History

 
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The Coquitlam River watershed is one of many watersheds found on the north shore of the Lower Mainland Region. This watershed was shaped by forces of glaciation 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. The Coquitlam River watershed is a typical example of the watershed in the region. The Lower Coquitlam River watershed, below the Coquitlam Lake Dam, includes at least 30 watercourses. The two largest tributaries of the Coquitlam River are Or Creek with a catchment area of approximately 22 sq km and the Hoy/Scott/Pinnacle Creek catchment area totalling approximately 17.5 sq km.

Human activity has significantly impacted the Coquitlam River over the last century starting with:

The erection of the dams firstly for water supply in 1904, then power generation in 1914 for the growing communities on the Lower Mainland which effectively cut off spawning and rearing habitat for salmon in the upper part of the river. Sockeye were extirpated circa 1913.
Remaining salmon populations have also suffered great instability over the last century due to industrial activities and urban development. The natural characteristics of the lower watershed have been altered over time as urban development proceeded. A significant portion of the watershed’s drainage is now carried in the storm drain system, which eventually empties into open watercourses.

During the 1950’s, gravel removal activities began to take place both in and along the Coquitlam River. From this time period until the mid 1960’s it was common practice for industry and government agencies to remove gravel directly from the river. These activities were principally responsible for the destruction of the main pink and chum spawning beds. The direct destruction of the salmon spawning grounds did not stop until the B.C. Gravel Removal Order came into effect in 1965.
Commercial logging was active for most of the 1900s. While logging was a less significant impact to the river than were other mentioned activities, present day instability issues, and consequent pulse sediment loadings of Or Creek to Coquitlam River upon heavy precipitation events, can largely be attributed to previous logging activity in the Or Creek watershed.

Despite these major impacts, the fish stocks have managed to persevere and are showing some signs of improvement. Improved logging and mining practices, urban planning and environmental stewardship are contributing to a healthier urban river. Of particular note is the limited return of sockeye salmon to the Coquitlam River for the first time in 100 years. This success is the result of a joint initiative by the Kwikwetlem First Nation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Metro Vancouver, BC Hydro, and stewardship groups. Further work is ongoing on re-establishing the sockeye run and incorporating fish passage facilities over the dam.

The Coquitlam River watershed is part of the traditional territory of the Kwikwetlem First Nation. The Kwikwetlem First Nation members live on the Coquitlam River and are working hard to restore their culture, traditions and livelihood, all of which depend on a healthy Coquitlam River.

 
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Our Roundtable Watershed Coordinator can be reached at coordinator@coquitlamriverwatershed.ca

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