After nearly 100 years, salmon are returning to Colony Farm Regional Park.
In collaboration with the Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project, Metro Vancouver and the Kwikwetlem First Nation, Wilson Farm has undergone numerous habitat enhancements to make the park's current waterways more accessible to young salmon.
The five-year, $4-million endeavour is part of the Colony Farm Habitat Enhancement project and includes the addition of shallow ponds, tide gates, fishfriendly pump stations and more than four kilometres of water channels that improve conditions for fish.
The self-regulating tide gates were installed last November to restore better water flow in and out of Wilson Farm from the Coquitlam and Fraser rivers and help encourage the migration of salmon.
Tidal movements within Wilson Farm keep the water cool, oxygen-rich and full of fish food to mimic the conditions that are similar to natural freshwater estuaries where juvenile salmon stay and rest prior to their departure to the river.
Numerous types of fish including chinook, chum, coho and pink salmon have since returned to the water channels over the last six months and can be seen just off the Traboulay Trail.
"It's important [that salmon have returned] because so much of this type of habitat along the Fraser River system has already been lost to development," said Environment Minister Terry Lake. "Colony Farm provided one of the best opportunities to restore some of that critical habitat."
Native plants have also been added to neighbouring areas to serve as a food source and act as nesting areas for wildlife. The addition of shallow ponds will also benefit native amphibians.
Craig Orr, an environmental advisor for the Kwikwetlem, said the farm has come a long way over the past five years.
"There was almost no water coming down. It was just a trickle," he said. "With the Wilson Farm project and others, no doubt, Coquitlam has made a big difference in improving the prospects [for] both fish and people."
Construction will continue over the next couple of months when crews will install fish-friendly pumps on the farm.
Salmon were a prominent feature of Colony Farm's diverse ecosystem in the 1990s before dikes were constructed to support farming and prevent floods in the area.
Over the next five years, the area will also be monitored to track the effectiveness of habitat changes. As part of the Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project, environmental changes are also coming to Como and Mundy creeks in Coquitlam.