The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority this week announced $1 million in funding towards what it says is a near-term dredging solution to support key Delta channels within the Fraser River communities, focusing on Ladner Harbour and Gunderson Slough.
The port authority says that for 10 years, and as a gesture of good will, it committed to providing a $7 million interim dredging solution to support the Fraser River communities.
As the funding for the program has now concluded, the VFPA is working with government to identify other sources of funding that will provide a longer-term solution to support dredging in the local channels.
Port president and CEO Robin Silvester in a news release said the port authority is pleased to support the governments as they work together to find a long-term, sustainable solution.
Delta MP Carla Qualtrough said, “I am pleased to see the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority make this important investment in the prosperity and safety of our life on the Fraser River. I have been working closely on this issue with community leaders and local stakeholders, and have clearly seen the impact on First Nations, commercial and recreational fishers, downstream fish processors, and float home owners. I thank the Ladner Sediment Group and the City of Delta for their tireless work.
“We need a long-term sustainable strategy with ongoing funding for these channels to ensure efficient access to markets and maritime safety. This is an important first step. I am encouraged by the leadership of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in moving forward on this, and I welcome their commitment to finding a long-term solution.”
Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, also said the government looks forward to working with the port and other partners to find an ongoing, sustainable, long-term solution to dredging the Fraser River.
Delta Mayor George Harvie recently sent a letter to the provincial and federal governments, 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 city council the 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 at June meeting of council.
Harvie met with the other community 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.