Volunteers Chris Bos and Barrie Goodwin show off a spawned out male coho salmon at the fish counting fence on the Colquitz river by Tillicum Mall last year

Volunteers Chris Bos and Barrie Goodwin show off a spawned out male coho salmon at the fish counting fence on the Colquitz river by Tillicum Mall last year

Saanich lauds volunteers for environmental work

Chris Bos doesn’t work to protect the Colquitz River for recognition. Neither do Barrie Goodwin and Dorothy Chambers.

Chris Bos doesn’t work to protect the Colquitz River for recognition. Neither do Barrie Goodwin and Dorothy Chambers.

But when a home heating tank leaked 1,000 litres of oil into the salmon-bearing watershed last November, the decade of labour the volunteers had put in was publicized, as all their work was  potentially in jeopardy.

It’s been seven months since the spill, which saw dozens of Coho die as they returned to the river to spawn, but Bos says despite the damage, the outlook is “fairly positive” for the river.

“We’re seeing life all along the creek,” he said. “Nature has a remarkable ability to bounce back. From the perspective of the Coho, their life cycle is like a five-year period, so it’s difficult to say whether there was any real big impact there or not. But right now it’s basically good news to pass on.”

Bos, Goodwin and Chambers were recognized by Saanich council on Monday with an environmental award for biodiversity conservation.

“It’s a way to honour those people that go above and beyond and do it for completely unselfish reasons. They do it for the greater good of the community, of Saanich, of other people, and I’m sure they do it for supreme enjoyment, too,” said Coun. Vicki Sanders, who chairs the environmental advisory committee. “I think it’s good to honour people who are being good environmental role models.”

“I’m very honoured to have the spotlight put on us for the work that’s being done. It’s not done for the pat on the back, but it’s always nice to be recognized,” Bos said. “It makes those winter mornings when you’re standing in the cold a little nicer.”

Also honoured Monday night were Judith Carder (individual citizen); Konukson Park Weedy Whackers (volunteer organizations); Heritage Office Furnishings Victoria Ltd. (business/commercial); Ecole Marigold elementary (youth/school group); Rex Welland (posthumous long-term achievement); and Copperfield Village (sustainability).

Bos is positive about the future of the creek, but it may be five years before they know if there are longer-term impacts.

He says fewer juvenile salmon were seen leaving the Colquitz in the spring than in year’s past, but adds that observation could be because the fish may have left earlier in the spring than usual.

He’s also noticed, anecdotally, that there are fewer crayfish and herons on the Colquitz, but he can’t say for sure whether that is attributable to the spill.

“There could be hundreds of reasons for these unusual events, but they don’t necessarily line up and point to the oil spill. There will be consequences if you put oil in a pristine environment,” Bos said. “You can’t have them in highly polluted environment – but Coho are amazingly resilient.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com