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Victoria oil spill creates suffocation concerns for Oak Bay salmon project

Bowker Creek sporting a rainbow sheen just ahead of planned planting of thousands of chum eggs

An oil leak in Victoria popping up as a rainbow sheen on Bowker Creek in Oak Bay perfectly illustrates the way a watershed works.

An elevator failed and leaked hydraulic oil that seeped its way into the creek that crosses Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay. Not far from where the sheen appeared, stewards of the creek plan their second foray into hatching baby salmon.

Eldan Goldenberg, a volunteer with Friends of Bowker Creek who coordinates the water quality program, says they test twice a month in the Oak Bay segment of the creek. Three testings sites are near where the group planted 30,000 chum eggs that hatched, with fry swimming off to the sea last spring. They plan to plant another batch in the waters near Monteith allotment gardens this weekend.

The testing they do doesn’t apply to oil, but there are concerns, Goldenberg said.

RELATED: Oak Bay woman tracks Bowker water, temperature levels to keep chum eggs healthy

From January to April or May, someone goes out every day for temperature readings and water level checks where the eggs will go. That person spotted a sheen in the area on Jan. 25. Students from Oak Bay high reported seeing it the day before.

Staff from Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay were on top of it fairly quickly, Goldenberg said.

Absorbent booms Oak Bay staff set out appear to be working. There are, however, some back eddies and nooks where oil pools before slowly returning to the flow.

With plans to place 30,000 eggs on Saturday, that has some watching the waterway closely.

RELATED: Oak Bay society shares thrill of finding fish fry swimming in Bowker

“The biggest issue for the chum eggs we put in is suffocation. It’s mainly about silt – if too much silt accumulates where they are,” Goldenberg said.

Oil can contribute to suffocation, particularly if it remains and coats eggs or the bed they’re placed in.

The water isn’t high at the moment and the group hopes rains predicted for the few days leading up to the egg planting flush out the remaining oil.

RELATED: Out of the streambed gravel comes harbinger of waning pollution in Oak Bay creek


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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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