The Central Estuary Restoration Project (CERP) is a critical and high-value initiative to restore dramatically declining South Coastal Chinook salmon stocks and one of the most significant of several habitat restoration projects on BC’s south coast. It is also a fundamentally important step in reconciliation with the Squamish First Nation.
This multi-year partnership between the Squamish Nation, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Squamish River Watershed Society to restore natural fish connectivity between the river and the estuary is the culmination of over 25 years of research and scientific studies which has been ongoing with funding received for the past four years and has involved many important stakeholders including Squamish Terminals, the District of Squamish, and the Provincial Government, as well as other interested parties like the Squamish Windsports Society. Collaborative discussions to help all stakeholders and interested parties achieve a positive outcome for themselves have been ongoing since 2017 including a District of Squamish-led workshop in January 2020. The workshop was to address the removal of a portion of the lower Spit and outlined short and long-term alternatives for wind sport access. The result of that workshop was a list of actions that included direction for the SWS and the DOS to begin developing access plans that consider the removal of the spit and begin to raise funds for the alternative.
The CERP team is still in the process of analyzing scientific data and modelling, and discussions are ongoing with the partners and stakeholders to ensure that any potential flooding issues and sedimentation concerns are addressed with the District of Squamish and the Squamish Terminals respectively. The report that forms the basis of the next round of discussions is still under further consultation and evaluation and communications are ongoing.
“Everyone involved wants to see a positive outcome for stakeholders and interested parties,” says Squamish River Watershed Society spokesperson Patricia Heintzman. “That was the goal from the outset of this project and that goal continues today.
“We must also realize the two underlying imperatives of this project are 1) the success of juvenile Chinook stocks. Juvenile Chinook salmon are considered an at-risk species on the South Coast of British Columbia and are the primary food source for the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. The Squamish Chinook salmon stock has been gravely impacted by the existence of the training berm and spit for 40 years, and 2) reconciliation with the people of the Squamish Nation to support their heritage and culture.”
For the past four years, the Squamish Windsports Society has been given the opportunity to find a positive outcome for wind sport enthusiasts who either live in Squamish or travel here to enjoy this world-class destination. It is up to every special interest group to be their own advocate, to bring their solutions that work within the mandate to restore critical habitat, and to ultimately raise funds for their solution. The District of Squamish and Tourism Squamish have also reached out to the windsports community.
SRWS and their CERP partners are committed to working with all interested parties who want to be a productive part of developing collaborative solutions and will help champion discussions around the long-term health and enjoyment of the estuary in an environmentally responsible manner.
The Central Estuary Restoration Project is funded through support from Coastal Restoration Fund, BC Hydro's Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, the Healthy Waters Initiative, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation. The project falls under the national Ocean Protection Plan initiative to restore coastal aquatic habitats.
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.