Canoeists fight for Columbia River

Four canoeists passed through town last Sunday to raise awareness about the problems that have affected salmon species along the Columbia.

  • Oct. 28, 2013 8:00 a.m.

Four canoeists from Voyages of Discovery, a group that conducts educational expeditions on the Columbia River, passed through Golden last Sunday in an effort to raise awareness about the problems that have affected salmon species along the 2,000 km-long waterway.

With the possibility that the Columbia River Treaty could be terminated or altered in the next 10 years (the B.C. and U.S. Governments are currently reviewing their options and asking for public input), the group is hoping that a new agreement will be friendlier for salmon populations that are currently blocked from spawning up-river because of dams that lack proper passage.

Problem dams include the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington that was completed in 1942, and the Chief Joseph Dam, also in Washington, that was completed in 1955. Currently, entire populations of salmon die off when they attempt to return to the location of their birth in order to spawn.

The group hopes to see the construction of fish ladders at these sites, which would allow the salmon to pass through the dams and spawn further up-river.

Jay Callahan, Adam Wicks Arshack and Xander Demetrios began their lengthy journey at the mouth of the Columbia at the Oregon/Washington border. The expedition started with five different canoes, and the one that took them all the way to Golden was made by the group in about 10 days. The crew paddles about 40-50 km a day and had been paddling for about two months before they arrived in town.

John Malik Zinser was fishing by the river when Callahan, Arshack and Demetrios paddled up to the shore.

“I’m just a traveller, a hitchhiker pretty much,” Zinser laughed. “This is my second canoe expedition this summer… I just said ‘Hey, can I come with you?’.”

Despite his late arrival to the Voyages of Discovery cause, Zinser has seen the benefits of their trip up the river.

“Even just paddling in a small canoe, it has been effective [in spreading the word]. A lot of people that we have met weren’t aware that the salmon were blocked by the dams,” he said.

The paddlers were set to continue along the river until they reached Canal Flats, at which point they will have reached the end of the Columbia. If the weather holds, the crew might just decide to continue their trip.

“If it’s not too cold then maybe we’ll keep going down the Kootenay River back to Castlegar,” Arshack said.

Follow the Voyage of Rediscovery through the group’s blog at www.voyagesofrediscovery.blogspot.ca. For more information on the B.C. government’s review of the Columbia River Treaty, log on to blog.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/.