Aug 28, 2014
At first, the morning of August 4th seemed like any other; I woke up in my new apartment, having only just moved to Vancouver from Prince George to begin my new job as a Fraser Riverkeeper. Checking the morning news, just like I did every other morning, a disturbing headline caught my eye: "Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach called an environmental disaster". A dam holding back the tailings pond for Mount Polley Gold and Copper Mine had breached, sending as much as 80 million cubic meters of mining waste surging through Hazeltine Creek into Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake, a part of the Fraser watershed. The news sank into my gut like a stone; I knew that more than 70 million sockeye salmon were about to make their journey up the Fraser to spawn. I'd heard that it was believed up to a quarter of the Fraser River sockeye pass through Quesnel Lake on their way to their ancestral streams. How would this spill affect their ability to reach their home waters to spawn? I had to find out. Asking Lake Ontario Waterkeeper Mark Mattson for advice, he suggested that I should "think like a salmon". How would they encounter the spill? It was then that I decided I had to follow the Fraser sockeye's path upriver to learn more about this disaster at its source.