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Ladner harbour dredging delays frustrate businesses on the river
The summer is almost over and the fact that Ladner’s waterways remain filled with silt has generated anger from businesses along the river.
Although a $10 million agreement between the province, Port Metro Vancouver, the City of Richmond, and the Corporation of Delta was announced last December to dredge local channels around Ladner and Steveston, the process is being held up by environmental agencies.
Ladner wants to remove between 400,000 and 600,000 cubic meters of silt that has collected in local channels since the federal government ceased dredging two decades ago.
But a proposal to take the silt and move it to the main channel of the Fraser River for in-river disposal is triggering the federal Species at Risk Act for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Southern Resident Killer Whale program. Environment Canada is proposing the silt be transported instead to Point Grey in Vancouver, which threatens to break the $10 million dredging budget.
Orca whales have a range from Southern California and the San Juan Islands to the mouth of the Fraser River but do not go as far as Point Grey, which is why Environment Canada is proposing the silt be transported there.
But Michael Owen of Ladner Reach Marina said it doesn’t make sense to block in-river disposal for environmental reasons.
“We’re talking less than a half a per cent of what naturally occurs,” he said.
Owen is concerned that further delays could harm access to Ladner’s entranceways, and Deas Slough and Ferry Reach desperately need dredging.
“The boat launching ramp at the end of Ferry Road is totally impassible,” he said, adding during low tide it looks possible to walk to Deas Island.
Owen is concerned dredging won’t happen this year and more studies and tests conducted by Port Metro Vancouver will drain the $10 million dredging budget.
“I mean, this is insane. We can’t even dredge something that’s naturally occurring? It’s not like we’re a goddamned shipyard that’s been dumping... off the end of our pier for years.”
John Roscoe, chair of Ladner Sediment Group, said dredging was supposed to be finished by now and the port hasn’t even applied for a permit yet.
“I just don’t understand why ministry of environment is making Port Metro Vancouver go through all this additional work, effort, and frustration to try to satisfy these requirements,” he said.
Roscoe said he’s mindful of the environment but doesn’t see how a small amount of silt endangers the orcas, particularly as the variation in silt from each year could equal the amount they’re proposing to dispose.
“If it hadn’t found its way into the back eddies of the Ladner channels it would have gone right out to sea anyway,” he said.
Tom Corsie, vice president of real estate for Port Metro Vancouver, said they are in the midst of a typical and very normal environmental process, which involves sampling, testing, and modelling for in-river disposal of silt from Deas Slough.
“As we finalize the scope of the job we’ve got to do some more environmental work to get the approval to do the project,” he said, adding it’s a matter of giving environmental authorities the evidence they need to approve in-river disposal.
Corsie said recent chemical analysis of the proposed disposal area is similar to the proposed dredging areas and said that should help make the case for in-river disposal.
“For the majority of the material we’re proposing to dredge they’ve said OK,” he said. “They’ve said it’s not OK for Deas Slough and Steveston Harbour because of the really super fine material.”
Corsie said Port Metro Vancouver will be ready to submit an application at the earliest by mid-September and would still have enough time in the dredging season to get the job done if it’s approved in 60 days. Dredging can continue until March, before the freshet begins from melting snow in the Fraser River headwaters.