurred Friday afternoon when the water main was being dug into the stream bed. An apparent electrical problem lead to the inability of a pumping system to divert river flows. Temporary upstream and downstream dams were breached and silt levels downstream increased. "A lot of silt was stirred up and mixed with water and got carried downriver for approximately five hours," says Miller who was monitoring the in-stream work for the municipality. Miller says the work was being conducted with permission of the Water Management Branch of the Ministry of Environment, who grant permission for in-stream work during a short, late summer window when resident fish have finished spawning. The "section 7" approval also requests the presence of an environmental monitor during the in-stream work. The municipality has obtained a section 7 approval for work it is doing in or near the river as they widen the Highway 99 bridge over the River of Golden Dreams. Dave Williamson, of Whistler's GeoAlpine Environmental Consulting, was doing the on-site monitoring for Nelson Environmental Consulting. He says a week of preparation was done prior to the in-stream work and he is waiting for data back from water quality tests done after the accident before filing a report with the municipality and the Ministry of Environment. "We don't know to what extent the problem will be, if any," Williamson says. Pique Newsmagazine has been publishing numbers of fish caught in traps at 21 Mile Creek, The River of Golden Dreams fish weir and Crabapple Creek. According to numbers from previous editions of Pique, 500 Rainbow Trout have been trapped and released at the River of Golden Dreams fish weir — upstream of Friday's incident. A number of the larger fish have been tagged to monitor their spawning patterns in the Alta and Green Lake systems. The municipality has hired Fisheries Technician Lucyna Krzesinska to compile an inventory of data on Whistler's fishery. Krzesinska also submitted recommendations for future fieldwork — the River of Golden Dreams was one of three local creeks recommended for fish habitat fieldwork this fall. Meanwhile, Fairweather says he will be asking Angling Club members and the municipality to file complaints with the Ministry of Environment over potential habitat damage following Friday's incident.

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