Group says salmon will be easy prey under new Johnson Street Bridge lights
The delayed and problem-plagued Johnson Street Bridge replacement is only weeks away from opening, but a local group is shining a spotlight on another potential issue – this time, with salmon.
The Gorge Watershed Advocacy Group is putting the spotlight on the new bridge's blue and white lights that will illuminate the Inner Harbour.
The group argues the bright colours will light up salmon heading upstream to lay their eggs in the Colquitz River, making them easy targets for seals.
"It will attract the predators, the marine predators, to the fish that are trying to pass underneath," said advocate Dorothy Chambers. "There's absolutely no benefit to lighting the water here. It's only going to increase the predation on the fish that live here."
At least one Victoria councillor agrees.
"It's the downtown, there is going to be light pollution, but when we're adding new lights that could be directly impacting the wildlife, I think it's something we need to be aware of and make sure we're finding solutions for," said Coun. Jeremy Loveday.
It's an issue that has come up in Courtenay, where for years people have blamed a diminishing salmon return on lights on the Fifth Street Bridge.
At one point, seals known to frequent the waters below the bridge were culled to try to fix the problem.
Studies out of Washington State show chinook salmon are attracted to Bridge 520 that lights up Lake Washington.
Jonathan Huggett, the project director for the Johnson Street Bridge replacement, insists the lights aren't another blunder on the over-budget and long-delayed project.
"I think the easiest way is let's find out when the sensitive times are, let's turn the lights off for those few days when they're at it," said Huggett. "I don't think it's going to be a big issue at all."
After Loveday raised his concerns at a committee of the whole meeting last week, city engineers have been tasked with looking at potential solutions.
Meanwhile, the Gorge Watershed group say they hope the bright lights never even get turned on.
"I think that it's dead in the water. I'm surprised that this is still even on the table for planning," said Chambers.