The debate over gravel mining in the Fraser River is rearing its head with an application from Seabird Island Band to extract gravel from a bar nearby.

Gravel debate fired up with new application near Chilliwack

An application for gravel extraction under review by DFO is to remove gravel by Seabird Island Band

The debate over gravel mining in the Fraser River is rearing its head.

An application under review by DFO to remove gravel by Seabird Island Band should be rejected to protect prime rearing and spawning habitat, says a biologist with the Fraser River Gravel Stewardship Committee.

A long-term management plan for the Gravel Reach — a sensitive stretch of the river from Mission to Hope — is something long overdue, said Otto Langer, fisheries biologist and aquatic ecologist with FRGSC.

“It was hoped that this recent lull in such in-river mining would serve as a starting point to develop a long-term cooperative management plan for this section of the river where flood risk reduction needs could be imbedded into an overall environmental management plan,” wrote Langer in a letter to federal and provincial ministers.

The ideal management plan would include elements of shoreline protection, flood control and gravel and habitat conservation.

The four-year lull in gravel mining was a promising step forward, Langer wrote.

Now he says they’re “taking a step backwards” and setting “a terrible precedent” for B.C. and Canadian rivers, since repeat mining could lead to permanent fish stock and habitat destruction.

Langer said “extensive damage” to juvenile Chinook rearing habitat from the proposed gravel removal is certain, “particularly on the main stem face of the bar.”

Seabird Island Chief Clem Seymour took issue with the suggestion.

“This application is going through the process. We’ve been jumping through all the hoops,” he said. “We’ve done all our due diligence and I think most of the environmental concerns were taken care of already.”

Two companies were hired by Seabird Island Band to conduct environmental reviews, he countered.

“I’ve asked these environmentalists to come walk with me on the river, but they won’t come,” Chief Seymour said.

“This is the main channel of the river, but spawning and rearing channels are more in the estuary.”

According to the letter:

“The proposed mining site is one of only two identified remaining while sturgeon spawning areas in the lower Fraser River for this species whose population appears to be suffering considerable declines in juvenile recruitment. As you should be aware, the white sturgeon is a species at risk,” chided Langer.

“Such areas of this section of the Fraser have been repeated mined and it is quiet certain that the repeat mining in these key and sensitive habitat areas has had a permanent impact on fish and fish habitat.

“We are not convinced that the agencies have the expertise and the resources and maybe freedom to properly understand what has taken place on the river over the past 40 years and relate that to the long term sustainability of this natural gravel resource to maintain optimal spawning and rearing conditions for the many fish species that live in and depend upon this section of the river.”

The Seabird Island Chief had a different perspective.

It’s all a matter of “balance” and Sto:lo are, and have been part of the entire ecological system, the chief underlined. There’s a lot of local knowledge and band officials have been working closely with different agencies, Seymour said.

“We’re part of the system. We’ve always been part of the system since time immemorial. We’re people of the river,” he said.

DFO confirmed the gravel removal application is currently under review.

A decision on the Seabird application, seeking “authorization under Section 35 of the Fisheries Act” for the gravel removal, has not been made yet.

“Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) acknowledges the fisheries values present in the gravel reach of the Fraser River and is mandated to conserve and protect the fisheries resource for the benefit of all Canadians,” wrote DFO spokesperson Carrie Mishima in an emailed statement.

Reviews are conducted by DFO “to ensure appropriate avoidance, mitigation and/or offsetting measures” for the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries, she added.






Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

Fire department responding to house fire downtown Chilliwack

House on Rowat Avenue is far from other buildings and abandoned

Firefighters bring Sts’ailes FSR fire under control

Blaze held at bay after burning 15 hectares of land

Society celebrates pride with colourful piano contest around Chilliwack

People invited to find missing keys in Chilliwack Pride Society’s Rainbow Piano Mystery game

EDITORIAL: The dilemma of living in beautiful B.C.

Tourism dollars are needed for the economy while some locals are crying ‘stay away’

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for Aug. 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Construction underway on Langley’s new hospice residence

The new 15-bed facility is slated for completion in summer 2021

50-year-old time capsule unsealed at Abbotsford International Airport

Capsule sealed by former PM Pierre E. Trudeau in 1970, when event became ‘Canada’s National Airshow’

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

T-Rex earns big bids at B.C. dino auction

Over 500 dino-themed lots sold to buyers from across North America

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Wrong-way driver triggers multi-vehicle collision on Highway 99 in South Surrey

Police received multiple reports of vehicle heading north in southbound lanes

Most Read