The City of Delta is hoping that a larger, combined voice will get results.
Mayor George Harvie sent a letter to the provincial and federal governments this week, co-signed by Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Ken Baird and Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow, asking for a collaborative approach to develop a secondary channel dredging program for the lower Fraser River.
“This issue will not go away and, year over year, it will only get worse. It is time to come together and address this matter once and for all,” the letter states.
Harvie told council this week the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority also has to step up.
“The amount of sediment that is continuously being deposited during this freshet and future freshets is chocking. I can send you pictures of the marinas in Ladner. The boats are sitting on mud and the entrance to Steveston is getting worse,” he said.
Harvie met with the other leaders recently to discuss the dredging dilemma, asking for a coordinated approach to get answers on several issues, including who has jurisdictional responsibility for local channel dredging as it is now unclear.
Other issues the leaders want addressed includes: the lack of any dedicated funding source, no comprehensive, long-term plan for maintaining the local channels of the lower Fraser River, and clarity of the environmental permitting process, which is protracted and uncertain.
“All parties agreed that there is a need to work collaboratively with the provincial and federal governments to develop a long-term, sustainable plan to ensure the local channels of the lower Fraser River are maintained in a safe and navigable condition,” a Delta staff report states. “For this, there needs to be collaboration at all levels of government, consultation with business and community stakeholders, certainty around funding, and support from VFPA to potentially manage the program.
“In addition, there is considerable environmental sensitivity around dredging the Fraser River channels, which are a critical habitat for many species of fish, including salmon and sturgeon, and steps must be taken to ensure fish and their habitat are protected to the greatest extent possible.”
The report also notes that preliminary annual cost estimates for dredging the priority local channels, based on hydrological studies provided by VFPA in 2020, has Delta at $900,000, Richmond at $575,000 and the channels up-river of Annacis Island at $250,000.
A report earlier this year noted that without regular maintenance dredging, the river will soon revert back to the same condition that prompted remedial efforts to restore local channel navigability.
The final phase of an eight-year dredging program involved the removal of 6,000 cubic metres of sediment at the entrance to Deas Slough, between Dec. 12, 2020 and Jan. 14, 2021.
With that, $10 million in provincial, federal, municipal and port authority funding was fully spent.
The report added that the latest dredging effort should ensure that the channels around Ladner remain navigable for at least two-to-three years.
However, there are some specific high points, including Canoe Pass, which may become problematic sooner.