According to Cindy Verbeek, project coordinator for Bulkley A Rocha Project, it may be “too optimistic” to say phase two construction of Houston’s watershed stewardship facility will start in 2019.
The Buck Creek Canfor Hatchery, a hub for conservation, research and education located near the confluence of Buck Creek and the Upper Bulkley River, has been operational since September 2017.
Phase two construction involves expanding the facility – making it a 40 by 30 foot building – which would allow for the creation of a Nature Centre and an Environmental Education Centre.
Although the initial cost estimates for phase two were around $150,000, Verbeek now believes the project will cost approximately $250,000.
“Once we have exact numbers we will be pursuing granting opportunities and begin approaching local businesses and individuals,” she said, adding that exact numbers are just days away.
In addition to pursuing funding for construction, Verbeek said the Upper Bulkley River Streamkeepers will also need funding for operation costs, which will be roughly $20,000 per year.
“We have only secured $10,000 of that,” she said. “Operation budgets are extremely hard to fund.”
A difficult year to catch salmon
Verbeek said that although 2018 was a busy year at the Houston hatchery, it was also full of challenges.
“Catching coho salmon proved to be difficult this year even with all the equipment and countless volunteer hours,” she explained. “There just weren’t any fish to be found.”
“Thankfully we were able to get one female and three male in the end that have become our broodstock for this year’s hatchery activities,” she continued. “She was a very small fish, so egg numbers were low and the fertility was not great.”
The goal was to raise 10,000 eggs, but the hatchery ended up with just over 1,000 eggs by the end of 2018.
“Although we did not reach our goal, we improved from last year in that last year we were not able to get any fish from our watershed and ended up raising coho from Toboggan creek, which meant we couldn’t release them here in Houston,” said Verbeek. “So this year we do have fish from our watershed, and even though they are low numbers we can still release them into Buck Creek.”
“Little steps and each year is getting better,” she added.
In addition to the difficulty in catching coho salmon, Verbeek said there were also unexpected costs in 2018, and less donations overall.
“The milk tank that we hoped we could use as a chiller for our hatchery turned out to have a leak in it, so we had to purchase a heavy duty chiller to the tune of $6,500 to be able to raise our salmon,” she explained, adding that the cost would’ve been much higher had it not been for a donation by Boulder Creek Heating & Cooling.
“We were also able to put in a well at the last minute just before the snow flew to provide an alternate source of clean water for the fish, but did not have time to fundraise for that, meaning we had another $5,500 one-time cost that we were not anticipating.”
Hatchery supports local economy
According to Verbeek, the Buck Creek Canfor Hatchery not only supports wildlife, but also the local economy.
“As much as possible, sources for supplies and labour are found locally, meaning that the majority of money raised also goes back into our amazing community,” she said. “We have had visitors from Edmonton, Prince George, Surrey and Smithers, all meaning that as they explore our town they also contribute to the economy with their dollars.”
“We have been so thrilled with the enthusiasm and generosity of Houston residents and businesses with this project,” she added. “It is something we can all be proud of.”