Water in the Colquitz River system turned brown Thursday, May 2 following a spill of warm, sediment-rich water. (Submitted)

Province continues to investigate Saanich’s Horticultural Centre of the Pacific

Investigation stems from May 2 incident that turned Colquitz River ‘chocolate brown’

It remains uncertain whether a Saanich non-profit had the necessary permits to perform work responsible for a spill into a local salmon-bearing river already facing various strains.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is investigating whether the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific (HCP) had the “appropriate permits” under the Water Sustainability Act to remove a beaver dam on Thursday, May 2.

“The ministry continues to investigate,” said Dawn Makarowski, public affairs officer, with the Ministry. “It is difficult to determine when it will be complete.”

RELATED: Provincial government investigates Horticultural Centre of the Pacific in Saanich over water spill

Various public and private authorities have deemed the removal of the dam responsible for triggering a spill of warm, sediment-rich water into the Colquitz River from a weir part and parcel of the HCP.

Deborah Donahue, HCP’s general manager, said in an email to the Saanich News earlier this month that the centre performed what she called “regular maintenance of the weir,” including “removing the debris to keep the waterway clear and allow the weir to do its job and the fish to make it upstream.”

Donahue did not respond to questions about whether HCP had permission to perform the work.

Ian Bruce, executive director of the Peninsula Streams Society, said he witnessed the river turn “chocolate brown” on Thursday, May 2. Students from Royal Oak middle school were releasing Coho fry into the river at the Wilkinson Road and Lindsay Avenue when the level of the river suddenly rose four inches in height, said Bruce, whose organization hosted the students.

“The clear, slow moving water became chocolate brown with sediment, and began rushing by,” he said. Its temperature rose from 10.8 degree Celsius to 18.5 degree Celsius, while the level of dissolved oxygen dropped by more than half, he added.

Bruce said the spill could lead to the failure of future salmon runs.


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