Forty years ago, Katzie Slough was a sanctuary for Scott Magri, a bullied nine-year-old from Pitt Meadows.
With a fishing rod in hand, he’d escape the pain of his daily life for a few hours.
Magri’s favorite spot was a quiet, shaded pool at the foot of Hammond Road, where cutthroat trout lurked. They’re mostly gone now, along with the clean flowing water and natural plants that supported coho.
Today, what you notice is an irrigation ditch with pockets of garbage.
Magri, now 45, wants the natural beauty of the waterway restored, along with the fish. He has a plan and the will power to make this happen.
“The first step is to get water flowing the way it used to, from the Fraser River at Wharf Street in Hammond to the Pitt River at Kennedy Pump Station,” he says.
Recently, biologist John Kelly of ARMS told Magri that tidal influences could make his idea work.
ARMS manager Greta Borick-Cunningham, who explored the Slough with Magri, says she’ll pull out trash and help replace invasive plants with native ones fish need.
Magri and I then met Ross Davies, of KEEPS, at Spencer Creek, a tributary of Kanaka Creek. It winds through Albion Flats from the Lougheed Hwy. and Tamarack Lane.
Davies pointed to a coho spawner that slipped into Spencer through a fish-friendly flood control gate made possible by a $310,000 grant from the Pacific Salmon Foundation in 2010. Magri wants one like it at the Kennedy pump, an ancient facility that requires expensive maintenance. It’s overdue for replacement.
“The old Spencer pump,” explained Davies, “used to be known as a fish grinder. Adults didn’t make it through. These ones aren’t from around here, probably looking for new channels, and found this one.”
Davies says the new pump surprised everybody by making Spencer Creek fish habitat again. This year he observed “good sized smolts ready to head out to sea.
“I don’t see why the Slough couldn’t be productive again, too.”
That would be great for the recreational fishery.
“There’s federal money for that.”
Official studies of the slough, including a 2013 Fish and Habitat Inventory commissioned by the City of Pitt Meadows, confirmed the potential.
The inventory shows salmonids always inhabited the slough. A 1978 survey found “a healthy population of cutthroat and good habitat,” and one in 1999 that showed, “catches of cutthroat, coho and chinook salmon.”
The slough provides water for agriculture in summer. At other times, it’s controlled with pumps to avoid flooding. City management practices, suggests the report, should boost fish habitat at the same time.
Modest fish habitat improvements, removing sediment and replacing problem vegetation with native plants, have the potential to improve conditions for salmonids, while allowing the city to improve infrastructures, states the report.
Over time, a cleaner stream, the report says, means less maintenance cost for taxpayers.
The slough has other problems, of course. Denuded stream banks promote erosion, and agricultural pesticides and fertilizers would threaten fish that returned after ecological improvements.
But Magri grew up with local berry farmers who’ve been life-long friends.
“They’ve told me they’d cooperate with restoration efforts because clean water is better than dirty water for their crops.”
Indeed, the various stakeholders of the slough seem ready and willing to roll up their sleeves to restore Katzie Slough for people and salmonids. A city worker born in Pitt told me recently she used to canoe on it. Many people did.
On Dec. 10th, Magri may mention this as he outlines his plan to city councilors at a regular meeting (6 p.m.). What he says should interest fishermen, nature lovers, taxpayers, and homeowners in the Wildwood area, plagued by drainage problems.
Those began with a bike path that backed up water like a dam. Culverts near Airport Road intended to move it through Bains Pump Station failed. They were seated above the water flow.
“If we finally work with nature,” says Magri, “we can bring back fish and get rid of water problems for good. Katzie Slough could be safe place for all of us again.”