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Dredging of Ladner's silted waterways could begin work by next week
The federal government has green-lighted in-river disposal of dredging silt from Ladner's waterways, meaning the project could begin as soon as a couple of weeks.
A report by the human resources and planning department advised Delta Council on Monday that Environment Canada has issued permits for in-river disposal of 200,000 cubic metres of dredged silt from Sea Reach, 250,000 cubic metres from Ladner Harbour, and 75,000 cubic metres from Deas Slough.
Port Metro Vancouver is now working with the contractors, Vancouver Pile and Dredge and Fraser River Pile and Dredge, in preparation for the start of dredging of Deas Slough and Sea Reach by the third week of January.
There has been some delay as a result of Environment Canada's decision to undertake additional consultation with First Nations. While the staff report notes there is no requirement to consult with First Nations regarding maintenance dredging, Port Metro Vancouver has nevertheless met several times with local First Nation groups.
Dredging will stop at the end of March when the freshet raises the level of the Fraser River and fishing season begins, but will reconvene at the end of August.
Phase 2 of the project will continue again next fall and winter with expected completion by the spring of 2015.
In-river disposal of silt is a much cheaper alternative than what was originally proposed by Environment Canada, which was barging the silt to Point Grey in Vancouver. That would have added $1.4 million in unbudgeted expenses to the project.
The Fraser River brings about 32 million cubic metres of sediment down the river every year, with an estimated 10 per cent settling in the lower channels. In-river disposal takes the silt back to the main channel and allows it to wash out to the ocean as happens naturally.
Dredging had been the responsibility of the federal government through the Canadian Coast Guard for 100 years until 1999, when the responsibility shifted to Port Metro Vancouver and the focus moved only to shipping lanes. Dredging of local channels around Ladner and Steveston ceased at that time and an estimated 670,000 cubic metres has filled in Ladner waterways.
On Dec. 17, 2012, a $10 million joint commitment was made by Port Metro Vancouver, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Corporation of Delta and the City of Richmond to undertake local channel dredging around Ladner and Steveston. Of that total, $6.5 million will be allocated for Ladner's channels.
However, the project had been held up by Environment Canada to study the effect of in-river disposal on the Southern Resident Killer Whale critical habitat, protected under the federal Species at Risk Act by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In November a delegation from Delta that included Coun. Ian Paton, Mayor Lois Jackson, and chief administrative officer George Harvie visited Ottawa to speak with several cabinet ministers, including Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq about the dredging situation.
During that meeting Delta requested that it be allowed to use in-river disposal and that additional fees of $500,000 for ocean disposal fees be waived. While the disposal has been approved, the municipality will send a letter to Aglukkaq asking that the fees also be waived.