May Updates - TMX, Monitoring, Turtles, Conference, and Road Salt!

Salmon Fry, Peach Creek, Chilliwack, September 2021A longish post, but lots of news!

  • A possible (small) win in Browne Creek Wetlands against the federal government's favourite fossil fuel expansion project.
  • Not only data loggers gone after last year's atmospheric rivers but data logging sites gone!
  • Come see us for World Turtle Day!
  • WaterWealth presenting at SFU's Horizons Conference.
  • Progress on the road salt & salmon study, meet Nikki from DFO.

It's been a cool Spring so far, but we're looking to accelerate field work with the warming weather and make 2022 a great year for community science and camaraderie in and around our shared home waters!

Trans Mountain Expansion Project – a small win?

April 7 WaterWealth filed a document with the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) covering a variety of topics to do with Trans Mountain’s plans in Browne Creek Wetlands for the Hopedale Slough/Vedder River/Peach Creek trenchless crossing and the Browne Creek crossing. (See blog post “Trans Mountain Seek Ongoing Salmon Habitat Degradation”)

Trans Mountain has been arguing that “Browne Creek Wetlands” means only a tiny strip of what it actually is. Their variance application took that even further, saying that certain areas within even what they want to call Browne Creek Wetlands “are in fact poorly drained pasture.”

WaterWealth’s arguments included our view that Trans Mountain is trying to redefine “Browne Creek Wetlands” and with it the meaning of the construction timing approved in the route hearing decision. We also called for the route hearing to be reopened due to Trans Mountain having not revealed a geotechnical report that was in their possession during the hearing and that only found the crossing feasible based on assumptions that are not met at that site.

There has been no response from the CER yet, but most of the stakes and flagging Trans Mountain had placed in the area are gone and Trans Mountain’s construction schedule filed May 2 shows no activity in our area for major trenchless crossings from early April to about the second week of July. Perhaps this represents a win for our argument that summer timing applies to that work?

Among the convolutions of this area of the project, Trans Mountain had applied for a partial variance to allow them to remove the trees from around Browne Creek in advance of any migratory bird nesting. The migratory bird nesting period for the area is March 26 to August 17. Trans Mountain filed the application March 25 with a request that the CER grant their request “as soon as possible.”

Requests for quick decisions from the CER are common on this much over-schedule and over-budget project. The latest example is a May 13 variance request in the Hinton to Hargreaves segment where they are reactivating old pipe as part of the expansion project. Trans Mountain asked for a variance to allow them to decommission-in-place a section that goes under a highway, and replace it with new pipe.

That variance request, like so many filings, included a request for the regulator to be quick. “Trans Mountain respectfully requests a decision from the Commission on the enclosed application as soon as possible, to avoid delays to the TMEP.” Those sort of requests come frequently enough that one might wonder if it’s some sort of strategy for dealing with the regulator.

How delayed?
The original construction schedule spanned 26 months from start to finished, oil-filled pipeline. After the second federal project approval they restarted construction in August 2019. Now, 33 months after that restart, they say they’re half done, with a corresponding near-doubling of the cost estimate.

Regrettably for taxpayers who are saddled with the debt financing of this project, a more likely answer is that as delayed as this project has been they’re still just making it up as they go, and continually asking for timing relief, quick regulator decisions, and more money, to make up for planning failures.

Anyway, at some point we’ll hear back from the CER. In all likelihood they’ll come up with some way to allow Trans Mountain to proceed despite the geotechnical report, and Trans Mountain will begin removing those trees and setting up to cross the multiple waterways there. Their not having started in early May as planned has been beneficial for fish and amphibians. If any birders would like to do bird nest surveys before Trans Mountain does start, WaterWealth can assist with such things as maps of the work area.

Watershed Monitoring Recovery

Speaking of delays, we’re on hold for a bit on recovery of our climate-focused watershed monitoring.

WaterWealth Monitoring sites shown in context of Lower Mainland

We’ve visited all of the more easily accessed monitoring sites and as expected found that our temperature loggers were lost at most sites during the atmospheric rivers late 2021. It’s been shocking to see the changes in the watershed, and how much gravel and boulders even small streams moved during those massive rains. One of the more disorienting sites was the Deer Creek Off-Channel project where about 400 metres of forest is just gone, and with it two temperature loggers, one in what had been a large pond and one in a stream section where we had seen coho and chum spawning when we placed the logger.

