Federal government support sought for local channel dredging in lower Fraser River

DELTA Mayor George V. Harvie, in partnership with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Laura Cassidy, Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow, and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie last week sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier David Eby, urging the federal and provincial governments to work collaboratively with local governments and First Nations and to commit to establish a long-term strategy and appropriate resources for dredging of the lower Fraser River and its local channels.

A Working Group has been re-established by Delta, Richmond, Tsawwassen First Nation, Musqueam, and other key partners to develop a pilot project that may serve as a model for other waterfront communities across Canada; however, federal government support is needed to help develop a long­term funding and management model for the project.

The Working Group is seeking a representative from Oceans and Fisheries Canada to join the group to help work through some of the regulatory approval challenges and also assist in the development of a long-term dredging maintenance strategy.

In a recent discussion paper by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, it is estimated that the annual funding of $2.5 million would ensure that local channels and communities remain safe for watercraft navigation for years to come.

The letter states: “Almost two years have passed since we wrote about local channel dredging and the critical need for a long-term strategy to deal with the issue. … Since then, the situation in the local channels has worsened as each annual freshet brings more sediment down the Fraser River into the side channels. Access to many of our businesses, marinas, and float-home communities is only possible at high tide, and the safe movement of watercraft around the Fraser River estuary is being jeopardized.”

It adds: “In the absence of regular maintenance dredging, the benefits of the $10 million dredging program in 2013 have largely been extinguished, and we are compelled, once again, to undertake one-off dredging projects to address urgent safety concerns in the channels as they arise.”