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Oldfield Fish Hatchery proposing $1m move to Port Edward

Salmonoid hatchery closed since 2021 due to damaging landslide
The Oldfield Creek Fish Hatchery proposed a $1 million move to Port Edward on Jan. 24. The organization experienced setbacks with a landslide blocking a salmon spawning stream in September 2021. The hatchery has been closed since. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Port Edward could be the new home to a $1 million rebuild of the Oldfield Creek Fish Hatchery.

The Prince Rupert Salmonid Enhancement Society (PRSES) presented its proposal to reconstruct the hatchery near Wolf Creek at the District of Port Edward council meeting on Jan. 24.

Council approved the project in principle which is the first step in a long process for PRSES to secure the site.

As the property is owned by the district, PRSES will eventually have to sign a lease with the municipality if they decide to go ahead with the new location. The approval in principle, allows the organization to begin moving forward with research into the location.

The proposed parcel of land is just over one kilometre from Port Edward and could draw tourists to the community, Sara Dansereau, researcher and biologist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and a board member at PRSES, said during the presentation.

“I can imagine cruise ships come in, they go to the hatchery, they go to the cannery, just the whole circuit. That whole life cycle of salmon,” she said.

She also spoke about community events PRSES puts on throughout the year that may bring people to Port Edward, including the smolt festival and the potential to develop a trail network around the hatchery.

Wolf Creek supplies water to the District of Port Edward, controlled by a dam.

Knut Bjorndal, mayor of Port Edward, addressed concerns about the hatchery affecting the municipality’s water source.

“In the very long run, if we should get into drought situations, we have the ability to raise the dam by 12 feet,” he said.

“There’s enough water, we just may need to raise the level of the lake.”

In a preliminary budget presented to council, the non-profit roughly estimated the cost of construction at $1 million, with other costs such as getting the necessary permits and application, installing pipelines, hatchery equipment adding an additional $1 to $2 million. The funding will be raised by PRSES.

The hatchery used to be on Wantage Road in Prince Rupert but in September of 2021 there was a landslide after a heavy rainfall, which cut off the hatchery’s access to water and ultimately caused them to shut down. While they originally considered rebuilding the facility at the same location, they changed their mind after a geotechnical assessment showed was a high risk of landslides in the area.

“There had been landslides in the past and they are likely to occur again in the future and could be even more severe,” Dansereau said.

The PRSES board of directors started exploring other options in Prince Rupert and Port Edward. They determined the Wolf Creek location was their best option.

It checks off most of their requirements. It provides access to a good water source, road access is maintained, there is already a gate to the property which will improve security, there is cellular service and the opportunity to have wireless network access.

“Just the fact that they can accommodate the new hatchery footprint we’re looking at and room for buses when they come in for tours … everything a hatchery needs,” Dansereau said.

Some of the next steps for the hatchery include taking water samples at Wolf Creek, researching water supply options and getting the necessary licences.