In 1923 Burrard Power Company got approval to build the South Alouette dam, expanding Alouette Lake, and diverting the majority of its water to Stave Lake to generate power for Vancouver.
When the dam was completed in 1925, hundreds of thousands of fish rubbed their noses on the dam trying to return home to spawn.
For the next four years, the river was thick with returning rotting salmon.
More than one species was wiped out.
In the 1970s, it was discovered that the water licence - now owned by BC Electric - contained a clause that promised to release enough water through the dam to keep the river alive.
They had not done so.
A battle ensued that had many heroes. Tom Cadieux, who ran the hatchery at the prison, was one of the more vocal.
It was determined, after a number of years of BC Hydro's stonewalling, that they had been stealing water above their licence for 50 years. Part of the settlement was that once again BC Hydro promised to use its best efforts to restore the river.
In the '90s, it was discovered that BC Hydro was still not releasing any water, because they couldn't.
The pipe that could have released the water was plugged and had been for 60 years. Our mayor at the time, Carl Durksen, actually pounded his fists on the BC Hydro boardroom table and told them they were going to release that water, and they were going to work with ARMS (the then newly formed Alouette River Management Society headed by Geoff Clayton).
In 1996, a Water Use Plan was put in place where BC Hydro cleaned the pipe and sent enough water down the river to make it healthier, working with experts and ARMS.
The most amazing thing happened. Sockeye started bumping their noses on the Alouette dam again.
It was a potential public relations disaster for BC Hydro. Threatened with a photo op with the fish dying at the dam, to their credit, BC Hydro quickly provided transportation for the returning salmon up to the lake.
Since then, with years of study and Hydro's cooperation, it has been concluded that we have the potential to resurrect a species: I knooow!_
What we need to do now is to build a fish ladder, which is estimated to cost about $3 million.
BC Hydro wants to study the matter a little longer; ARMS wants to get on with the construction.
The water that BC Hydro is licensed to take from Alouette Lake is currently not generating any electricity from the water going through the tunnel to the Stave.
Hydro has not really explained why.
Alouette water then goes through the Stave and Ruskin dams producing enough power for about 3,000 houses.
I am advised that the Alouette water accounts for about 30 per cent of the water going through the dams.
A skeptic may have noticed that Abbotsford proposed to get its drinking water from the Stave system, which just happens to be about the same amount that comes from the Alouette.
BC Hydro is currently underway rebuilding the dams, spending more than one billion dollars in the process, and still resisting the $3-million cost of the fish ladder to restore the fish run and the species to the Alouette River.
Gordy Robson is a former Maple Ridge mayor and a local businessman who was raised in this community. His opinion column appears Tuesdays in the print and/or online versions of The TIMES. Questions and reactions can be eamiled to Gordy Robson c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.