PAGE UPDATED: Good news! The District of Kent had provincial and federal permits in hand to proceed with work dredging Mountain Slough in Agassiz. Several groups including WaterWealth raised concerns, less with the work proposed than with the timing of it. Hearing these concerns the District of Kent and local landowners have agreed to hold off at least until the normal fisheries window in August/September.
There is a problem with flooding higher up McCallum 'Ditch' (we hate using the word "ditch" for a fish-bearing stream, but that's the name). The proper solution remains the subject of some debate, but now there's time for some discussion and whatever work ends up being done will at least be done when the least harm to species that use the area will result. Huge thanks to groups and individuals involved, whether sharing word of this on social media, writing government officials or meeting/talking with proponents of the project.
Our primary concern had been with the Fisheries Minister allowing this work outside of the timing window for in-stream work. The policy that defines that window exists for good reason;
- Coho salmon, a species of First Nations, commercial, and recreational fisheries value, have eggs in the gravel in those streams now.
- Coastal Cutthroat trout are spawning right now in McCallum and Mountain Slough
- Salish Suckers, a federally listed endangered species, are gathering to spawn in the area now.
- Oregon Spotted Frogs, a federally listed endangered species, are gathering to breed in the area now.
- Northern Red-legged Frogs, a federally listed at risk species, are gathering to breed now.
The flooding does need to be addressed, and that can easily be done in a way that actually improves habitat for the species that live there, during the timing window for work in and around streams as defined by Minister Shea's own department, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
There was a plan developed by a Registered Professional Biologist with extensive experience in stream and wetland restoration and funded by a Federal Government Habitat Stewardship Program grant to the Fraser Valley Conservancy. That plan was ready to go last September to both address the flooding and enhance nearby habitat. The Province contributed thousands of dollars of staff time and equipment loan and the District of Kent had agreed to fund the heavy equipment required. That plan was scuttled when at the last minute a landowner refused access to his property.
Ideally we would like to see that landowner's concerns addressed and the 2014 plan carried out. However, at least for now the Coho and others can breath easy.
UPDATE 2: We received word that expert consultation determined that the proposed dredging would not have addressed the drainage problem on McCallum and that the dredging idea is no longer under consideration! A clear win both for the species present in the waterways and for the money saved not doing work that would not have solved the problem.
(Map Background OpenStreetMap)