Nechako White Sturgeon hatchery opens its doors.

The Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative's hatchery opened its doors in Vanderhoof after nearly a decade of work.

Hatchery manager Cory Williamson

Hatchery manager Cory Williamson

“There is a lot to be proud of today,” – Manager of Power and Reservoir Operations for RTA, Mike Long.

Truer words could not have been spoken of the sentiment felt at the grand opening of Vanderhoof’s recently completed White Sturgeon hatchery.

After almost a decade of work from people throughout the community and at large, the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative (NWSRI) finally saw its efforts come to fruition on Tuesday, June 17.

The hatchery, which is located across the street from riverside park on Burrard Avenue,  is the culmination of continuous work by he NWSRI, the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. (FFSBC), municipal, regional and provincial governments as well as the countless other citizen volunteers who helped make the much needed facility a reality.

The opening was well attended with dozens of community members from Vanderhoof and the Saik’uz First Nation filling the bleachers and crowding the information booths at the event.

Also in attendance were Mayor Gerry Thiessen, Steven Thomson,  B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and John Rustad, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. All three politicians gave speeches thanking everyone involved in the project.

The event featured internationally recognized author, teacher and conservationist, Mark Angelo, as the grand openings keynote speaker. A key proponent of the NWSRI and the hatchery, Angelo thanked the supporters and expressed his pride in the initiatives.

“I look at the Nechako [river] and I see a growing number of volunteers and advocates speaking up for this river. Many of them are represented here; they’re in the audience today,” Angelo said. Adding, “I’m proud to be here, this is a great day for the river and I want to thank you for your support in making this facility a reality.”

The grand opening closed out with a traditional dance performed by the Saik’uz Band Dancers, who were accompanied by Saik’uz councillor Cora McIntosh.

After the inaugural speeches, attendees were treated to a tour of the new facility, giving them a chance to see first hand the state-of-the-art equipment as well as witnessing the enormous size of some of the facilities adult sturgeon.

President of the FFSBC, Don Peterson, who also served as MC for the event, spoke about the feeling of finally completing a project so long in the making.

“It feels like we’re at the end of a marathon race,” Peterson said. “We’ve gone through all the highs and lows; the feeling great and feeling completely depressed because it didn’t seem like the facility was ever going to be built, but we’re finally over the finish line and it feels really great.”

While this is one monumental victory for the Nechako White Sturgeon, there are still others to be won yet.

“Part of the original vision for the facility was the culture facility, which we’ve completed, but also a stewardship and visitors centre,” said Peterson. “As soon as we take a breath from getting the hatchery up and running we’ll start to focus our attention on getting the funds to get those facilities put in place.”

The addition of a stewardship centre would provide a place both for schools and visitors as well as a facility in which new research could be performed to help understand why the sturgeon are unable to sustain themselves presently in the Nechako River.