In October of 2008, Comox Valley Project Watershed Society sponsored a major symposium on the Courtenay River Estuary.
The symposium featured leading experts on estuaries in B.C. and beyond. We learned that our estuary is one of only eight Class 1 estuaries in British Columbia.
This classification is based on intertidal size, estuarine habitat, intertidal species, water bird density, and herring spawn. Our estuary provides habitat for 145 bird species (more than 70,000 birds), 218 plant species, and 29 fish species, including all five species of salmon. Over 300 people from the Valley attended this event.
As a result of this symposium, two important conclusions were made:
First, the estuary is under threat from commercial and urban development both within the estuary and along the streams and rivers that flow into this body of water. This development leads to the loss of habitat that is critical to all species that inhabit the estuary. It also adds pollutants that impact all living organisms.
Past developments have also impacted the estuary, reducing its ability to sustain the many bird species, plants, fish, and micro organisms essential to a healthy ecosystem.
Second, to turn things around, we need a vision and guidelines to direct the renewal of the estuary.
From January until September 2009, an estuary working group consisting of individuals from government and environmental groups as well as independent professionals worked on preparing a vision document to help direct the future of the estuary.
To guide our vision, we chose a traditional aboriginal principle — Keeping it Living.
The complete Keeping it Living document can be found at http://maps.projectwatershed.bc.ca.
The document suggests that one management body with representation from all four governments, experts in the field, and selected local environmental organizations should have responsibility for determining and guiding development and restoration efforts along the shoreline and within the waters of the estuary.
Keeping it Living envisions residents living within the estuary and surrounding area in harmony with the natural life cycles occurring within the estuary and its watersheds. Protecting and restoring the estuary requires the co-operation of local governments.
It requires the voice and passion of all citizens, in our schools, in the workforce, and those who are retired who live in this beautiful Valley. It needs the support of our environmental organizations. It needs the voice and wisdom of K’ómoks First Nation’s teachers and elders. It needs all of us to speak for and on behalf of life as it occurs within our estuary.
The Estuary Working group and Project Watershed invite all to read the vision document and to become more aware of and involved in the preservation and restoration of this beautiful natural feature of our Valley.
Editor’s note: Don Castleden is chair of the Estuary Working Group and chair of the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society.
From the Comox Valley Record, 17 November 2009
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