SQUAMISH RIVER ESTUARY
central estuary restoration
central estuary restoration
The Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS) is currently implementing phase 1 of the Central Estuary Restoration Project (CERP). Phase 1 of the project is focused on upgrading an existing culvert to improve fish access between the Squamish River and the estuary, and active construction for this commenced in April 2019. Phase 1 involves the replacement of an existing 1.2 m damaged culvert with a 3 m x 3 m box culvert approximately half way down the Spit Road. This will improve the surface water flows between the estuary and river that is necessary to accommodate fish access, as the existing culvert can be perched or inundated depending on tidal fluctuations.
As the culvert is to be placed below the natural grade of the land, works need to occur in our bi-annual low tide window experienced in late spring, and more specifically within bi-weekly low tide cycles. The work scope includes excavation of the existing road and culvert, culvert placement, reinstatement of the road surface, placement of protective rip-rap on the estuary and river sides of the structure and re-vegetation of the area.
These works are scheduled to take place in the available work windows between April and June 2019. During the site excavation, culvert placement, and road reinstatement scheduled for April-May 2019 the road will be partially and fully closed to traffic. It is the intent of the project team to maintain road access as much as reasonably possible, but at the discretion of Fisheries and Oceans staff who are supervising the project, for public safety reasons full closures will be required until we are otherwise directed.
The SRWS is working in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Squamish Nation and has been in ongoing discussions with the Province of BC, District of Squamish and Squamish Windsports Society and other community and industry stakeholders. We are doing our best to ensure a smooth access for the start of the Winds Sports season for May 15, as per our discussions with the Squamish Windsports Society and in accordance with their agreement with the District of Squamish and Provincial Government.
To view the wildlife management area plan that defines recreational access and other fish and wildlife management objectives please visit:
For background on the science and decision making that has informed the need for this restoration project please visit:
For information on phases 2 & 3 of the project that are currently in planning phase please visit:
Major projects of this nature, in highly variable environments, are subject to change and the SRWS remains committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders to minimize traffic disruptions, realize habitat restoration efforts, and keep the public informed our changes as they may arise. We appreciate your understanding as we undertake this habitat restoration work that is critical to the survival of Chinook salmon. Questions can be directed to email@example.com.
The Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS) is a registered charitable non-profit organization that takes a collaborative approach to watershed management. We work in partnership with industry, First Nations, community and government stakeholders to preserve and restore the integrity of the Squamish River watershed. The SRWS has been leading restoration enhancement projects from the headwaters to the flood plain of the Squamish estuary since 1998.
The Squamish River training berm, known locally as the Spit Road, was installed in the 1970s to 'train' the river to the west bank, and accommodate a deep sea coal port in the central estuary. The river was also dredged at this time, and the dredge material was placed on the central estuary to infill the area for port facilities. Following road building and infilling works public concern was raised on the continued industrialization of the Squamish Estuary. To address this the federal and provincial governments of the day halted further construction works, and started the Squamish Estuary Management Planning process in the late 1970s to maintain a balanced approach to development in critical habitat. While construction was halted, the road that bisects the estuary and the infill remained. The outcome of this federal-provincial planning process is summarized in the 1982 and 1999 Squamish Estuary Management Plan, and 2007 Skwelwil'em-Squamish Wildlife Management Area Plan wherein opportunities to restore, enhance and maintain fish and wildlife habitat in the area that had been previously impacted are identified.
The SRWS has been implementing restoration and enhancement works identified through the estuary planning process. This included the successful removal of the dredge material from the central estuary, restoration of tidal channels in the estuary and re-connection of the river and the estuary through a series of 9 culverts placed across the training berm (2001 – 2013). The culverts were installed to allow for freshwater-saltwater exchange in the estuary, and for fish passage for juvenile salmonids that are emerging from the river. In this rearing life stage salmonids require access to the estuary as they undergo physiological transitions needed for their life at sea.
