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Volunteers plan to restore coho runs destroyed by historic Quadra cannery

Quadra Islanders want to save a popular patch of wetland from development to bring back coho salmon, after their hundred-year absence.

Just south of the Quathiaski Cove village is some of the area’s last natural coastal watershed. Right next to the library, it’s a popular place for locals and visitors to walk in the woods, explore the ravines, and experience the coastal rainforest. Hand-carved benches, art, and signs have been placed throughout the trail network.

With plans to push through a road and build more homes, some locals want to see the property left alone, and waterways reconnected to the ocean.

Paul Puddy is a director with the Quadra Island Enhancement Society. He says there are other places around the village to develop, and the watershed will come back to life if salmon are allowed to return.

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On Friday Puddy took a small group to walk through the wetland property, which is filled with gullies and ravines which once carried water runoff from the lands above, holding it in small ponds and swamps, where it percolated down to Quathiaski Cove. But after more than a century of development, ancient waterways have been blocked and diverted, streams have changed, and salmon no longer come up the creek to spawn, like they do elsewhere on the Island.

“If I’m up on Hyacinthe Bay Creek, I see eagles and beavers and raccoons and ravens and everything is there eating, because it’s a feast time,” he said. “You won’t see an eagle, you won’t see anything in this place. And the difference is simply that there are no fish.”

Nearby, a hundred-year-old dam on Pidcock Creek which once served a salmon cannery still blocks coho from travelling upstream. Puddy and others believe removing it will be an important first step to restoring the island’s coho population, which never recovered since the cannery days.

The cannery floor at the Quathiaski Cove cannery circa 1935. From Museum at Campbell River

The dam was built in 1923 to hold water for the growing cannery, built in 1904 by the Pidcock brothers and once an economic powerhouse for Quadra and Campbell River. Coho salmon were not economically significant for the cannery compared to sockeye, and no one at the time thought twice about blocking and destroying their habitat.

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Photos and remnants from the cannery are on display at the Campbell River museum. It burned down in 1941 and was never rebuilt.

However the dam remains. Puddy with the Quadra Island Salmon Enhancement Society and Lauren Miller with the Pidcock Creek Restoration Society recently spoke to the Strathcona Regional District board, asking them to work with locals to develop a plan to protect the watershed.

“Our hope is that the SRD and the community can work together to guide development in Quathiaski Cove, giving waterways the prominent role they deserve,” said Puddy and Miller in their presentation to the board. “Sustainability is key to successful renewal of our OCP (Official Community Plan) and this is a perfect place to start.”


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