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Port Metro Vancouver eyes fish and bird habitat at Canoe Pass in Ladner

Port Metro Vancouver plans to turn a four-hectare sand flat into an intertidal marsh that will become habitat for rearing juvenile Pacific salmon. Engineers will construct a 770-metre long by four-metre wide rock containment berm which will circle the southern end of the existing marsh and extend northwards. - Port Metro Vancouver
Port Metro Vancouver plans to turn a four-hectare sand flat into an intertidal marsh that will become habitat for rearing juvenile Pacific salmon. Engineers will construct a 770-metre long by four-metre wide rock containment berm which will circle the southern end of the existing marsh and extend northwards.
— image credit: Port Metro Vancouver

Port Metro Vancouver is looking to create new tidal marsh habitat for fish and birds on the south shore of  Westham Island near Canoe Pass.

The project is part of the port's Habitat Enhancement Program which develops fish and wildlife habitat to offset environmental damage that may be involved in future development projects.

The proposed site is on an existing four-hectare sand flat which will be converted to an intertidal marsh that will become habitat for rearing juvenile Pacific salmon. Engineers will construct a 770-metre long by four-metre wide rock containment berm which will circle the southern end of the existing marsh and extend northwards.

The port will use local silt currently being collected from secondary channel dredging as fill to bring the containment berm to the same elevation as the existing marshes.

Project manager Gord Ruffo said most of the tidal marsh habitat in the Fraser River Estuary has been lost due to diking, filling and other human development activities.

"Numbers are that at least 70 per cent, I've heard numbers as high as 80 per cent, since the early 1900s when we started constructed dikes and creating farmland," he said. "Well, we're losing our tidal marshes."

Ruffo oversaw the salt marsh restoration project at Boundary Bay in 2013, which removed creosote-contaminated logs that washed up on shore from logging operations over the past several decades. While this project is similar in terms of environmental enhancement, Ruffo said there are key differences for wildlife.

"This would be a brackish marsh because you do get some salt but a lot of fresh water coming through there, too," he said.

The Port is also looking at improving diversity in bird populations by creating nesting boxes and standing logs, called snags. As trees are rare on the intertidal flats of Westham Island, this project is expected to lure raptors and other nesting birds.

Raptors are of particular interest and the port is considering the installment of webcams with live streaming on one of the proposed osprey nesting platforms to allow viewers to watch the hatching and feeding of nestlings before they fledge.

Public consultation on the project continues until Friday, March 14. After that time the Port will review public comments and feedback to see if any ideas can be incorporated in the project. The results will be shared online at porttalk.ca.

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