The closure of Eurocan has forced a change in steelhead rearing at the Kitimat River Hatchery.
When the pulp and paper mill went down a year ago, the hatchery lost its supply of hot water.
“It helped us in three ways, it heated all our buildings, we gave it to the fish for fish culture purposes, and we also, in the winter months, dumped it in front of our river intake screens,” explained Markus Feldhoff, acting manager of the Kitimat River Hatchery.
Dealing with the loss of heat in the buildings was relatively easily, first with propane heaters and a backup boiler, more recently by switching to natural gas.
But there was no such quick fix when it came to the steelhead.
The well water used by the hatchery is consistently 8C. However, by mixing in hot water from Eurocan it was able to take the temperature up to 12C, and that is what the steelhead were raised in.
As a result of the higher temperature, the hatchery was able to raise steelhead to smolt size in just one year - in the wild they take three to five years to grow to that size.
The hatchery will now attempt to raise the steelhead smolts over a two year program.
But this has not been successful elsewhere for unknown reasons.
The hatchery must also use more well water now. Two additional wells have been dug and are undergoing testing to ensure adequate water production. It is expected they will be operational by the summer.