‘Dire’ need to dig out Steveston Harbour

Steveston Harbour houses Canada’s largest fishing fleet, but some say river sediment is putting commercial activity at risk.  - Jennifer Gauthier file photo
Steveston Harbour houses Canada’s largest fishing fleet, but some say river sediment is putting commercial activity at risk.
— image credit: Jennifer Gauthier file photo

Steveston Harbour could soon become unusable for Canada’s largest fishing fleet if senior governments don’t ante up cash for dredging, observers say.

“It is filling up. If you go in low tide you can almost walk across at some points right now,” said Loren Slye, chair of the Steveston 20/20 group, which represents the village’s non-profit organizations. “We’re definitely in favour of getting some action and getting it quickly.”

In a recent letter to Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the chair of the Steveston Harbour Authority board said there is a “desperate” need to remove sediment from the harbour for the sake of 350 fishing vessels that rely on it.

“Our situation is dire, and if something is not done in the very near future, the harbour will become a navigation hazard and rendered unusable for this active fishing fleet,” said Ross Holkestad in the letter.

On Wednesday, council’s public works and transportation committee endorsed a recommendation to spend $2 million on dredging the Steveston Channel—provided senior governments and Port Metro Vancouver match that amount.

City hall doesn’t yet know what cash might come from government, said Robert Gonzalez, the city’s head of engineering and public works.

According to the city, up to $9 million of dredging work is needed in the harbour. Staff say all levels of government need to help remove “significant sedimentation” that has filled in local waterways since the end of a federally-funded dredging program in 2008.

The channel is so narrow that vessels with drafts greater than 3.5 metres are at times unable to travel through. At Scotch Pond, the river entrance is now only accessible at high tide by small boats, according to a staff report.

Bruce Rozenhart, chair of the Steveston Historical Society, told councillors Wednesday he supports the city’s bid for dredging cash.

“We’re very interested in maintaining the heritage value of the harbour. It’s a key feature of Richmond. A lot of people come here because of it,” he said.

City hall’s plan is modelled after one in Delta, which has already committed $2 million to dredge its harbour in Ladner if senior government and port authority funding is secured.

Steveston Harbour is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in Canada, along with many services fishermen use, according to the Steveston Harbour Authority. Each year 14 to 30 million kilograms of seafood are offloaded at Steveston facilities.

MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay was unavailable for comment yesterday.

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