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Mount Currie road construction probed by DFO The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is investigating efforts to pave the Lillooet Lake Road through Mount Currie following a report the work may be damaging salmon spawning and rearing habitat. Bruce Reid, a DFO habitat biologist says an investigation is underway regarding a small spring and stream that runs parallel to Highway 99 behind the Mount Currie Church, The Hitching Post Motel and the Spirit Circle Tea House. The unnamed stream flows into the Birkenhead River. A private complaint was lodged with the DFO because of the sockeye salmon fry which rear in the cool, shady stream. "The impact of the road construction on the stream is being investigated by DFO staff," Reid says. "The only way to confirm whether there has been any impact is to go on site and do a stream evaluation… that inspection will take place soon." The spring comes out of the ground behind the church, in an area recently cleared of trees. The land is included in a $150 million plan to realign the corner and pave the 10 kilometres of gravel road which pass through Mount Currie. Reid says the investigation, when complete, will also need to determine who is responsible for potential salmon habitat damage and how it happened. If habitat has been damaged, it must be "restored or replaced, or in some cases both," he says. "We have to treat each project on its individual merit, but we must also insure the integrity of aquatic habitat has been maintained." The contentious section of road has divided the community of 1,200 over the way the paving plan was approved. Mediation meetings in the past few weeks have lasted into the wee hours of the morning as Mount Currie Chief Allan Stager has attempted to pacify factions in the community who are upset with the paving plans. Requests for interviews with Chief Stager were denied and no one answered the phone at the Mount Currie band office Wednesday. Although no one in Mount Currie is opposed to the paving — the dusty road poses a significant health hazard — some in the community are concerned if the province foots the bill for the work, that may imply tacit ownership of the road. Many residents of Mount Currie are staunchly opposed to ceding ownership of the road. The paving project was supposed to start late this spring, but Stager, a former employee of the Highways Ministry, refused to let work begin until the provincial government agreed to pave 11 kilometres of side roads on the reserve, as well as the main road — the last unpaved section of the Duffey Lake Road — which connects B.C.'s South Coast with the Interior. In 1990, band members set up a blockade on the Duffey Lake Road, partly to oppose paving of the route. The three month stand-off resulted in over 50 arrests and attracted national media attention.

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