For the past five years, the SRWS has been undertaking fisheries assessment work to determine if the 9 culverts are permitting fish access. From this work it has been determined the culverts are not effectively permitting fish access from the river into the estuary and the restored habitat in the estuary is significantly underutilized, especially by juvenile Chinook salmon. Result suggest the training berm is essentially flushing the juvenile fish to deep ocean, and is likely effecting stock survival rates. When compared to other estuaries, the presence of fish in the Squamish Estuary is devastatingly low despite considerable and ongoing efforts to restore access and habitat since the 1970s. Beach seine, fyke net and minnow trapping and pit tagging across multiple years has been applied to assess fish presences to date, comparing this data with known values of emerging salmon from the Cheakamus River determined using rotary screw traps. In 2019 we will be expanding our fish monitoring program to include acoustic telemetry tagging that will provide insight into the spatial distribution of fish in the estuary.
Pacific Salmon, particularly Chinook species, are under considerable stress and populations have been in decline for years. In 2019 Fisheries and Oceans Canada announced that all but 1 of the 13 Chinook Salmon Fraser River Chinook salmon populations are at risk, which is consistent with local assessment findings. Fisheries and Oceans Canada outline that the science is clear and the loss of these populations would be disastrous to resource-recreation economies, and the fish and wildlife that depend on this species. In particular, the Southern Resident Killer Whale Population, that is listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act feeds on Chinook salmon as their primary food source.
In partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Squamish Nation the SRWS was awarded funding in 2017 for the Central Estuary Restoration Project to improve fish habitat and access, particularly for juvenile Chinook in the estuary. The three phases of the project include:
Since initial funding was awarded the SRWS has been working with the province of BC, District of Squamish and community and industry stakeholders on the planning and implementation of the project. Detailed river and coastal flood modeling, sediment transport analysis, biophysical, fish, bathymetric and geotechnical assessment are being undertaken to inform project engineering and design.
Question can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org and for more information on the project please visit:
To maintain public safety the south end of the Squamish River Training Berm (the Spit Road) is shut down to traffic until further notice to accommodate heavy equipment operation. The SRWS is striving to maintain intermittent access to the Spit as works permit in the next week but works currently require full closure. Notices will be placed if intermittent access resumes.
Intermittent and full closure to vehicle access can be expected through May 2019, with side channel work carrying on through June 2019 as works are limited by available low tide windows. Updates will be posted on the blog as they become available. We appreciate your understanding as we work to complete this important habitat restoration work to improve access for juvenile salmon from the Squamish River in the the estuary.
Questions can be directed to email@example.com and for more information on the habitat restoration project please visit: https://www.squamishwatershed.com/central-estuary-restoration.html
We are pleased to announce we will be moving forward with phase 1 of the Central Estuary Restoration Project. Culvert 3 (see yellow arrow in photo) will be replaced with a 3m x 3m box culvert to improve fish access at this location. As of April 22, 2019 there will be heavy equipment operating onsite. The road will remain open to the public from April 22 - 28 as the site is prepared, materials are transported for construction. On April 29, 2019 the lower portion of the road will be closed to traffic (approx. location see red sign in photo) to allow for removal and replacement of the culvert during the low tide windows.
The project team is working toward a goal of reopening the road to traffic by May 15th, and will continue to undertake work in the side channel areas during the low tide windows in May and June. Re-vegetation of the site will take place following active construction works. Works schedules are subject to change when working in this highly variable environment, and the SRWS will update stakeholders and the community of any unforeseen changes to our schedule.
This project is being undertaken in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Squamish Nation, and the support of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource and Rural Operations, the District of Squamish, and in consultation with various community stakeholders including the Squamish Windsport Society.
Please share this news with anyone who you think may be interested or who uses this Spit Road and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604 892 7919.
Thank you for your patience as we undertake this exciting project. Our intention is to improve fish access from the Squamish River into the Central Estuary for juvenile salmonids, in particular Chinook salmon, as they make their way down the rivers and make the physiological transition to life at sea.
To find out more about the project, please visit Central Estuary Restoration.
The Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS), formed in 1998, takes a holistic approach towards watershed management, examining the headwaters down to the estuary and into Howe Sound. We are committed to enhancing and preserving the integrity of the Squamish Watershed, focusing on key environmental factors and human influences.