The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority says it’s working with Delta farmers to address concerns about the proposed Westham Island Canoe Pass Tidal Marsh Project.
It is part of the port authority’s Habitat Enhancement Program, which is a form of so-called “habitat banking” involving the creation or improvement of habitats.
They would be used as future compensation in advance projects that could impact fish habitat, such as of the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project.
The Westham Island project, originally proposed in 2014, involves the creation of approximately four hectares of new intertidal marsh habitat on the south shore of the Ladner farming island.
According to the port authority, the project would be located in Canoe Pass, near the south side of Westham Island, and would expand an existing marsh area by converting an adjacent non-vegetated, low-value intertidal sandflat and mudflat into approximately four hectares of high-quality marsh habitat.
According to the port authority, the Westham Island site was selected based on its potential to benefit a broad range of fish and wildlife species, and to increase the overall ecological function of the area.
However, local farmers expressed concerns including potential negative effects on irrigation water quality by increasing salinity, risks of damage to the Westham Island Bridge and that the project may impede potential plans by the City of Delta to establish a piped irrigation water supply to the island.
During a presentation at Delta council earlier this month on the proposed Terminal 2 expansion at Roberts Bank, representatives from the port authority were asked how the port would address concerns by the Delta Farmers’ Institute.
Mayor George Harvie remarked that farmers think it’s a good project, but are worried about the location, due to potential interference with flood boxes and future work planned to bring fresh irrigation water.
Duncan Wilson, the port’s vice-president of Environment, Community and Government Affairs, confirmed they will be having further discussions with the farming community about possible re-location.
Tom Corsie, vice-president of real estate, agreed, saying, “We are continuing to consult with the Delta Farmers’ Institute. There are some technical issues that I think both sides are trying to understand, so that dialogue is ongoing.”
Corsie also said that an added benefit would be the dredging of the river’s local secondary channel.
“It’s interesting, as well, that the material we’re proposing to use for the proposed habitat area would come from the local navigation channels. We have this other dialogue happening with the municipality and with local users on the condition of the channel. We’ve spent virtually millions of dollars trying to correct that. One area we couldn’t correct is the entrance at Canoe Pass and Sea Reach, which is the donor area where the material would come from,” explained Corsie.