Warm water results in small fish kill in Barriere River tributary

A small fish kill due to warm water and low flows has been reported in Leonie Creek

Basin Map of drought levels in BC as of July 15

Basin Map of drought levels in BC as of July 15

By Cam Fortems

A small fish kill due to warm water and low flows has been reported in a tributary of the Barriere River as drought conditions continue to worsen throughout B.C.

On a conference call from Victoria last week, provincial officials said most of the province is suffering from remarkably low streams and rivers — conditions typically during a drought in late summer.

The province announced a Level 4 drought rating — the highest — in the south Coast and Lower Fraser regions.

That could lead to orders to drastically curtail or stop withdrawals for some localized water licences.

Closer to home, Kamloops is amid areas of Level 3 in the Nicola, Level 2 in the North Thompson and Level 1 (normal) conditions to the west.

There are no stream closures or major conservation advisories in the Kamloops area, although Leonie Creek, a tributary of the Barriere River, saw a small fish kill from high temperatures and low flows.

Wenda Mason, a manager at the B.C. River Forecast Centre, said much of the province is in the grip of low winter snowpacks combined with a drought and early and continuing high temperatures.

“It’s more typical of late August than mid-July,” she said.

Some regions of the province, as close to Kamloops as Hope, are under severe water restrictions.

But, a city official said the bountiful supply of water in the two rivers flowing into the Tournament Capital means there will not be shortages.

Demand remains below historic highs.

“We’re not using water like we did a few years ago,” utilities service manager Mike Firlotte said.

“It’s hotter and it’s drier, but we’re not seeing that in usage.”

In the South Thompson, it is recommended local users reduce usage by about 20 per cent.

Graphs of Shuswap Lake show it has declined to at least a 13-year low for this time of year.

Fisheries officials warned earlier this week of temperatures reaching as high as 19 C on the Fraser River, conditions that imperil spawning salmon.

Murray Ross, who heads the Secwepemc Fisheries Commission, said staff will meet this week with federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials to plan a monitoring and advisory program in this region to determine fish kill and water temperature on local tributaries.

“We want to make sure we’re out there witnessing this stuff,” he said.

This year is a sub-dominant one for the Adams River salmon run, with several-hundred thousand sockeye forecast to return.

Also at risk is the late-summer sockeye run for Scotch Creek. There is also a salmon run on the North Thompson.

“We’re concerned about all of them,” Ross said.

For trout, provincial fish and wildlife section head Mike Ramsay said streams on the watchlist for possible closure to angling include the Nicola and Coldwater rivers as well as Spius Creek in the Nicola Valley.

In the Similkameen, some streams have reached temperatures of between 22 C and 25 C — considered lethal for fish.

The system is home to eight rare and endangered species. There is little or no rain expected in Kamloops in the next seven days, although some parts of the province are forecast to receive some showers and cooler weather.

Cam Fortems is a reporter for Kamloops This Week.

*Editor’s note: as of July 21 the Nicola Region is now at a Level 4 Drought Condition Rating.