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Dredging taking place in Ladner

The port authority in 2021 announced one-time funding focusing on Ladner Harbour and Gunderson Slough
Dredging equipment in the local channel fronting River Road West this week. Sandor Gyarmati photo

Dredging is taking place at Ladner Harbour, but it remains to be seen how much more will be on the horizon.

Work commenced on Dec. 11 and is scheduled for about 30 days, using remaining money from the one-time $1 million in funding provided by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) three years ago.

According to the City of Delta, the work faced permitting delays as well as a limited scheduling opportunity due to fisheries windows, but all approvals are now in place. Dredging volumes are expected to be between 30,000-and-33,000 cubic metres.

The City of Delta, Richmond, Tsawwassen First Nation and Musquem Indian Band have joined together to lobby for a regular maintenance program, urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to provide action on local channel dredging in the lower Fraser as silt volumes build.

They said they recognize the VFPA’s commitment to continue to work with them along with other government agencies and stakeholders toward a long-term sustainable dredging program. While they appreciated the port’s $1 million in funding for local Delta channel dredging, they were hopeful that contribution would be a catalyst toward the development of a comprehensive, long-term plan for maintaining the local channels.

This summer, more than 150 frustrated float homeowners and business owners made their anger known at a town hall meeting on the ongoing issue at a packed town hall meeting at Fisherman’s Hall in Ladner.

The message many conveyed was made loud and clear that they don’t want to hear their political representatives describing how much they have been advocating, wanting to finally see results.

Mayor George Harvie, Delta South MLA Ian Paton and Delta MP Carla Qualtrough spoke of their continued frustration getting someone to assume responsibility for immediate dredging to alleviate the rapidly silting-up secondary channels of the Fraser River, as well as an ongoing maintenance program to ensure the current situation can be avoided.

All three politicians noted the port authority was responsible before, but was no longer continuing what should still be its obligation, and, ever since then, the federal and provincial governments have passed the buck while showing an unwillingness to address the worsening problem.

Acknowledging the efforts of the Ladner Sediment Group, Qualtrough said the issue has been “the biggest jurisdictional passing of the buck” she’s ever experienced since she was elected, suggesting the residents form a new, larger advocacy group.

Paton, who submitted a petition in the legislature, said it’s not worth “chasing down” $12-to-$14 million every 10 years to get dredging done at one time, only to see the problem come back. Instead, an ongoing maintenance program costing $2 million a year makes sense.

The province has a role to play, since it controls water lot leases, but the government refuses to even acknowledge there is an issue, he said.