Far more tragic is the loss of property suffered by Tamihi Meadows Campground. Tamihi Meadows is a private property that the Deer Creek project flows through. It was them that first brought Deer Creek to our attention, and they’ve been wonderfully helpful and supportive throughout, even putting considerable labour into trying to keep the intake functioning before the boulders washing down the mountain stream became overwhelming.

Deer Creek map indicating area washed away during 2021 atmospheric rivers

Tamihi Meadows reports plenty of salmon fry in ponds there, and DFO has the Deer Creek Off-Channel intake on their list to fix following the flooding. DFO have also talked of redesigning that intake later to be more climate resilient, so things are looking as good as can be hoped there.

For the broader watershed monitoring program, our application to Pacific Salmon Foundation to fund ten replacement temperature loggers and batteries for existing loggers was approved and we should have the cheque in hand any day now. Once that arrives we’ll start visiting our more difficult to reach sites with data loggers in hand, and revisit the easier sites where replacements are needed.

World Turtle Day PosterCome See Us World Turtle Day!

WaterWealth is thrilled to have been invited to participate May 22 in a celebration of World Turtle Day organized by The Reptile Room!

Were you a childhood fan of Touché Turtle? It was probably never clear just what kind of turtle Touché was, but we know from the phone in his shell and his green/yellow underside (plastron) that he wasn't one of the Western Painted Turtles native to our area. Maybe could have been one of the extirpated Western Pond Turtles?

Western Painted turtles are the only native freshwater turtle known to still inhabit BC. Of the 41 population units in the recovery plan for Pacific Coast Western Painted Turtle, 22 are in the Fraser Valley! Sites include Sardis Pond and the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve.

Drop by and celebrate these fascinating reptiles, starting at noon May 22 in Salish Park, Chilliwack! (map)

Horizons Conference

WaterWealth has been invited to participate in a roundtable titled “On the Ground: Nonprofits and Research” hosted by the Community Scholars Program. The roundtable is part of the SFU Community-Engaged Research Initiative’s Horizons Conference that runs May 26-29. Other roundtable presenters are representatives from PeaceGeeks, Vancouver Arts Colloquium Society, and the McCreary Centre Society.

WaterWealth’s 10 minute presentation will touch on the geographic, ecological, and social contexts of our watershed monitoring program, and the values and goals that guide us. At our program's core is the community science which we hope will benefit the water, the land, and all the species found there. Around that are layered field experience opportunities for students, and holistic aspects to benefit the well being of participants.

An excerpt from the current presentation draft: “When I eat salmon from these waters I’m sharing in the same nutrients as the forest, partaking of cycles that have sustained life here for thousands of years."

Road Salt Program – Meet Nikki from DFO

Another off-shoot of WaterWealth’s streamkeeping efforts is involvement in a long term study of the effects of road salt on salmon. Thanks to Stoney Creek Environment Committee in Burnaby, we will soon have a pair of conductivity loggers to place in Chilliwack. We have a few candidate streams in mind and the City of Chilliwack gave a list of suggestions and some guidance on site selection as well. In coming days we’ll be touring those sites with Nikki Kroetsch, Community Engagement Coordinator with DFO’s Pacific Science Enterprise Centre, to make the final site choices.

We first met Nikki when she was doing her Masters research. That research led to a new Community Stream Monitoring project at DFO that Nikki is implementing. You can learn more about Nikki and her excellent work in this article in Waterbucket eNews (scroll down on that page to the actual interview).


Response to our crowdfunding effort has been generous. We’ve got our insurance for 2022 and have placed a few replacement temperature loggers. We’ve also been offered use of a drone, which was one of our stretch goals, and we’re really excited for the potential a drone provides for speeding up certain aspects of stream surveys and for capturing beautiful scenes such as overhead views of salmon runs!

Adding the successful application to Pacific Salmon Foundation to our total, we’re at 67% of our goal!

Help put the "crowd" in crowdfunding by sharing news of WaterWealth's work in your networks, and let's pass the last 33%! Maybe someone you know would like to support the work, or get involved!



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published this page in Blog 2022-05-16 11:08:54 -0700