The clearing of land that will allow for construction of a new salmon hatchery along the Charters River began Thursday.
A crew from Dave Saunders Enterprises was on site at Charters River Salmon Interpretive Centre on Sooke River Road clearing trees and shrubs for the 5,000-square-foot facility.
The Juan de Fuca Salmon Society and Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society announced plans to build the hatchery last September. The new hatchery will see the closure of the Jack Brooks Hatchery on DeMamiel Creek.
The Sooke Salmon Enhancement Society operated the Jack Brooks Hatchery for more than 40 years, but in recent years dwindling water supplies has made it more difficult to harvest the fish for brood stock.
The Jack Brooks Hatchery has a licence to raise 500,000 springs and 150,000 coho fry every year. A free pen operation also raises upward of 80,000 chinook salmon annually. The Capital Regional District has agreed to increase the Sooke reservoir water supply to the new hatchery, with the hopes of taking the salmon run from 500 to 5,000.
“The clearing of land is the first phase of this exciting project, which is right on track and moving forward,” said Mike Hicks, a spokesman for the hatchery group.
Most of the work for the $1-million project is donated and so far many local businesses have stepped forward, said Hicks, including Dave Saunders Enterprises, Hallgren & Faulkner Lawyers, West Coast Design, District of Sooke, Port Renfrew Marina, Capital Regional District, Arden’s Self Storage, Alpine Enterprises, Butler Brothers, Ian Laing, Elida Peers, Wally Vowels and Bill Pedneault.
“I’m not surprised by the community effort,” Hicks said. “I’m hoping to attract other players now that people see we’re actually doing it.”
The clearing of the land is expected to be completed in a week, and Hicks hopes to have the building slab built by March 1, with construction completed by September – in time for the return of the salmon next fall.