Herrling and Carey Islands, just south of Agassiz, create vital habitats for for over 30 fish species, according to BC Wildlife Federation. The federation is working with other groups to halt an application for development on the island. (Submitted)

Groups fight to protect Fraser River islands

‘Heart of the Fraser’ valuable to fish species, say environmental groups

Some call it the Heart of the Fraser, others call it ripe for agricultural development.

The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) has launched a campaign to defend two islands south of Agassiz –Herrling and Carey Islands – in a stretch of gravel between Hope and Mission that, according to BCWF, comprises “one of the greatest salmonid and sturgeon networks of channels, islands and wetlands of its type in the world.”

The federation says Herrling and Carey Islands are some of the only islands left of their kind, after years of diking, ditching, bank hardening and draining destroyed 90 per cent of the island landscape in the Fraser River.

BCWF director of strategic initiatives Alan Martin said the islands are one of only three major mid-river island complexes left in the Fraser and are vital habitats for a vast numbers of fish species.

“Basically, in this part of the Fraser River, the river is very, very active and it moves about, creating islands and side channels,” he said. “These side channels are where gravel accumulates [and] gravel is very important for spawning habitats for a variety of fish species.”

The islands’ side channels act as important habitats for chum salmon, pink salmon and white sturgeon, he explained. And the channels on the islands themselves are used by chinook salmon during their migration downstream.

“There are approximately 30 species of fish that rear, migrate and spawn through [the area].”

But a development application from Klaassen Farms Ltd. could put those habitats in jeopardy, says BCWF.

The farm purchased Herrling Island to convert the pre-existing cottonwood plantations on the land to blueberry, corn and forage crops, and in late July they applied to the province to build a bridge to the island for vehicular access.

“Bridges across these side channels … would result in the hardening of the side channels and change the flow characteristics,” Martin said.

“Certainly it would have impacts, not only on the ecological processes that go on in the river, but in the hydrological ones, which is becoming more and more important with the way the rivers are behaving in relation to climate change.”

Martin says that any attempts at flood protection on the island – something that could come with increased development – are damaging, and counteractive to the ecological characteristics of the islands.

“If they’re diked too close to the channels, it restricts the movement back and forth to these side channels and eliminates the continual creation and renewal of this side channel habitat.”

That’s why BCWF, in conjunction with other B.C. environmental groups, is trying to raise awareness about the islands and stop the bridge construction.

In the long term, the group says it wants to see the islands fully protected.

“We want to see adequate protection of these habitats, either through the purchase of these habitats and/or the implementation of levels of protection that will maintain the sustainability of the … characteristics of these islands,” Martin said.

“If you lose these ecological and hydrological characteristics, its difficult, if not impossible, to get them back.”

The application remains under review by the province but states that construction will begin once environmental, engineering, First Nations and governmental agency approvals are in place.

There was no response to a request for comment from Klaassen Farms Ltd.

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

Just Posted

Organizers of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival have decided to end the event after more than 20 years. / Bob Friesen File Photo
Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival cancelled – for good

Organizers say the event was so popular that too many people were attending to be sustainable

Owen Charpentier, 21, is charged with the Oct. 22, 2019 second-degree murder of Keith Baldwin in Chilliwack. (File)
Pre-trial dates set for Chilliwack man charged with Keith Baldwin’s murder

Owen Dale Charpentier accused in the fourth homicide of 2019 next in court June 2021

The 2020 Rotary Club of Chilliwack Book Sale is moving from Chilliwack Mall to Heritage Park to allow more room for physically-distanced shopping. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rotary Book Sale moves from Chilliwack Mall to Heritage Park

The hugely-popular book sale is going ahead Oct. 25-31 with pandemic protocols in place

Massimo Rizzo (Penticton Vees, BCHL), middle, tries to out-maneuver two Team Canada East players during a preliminary game at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge. Team Canada West won the all-Canadian matchup 6-1.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images
Chilliwack Chiefs acquire Massimo Rizzo from Coquitlam Express

Chiefs hockey boss Brian Maloney has high expectations this season, and this trade is a sign of that

There have been several reports to the Chilliwack RCMP recently regarding a phone scam where the caller impersonates a local police officer and asks for money, they said on Oct. 19. 2020. (Miryam Leon/ Unsplash)
Chilliwack RCMP warn phone scammers are impersonating officers

RCMP officers would never solicit money or Bitcoin from someone, they assure the public

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

The RCMP helicopter. (File photo)
Suspect escapes after police pursuit through Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford

Police chase involved two stolen vehicles, including one taken in Mission

IIO Chief Civilian Director Ron MacDonald. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Police watchdog concludes Mounties didn’t shoot Surrey teen at strip mall

IIO finds tragic death of teenager ‘not the result of any actions or inactions’ by the Surrey RCMP

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 after an altercation left an elderly man in critical condition. (File photo)
Trial dates set in White Rock manslaughter case

Proceedings against Ross Banner, 71, set for June 2021 in Surrey Provincial Court

Most Read