Fish found chopped up in a power plant in Banff National Park have Parks Canada demanding TransAlta come up with a better system to protect fish.
Up to 20 dead suckers were found in the Cascade River, downstream of the TransAlta power plant near Banff last summer, and the federal agency is now waiting to hear from the electrical company this month on planned mitigations.
Parks Canada officials say some of the fish were found “munched up and in pieces”, while others were still intact, but dead.
They say TransAlta has been asked to conduct monitoring to assess the scale of the problem, and to look for any signs that this is continuing to happen.
“Fish dying is not acceptable, so we’ve been working with TransAlta to try to come up with mitigations,” said Bill Hunt, the new resource conservation manager for Banff National Park.
“We need something that will prevent fish entering that structure. They likely came from Two Jack canal upstream, and would have been killed by moving through the power plant.”
Surveyors working on the Legacy Trail Project last August reported the dead fish. A similar situation was reported to Parks Canada in 2006.
TransAlta officials said they are continuing to work with Parks Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to understand more about the fish community in the area and potential factors that could put fish at risk of harm.
“To that end, we are about to commence a one-year monitoring program that will allow us to more effectively design a solution for any issue, should one be needed,” said Robert Klager, a spokesman for TransAlta.
Hunt said the power plant structure was built in the 1940s. At that time, screens were designed to typically keep large logs out, not small fish.
“By today’s standards you would put in a complicated system of screening that is designed to keep fairly small fish from entering,” he said.
“The trick is you have to design it in such a way that it doesn’t clog up and require a lot of maintenance to keep the screens clean.”
Hunt said TransAlta must also do a flow analysis and a fish inventory in Two Jack Canal to try to figure out what type of improved screen will be required.
He said the electrical company is also being asked to look at the intake facility located between Two Jack Lake and Lake Minnewanka.
“There’s a concern at the end of the canal where we think the fish were killed, but also a concern with how the pump station between Minnewanka and Two Jack works,” he said.
Hunt said he hopes TransAlta will have the requested information by the end of January.
“One of the things I’ll be asking for at that time, depending on what options and timelines they come up with, is if it’s to take a long time, then we’ll look at what we can do sooner,” he said.