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Council backs salmon restoration projects in Sturgeon Bank

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:52 PDT, Tue September 15, 2020

Richmond city council is supporting salmon restoration projects in Sturgeon Bank, a crucial wildlife area.

In March, councillors expressed disappointment that the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority planned to convert the existing sand flat into marsh habitat, noting the possible environmental repercussions for wildlife that live in the area. At that time, councillors requested that staff continue to study the proposed project and timeline, to assess any environmental risks.

Following last night’s city council meeting, Richmond will submit an expression of interest for three proposed projects to the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund, a government-funded program that prioritizes the protection and restoration of salmonid habitats. The three proposals are a sediment enhancement pilot project featuring a floating pipeline, the construction of breaches on the North Arm Jetty, and the restoration of tidal marshland in the Alaksen Wildlife Area.

But Coun. Harold Steves, who has been involved in similar projects in the area for decades, expressed skepticism.

“Rebuilding a bit of marsh habitat may not even work,” he said. “If you don’t build up the mud flat beyond (the marsh), it’s going to erode this land away again, and I’m afraid the port will probably take credit for it and they’ll have to do it over and over again.”

Steves noted that previous attempts to rehabilitate the area have worked only temporarily, and that erosion continues to occur.

“I’m somewhat skeptical about (the proposed restoration projects), (but) I will support them going ahead assuming that we’ll have major input into the modelling as it proceeds,” he said. “If we don’t, I can see the whole thing being wasted and the next 20 or 30 years people can watch what they do wash away.”

Emphasizing the importance to Richmond’s ecosystem and wildlife habitats, several other councillors said it was important that the city continue to be kept informed throughout the process of the project, if one is approved. 

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