WHY RESTORE THE SHORE
WHAT IS AN ESTUARY
An estuary develops where rivers meet the sea and fresh-flowing river water mingles with tidal saltwater to become partly salty or brackish, forming some of the most biologically productive and valuable ecosystems on earth.
Estuaries make up only 2.3 percent of BC’s coastline. Among the most productive ecosystems on earth, estuaries provide essential natural services like pollutant and sediment filtration, flood water absorption, storm surge dissipation, climate change moderation and carbon sequestration.
WHY RESTORE THE SHORE IS IMPORTANT
It will restore vitally important habitat for endangered Chinook salmon. The berm was put into the Squamish estuary for industrial purposes, without consideration for the impact it would have on the flow of water, the habitat it provides and the ecosystem that thrives there. Consequently salmon stocks have plummeted from 100,000s to 10,000s as the estuary provides a safe haven and protective nursery for juvenile Chinook, along with the interconnected ecosystem including endangered Southern Resident orcas, eagles, bears, dolphins and birds.
It is an act of reconciliation for the Skwxkwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), the original stewards and knowledge-keepers of this land, and the wildlife that has thrived here in the past. The berm was put in without engaging or consulting with the Skwxkwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) that call Átl’ka7tsem / Howe Sound area home, and for whom a deep connection with the land and waters is rooted in every aspect of their culture. The berm physically divided Squamish Nation villages and negatively impacted local Chinook salmon - a species of critical importance culturally and for sustenance. Today the berm serves as a symbol of the historic and ongoing impact of colonization and this is why its removal is a much overdue and needed step in reconciliation.
The District of Squamish recognizes that we’re in a climate crisis and is actively developing plans to not only reduce our carbon emissions, but protect our community for future generations. This project is a strong example of ecological restoration to the estuary, which is Squamish’s greatest local carbon sink.
WHAT THIS RESTORATION WORK INVOLVES
The restoration measures for Restore the Shore build on 20 years of habitat restoration in the estuary, and are informed by the SRWS’s monitoring program to address the ongoing impacts of the training berm and rail spur line in the estuary. They were developed by the SRWS in consultation with project partners, the Skwxkwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The next phase (2021/22) involves:
Upgrading existing culverts in the training berm to improve fish access
Modifying the lower section of the training berm to reconnect the lower estuary
Installing a flow control device under the CN rail spur to re-water a historical channel
The Restore the Shore project must happen now to save this vital ecosystem and right historical wrongs.