Re: Unlike the lower Fraser River, Delta's argument holds water, Community Comment, Feb. 15
I would like to clarify some points made in Corry Anderson-Fennel's Community Comment.
The Ladner Sediment Group (LSG) has never asked for funds from any level of government or Crown entities for dredging our own individual water lots. The column gives that impression. However, that is not the case and those along the river know that. As volunteers of the LSG, we need to address this incorrect impression.
What the LSG has been asking for is for 1988 levels of channel sediment management to be reinstated.
Thirty million cubic metres of sediment enters the Fraser Valley each year, and the Ladner area receives between 300,000 cubic metres and one million cubic metres, which is deposited in various areas depending on freshet and other factors. This sediment is overtaking any waterfront property owner's ability to keep their own water lot deeper than the channel.
With main channel water training by the Department of Public Works, with approval from the Transport Canada Navigable Protection Act, it is apparent to those on the river that channel flow and velocity (feet per second), and training improvements to maintain the channel for deep sea ships to New Westminster, Annacis Island and Fraser wharves, that this diversion has created new issues for Ladner.
The LSG recognizes these terminals are vital to the Canadian economy. The LSG is saying there is an impact and we wish it corrected.
The LSG approached Delta because Delta is a property owner along these channels and some of its investments are at risk. Delta is no different than the rest of these waterfront property owners.
The entire Ladner Harbour plan, Wellington Point Park and boat launch, Ladner Harbour Park, Delta's commercial fish boat basin and its commercial fishing businesses, the tax base generated from these water lots, Delta's drainage and pump stations, and Delta's role as first responder to flooding or other emergencies, are all in jeopardy.
In 1996, it was discovered that part of Westham Island/Canoe Pass dike was being undermined and provincial funds were spent to riprap the shore line. Water course changes and silt are insidious and need to be monitored and dealt with on a regular routine basis.
Prior to 1988, the Department of Public Works dredge would visit Ladner and the other five channels in our area about every five to seven years and perform maintenance dredging of the channel.
This allowed new sediments to be removed and kept current water flow at the appropriate rate for navigation.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's government downsized the Department of Public Works and gave a token payment to the Fraser River Port Authority to continue its work.
By 1996, it was evident this token payment was totally insufficient and that a sustainable sediment management fund was necessary for the entire Fraser from Rosedale bridge to Sandheads. This fund would be managed in B.C., and only the interest would be spent on specific areas where sediment was building up.
From 1996 to 2004, a group of property owners and users on the river, in conjunction with the Fraser River Port Authority, identified that a sustainable fund needed to be created to deal with this sediment at different locations along the lower Fraser. Many of these locations were out of the jurisdiction of Fraser Port and were on federal or provincial Crown lands.
With support from every municipal council in the Fraser Valley, with the exception of Burnaby, and from most Conservative MPs in the Valley, Liberal Minister David Emerson made the announcement at SFU Surrey campus that "such a fund was necessary" and that "Ottawa had got it." A flood of the urban areas within the Fraser River Delta was to be avoided.
When Emerson became a Conservative, this fund evaporated, like the MPs when in opposition who supported it. Meanwhile, sediment continued to infill the Fraser River's secondary channels.
The Ladner Sediment Group pointed out to Ottawa that Ottawa spends tens of millions of dollars each year ice breaking the St. Lawrence River to prevent flooding and for the economic good of the region. Silt is B.C.'s ice.
Create this sustainable fund once and this issue will be resolved.
The federal government response is: "At present, all of the 17 Canada port authorities are responsible for addressing capital and/ or maintenance dredging requirements pertaining to their navigable waters."
To further aggravate this issue, the federal government initiated an Ocean Disposal Fund, funded from sediment disposed of at sea. A levy of $.49 per cubic metre (currently $.47) was imposed on all sediment disposed of, whether from construction excavations or from natural causes.
The Ocean Disposal Group, a collection of B.C. marine users, pointed out to Ottawa the majority of sediment from B.C.'s Fraser River would pay the lion's share of this federal fund on the backs of users and municipalities along the lower Fraser; that this sediment was of natural causes and not as a result of any user's actions.
The federal government ignored this and instituted this fund. If Ladner removes one million cubic metres of natural occurring sediment to open its channels, a disposal fee of $470,000 will have to be found. The LSG is saying that naturally occurring sediment must be exempt from this payment.
Michael Owen Administration Chair Ladner Sediment Group