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Impacts of growth in resource use and human population on the Nechako River: A major tributary of the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada

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Abstract

Hydroelectric development, forest exploitation, agricultural land use and related human population numbers have increased rapidly during the last 40 years, in the basin of the Nechako River, a major tributary system of the Fraser River. The Kemano project of the Aluminum Company of Canada Ltd. begun in 1950, was the largest industrial scheme in the area. A key feature of the first stage of it was a dam which diverted about 40% of flow of the south branch of the Nechako River, through a tunnel in the mountains, to the Pacific Ocean. In 1987 an agreement for the Kemano Completion Project (KCP), which would have diverted 87% of the flow, was signed. This final phase of the project would have put important fisheries resources of the upper Fraser River at high risk. Mitigation for fisheries protection were inadequate or untested in the system at the time. Potential cumulative impacts of water abstraction, elevated pollution levels, increased water temperature and natural sediment were not addressed. In January 1995 KCP was cancelled but there remain at present no adequate measures to protect the fish and the river ecosystem. These measures are to be negotiated in the future. Future management of the whole Kemano development must provide biologically realistic flow and temperature regimes in the Nechako River, and must deal with cumulative impacts of population and industrial growth. To achieve ‘sustainability’ of fisheries in the Nechako River and upper Fraser watershed the present approach to the Kemano development must be changed fundamentally. The future of the Kemano development must be set in the context of the whole future of the upper Fraser system. Continued growth and development, as has occurred in the upper Fraser and total basin, can not go on without inimical changes to ecosystem conditions and loss of fisheries resources.

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Hartman, G.F. Impacts of growth in resource use and human population on the Nechako River: A major tributary of the Fraser River, British Columbia, Canada. GeoJournal 40, 147–164 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00222540

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Keywords

  • Cumulative Impact
  • Fishery Resource
  • River Ecosystem
  • Major Tributary
  • Tributary System