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Silt rising to dangerous levels, warns Delta mayor, MLA

Delta South MLA Ian Paton (left) and Delta Mayor George Harvie warned it will be a dangerous situation for the Delta channels that are silting up fast.

Posted on May 15, 2023

It’s not right that Ladner gets nothing.

That’s what Delta South MLA Ian Paton said in the legislature Monday, reiterating a call he also made last week for the provincial government to step up and support local river channel dredging.

The BC United MLA referred to last month’s announcement of $2.1 million in funding to improve access to Steveston Harbour for dredging that will maintain the Cannery Channel approach to the harbour.

In a news release, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure noted that a buildup of sediment in the south arm of the Fraser River is beginning to interfere with navigation into Steveston Harbour. The Steveston Harbour Authority has requested funding from all levels of government to undertake the planning, dredging and disposal work to improve safe access to the harbour.

It’s been an ongoing issue for the City of Delta, which has been lobbying for years for an ongoing maintenance program to prevent the secondary channels from silting up.

“They get $2.1 million out of the blue and that was part of all that surplus money the NDP was throwing around like crazy before the end of the fiscal year, but we get nothing our way…so much silt comes down the Fraser River from all over B.C. and ends up at the final resting stops in Steveston and Ladner,” Paton told the Optimist.

Last week, Paton presented a 135-name petition on “the urgent need to dredge the secondary channels of the Fraser River and to seek long term funding for an annual regional dredging strategy.” There is also another petition online, which has over 775 signatures.

He noted that a decade ago Delta, Richmond, the Vancouver Port Authority, and the Province of BC came together in an unprecedented $10 million collaboration to dredge the secondary channels around Ladner and Steveston.

It lasted four years but, since then, there has been little attention to dredging and the silt has risen to dangerous levels in Delta and Richmond, he said.

“Richmond, a few weeks ago, received $2.1 million dollars of dredge funding for Steveston Harbour, but the issues remain in the secondary channels of Delta South, even though a recent Port of Vancouver Report graded the need for dredging to be the same in both areas.

“Without dredging, there is a great risk to boating safety, people’s homes are tilting on low tide and the shallow waters mean commercial fishing boats can only get in and out during a particular window at high tide or risk dragging, running aground, and spilling fuel,” Paton read in a statement.

The “call for action” was also submitted to Delta MP Carla Qualtrough.

Mayor George Harvie told the Optimist that he and Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie have taken the lead on the issue at the Metro Vancouver level, along with Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Laura Cassidy and Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow.

Harvie noted he raised the issue with a delegation in Ottawa last week, adding it’s his objective to have the federal government take the responsibility of having the secondary channels of the South Fraser be the responsibility of the Port of Vancouver, who regularly dredge the Fraser River.

The Port of Vancouver initially dredged the secondary channels until they decided to stop the program, he said.

“The secondary channels are now at record stages of sediment deposits which are not only affecting the navigation channels but all business, residential and marinas causing disruptions to marine use of the Fraser River secondary channels,” said Harvie.

He noted he’s in discussions with BC Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming on the issue.

Harvie also directed city staff to contact Federal Fisheries Small Craft Harbours in Vancouver to request a meeting to discuss sediment build-up at Ladner Harbour and other locations in Delta.

“The City of Delta cannot do this alone and appreciate assistance from elected officials, Metro Vancouver, First Nations, marine businesses, float homes and other river users on this serious issue,” he added.


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