John Werring of the David Suzuki Foundation (left) and others haul in a net while beach seining at Hamilton Bar on the Fraser River Saturday morning.

John Werring of the David Suzuki Foundation (left) and others haul in a net while beach seining at Hamilton Bar on the Fraser River Saturday morning.

Gravel removal plans spark renewed concern

Fraser River Gravel Stewardship Committee says gravel removal will destroy fish habitat that won’t reduce flood risks.

Gravel removal from the Fraser River is slated to start again in January or February next year.

And the Fraser River Gravel Stewardship Committee will be there to oppose what they call a destruction of fish habitat that won’t reduce flood risks, as the B.C. government insists.

Marvin Rosenau, a committee member and fisheries biologist, said provincial officials are still not answering “fundamental” questions about the impact of gravel removal on the risk of a Fraser River flood.

“We’re still not getting these answers,” he said Monday, after a tour Saturday of proposed gravel removal sites.

He said if provincial officials could show “a really meaningful flood benefit” through removing gravel in the river’s reach between Hope and Abbotsford, then the stewardship committee would actively support them.

But so far the government has refused to provide the technical studies to back up its claim, he said.

Members of the stewardship committee did meet with Emergency Management B.C. officials last month, and one proposed gravel removal site at Tranmer bar was dropped.

In August, the EMBC announced that gravel removal operations would start again after a two-year hiatus. A list of several proposed removal sites, including the Gill/Hamilton and the Harrison bars, was also announced.

But Rosenau said the EMBC refused at the September meeting to give the committee the technical proof that gravel removal is reducing the flood risk.

It seems a common-sense proposition, that if you remove gravel from the river, there will be more room for the water, thus reducing the chances of a flood.

But Chris Gadsden, a long-time fisherman and a Chilliwack member of the stewardship committee, doesn’t see it that way.

He said you couldn’t remove enough gravel from the river to make one iota difference in the water level.

“You’d never be able to do that, because the river is so immense,” he said. “It’s a gravel grab, that’s all it is.”

And it’s clear to Gadsden that fish habitat — the gravel where salmon and other fish species spawn and rear their young — is being destroyed by the removal operations.

Rosenau called the river reach “probably the Number One juvenile chinook rearing habitat in all of B.C., or at least the Fraser system.”

Gravel bars are created and then disappear naturally, he agreed, and they can even rebuild themselves into suitable fish habitat after their tops are “scalped” in a gravel removal operation.

But they won’t have the time to rebuild if they are constantly being mined, year after year, he said.

“Show us what the benefits are, give us an empirical understanding of how much dike freeboard you’re going to lose (if gravel mining is stopped),” he said, and the committee would actively support removal operations.

Meanwhile, Rosenau doesn’t see much hope for gravel removal opponents in the upcoming Cohen commission report or in the possibility of an NDP government after next year’s provincial election.

But whoever forms government, the stewardship committee is going to be there fighting for fish habitat.

Although Rosenau said the committee members are not the radical environmentalists as often portrayed by B.C. Liberal MLAs.

“We’re not a bunch of whacko, hair-shirted, greenie-weenies,” Rosenau said. “We’re just normal guys who want to see their kids through school — and see a thriving eco-system.”

Just Posted

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

Syringes prepared with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Long Beach, Calif., Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Walk-ins welcome at upcoming G.W. Secondary vaccine clinic

Second consecutive Saturday Fraser Health has scheduled a same-day clinic in a Chilliwack school

Migrating sockeye in the Fraser River August 7, 2007. (Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
First Nations, commercial, and recreational harvesters join forces to save Fraser River fish

‘We have to work together to rebuild these stocks while there is still time,’ says delegate

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Dozens of demonstrators gathered in March at the Hope Station House, showing support for preserving the 1916 building. (Photo/Christian Ward)
New reports breathe life into efforts to save the Hope Station House

The documents were presented to District of Hope Council at a meeting June 14

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read