Co-operation the key to conservation on Woodward Island — Ducks Unlimited Canada
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Pacific Coast, Partnerships, Wetlands

Co-operation the key to conservation on Woodward Island

Partnerships help fund critical work to improve habitat on the Fraser River

April 12, 2021
An aerial view of the Vancouver Pile Driving barge used to create three breaches in the Woodward Training Wall and Dam on the South Arm Marshes, located on the Fraser River.
An aerial view of the Vancouver Pile Driving barge used to create three breaches in the Woodward Training Wall and Dam on the South Arm Marshes, located on the Fraser River. © Max Scruton

“Conservation, as a whole, requires incredible amounts of co-operation,” says Sarah Nathan, DUC’s manager of provincial operations in B.C.

Conservation co-operation is particularly important in the critical Fraser River estuary, which is the main artery that feeds biodiversity to the coast of British Columbia.

It is the lifeblood for a dwindling population of the Southern resident killer whale. Millions of waterfowl pass through on their migration journey and stop to winter and feed. The estuary provides sustenance in the form of benthic invertebrate burrowing in the mudflats and salt marshes. Butterflies, bees, and bats all depend on the estuary for their survival. Fraser River salmon is an industry that generates as much as $300 million in revenue annually, according to Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Conservation of this critical ecosystem needs to be a top priority for municipalities like the City of Delta to the highest levels of provincial and federal governments. The best chance for its survival will require co-ordination, compromise, and mutual support.

DUC’s Coastal Restoration Fund work continues to deliver

Nathan says the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Coastal Restoration Fund (CRF) is an excellent example of this kind of initiative. The CRF is a federal initiative aimed at restoring coastal aquatic habitats. DUC’s CRF project on the Fraser River in the South Arm Marshes Wildlife Management Area continues to deliver results.

With funding from the CRF, along with the expertise of Vancouver Pile Driving and KWL Engineering, DUC completed three breaches of the Woodward Dam and Training Wall. The breaching of the dam restores access for juvenile salmon to the 395 acres (160 hectares) of marsh habitat of Woodward Island, which was previously isolated by these structures. Past CRF work includes improving fish migration with culverts on Gunn-Williamson Islands and invasive species work on Frenchies Island.

Breaches at Woodward Training Wall and Dam was dependent on tides, meaning crews had to start work as early as 5:30 a.m.
Breaches at Woodward Training Wall and Dam was dependent on tides, meaning crews had to start work as early as 5:30 a.m. © DUC

Restoring directly connected marsh and tidal channel habitat

Nathan says training and dredging of the main South Arm of the Fraser effectively created a “highway” to support shipping.

However, juvenile salmon migrating down the Fraser become stuck on this “highway” and are flushed out to the Strait of Georgia without sufficient time to adapt to the saline environment. Smaller aquatic organisms that play a critical role in the estuarine food web, like phytoplankton, microalgae, crustaceans and other invertebrates, are also flushed down the Main Arm without enriching the tidal marsh.

“These three breaches improve access by juvenile salmon to the marsh habitats of South Arm Marshes Wildlife Management Area,” says Nathan. “The breaches will also restore circulation from the Fraser River main arm to these marsh habitats, improve sediment transport and delivery and water quality, and restore about 139 acres (56 ha) of directly connected marsh and tidal channel habitat.”

None of this is possible without continued support from the public, local, provincial and federal governments. But it doesn’t end there. DUC’s work in B.C. reaches beyond our borders. DUC works with  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North American Wetland Conservation Act to access critical funding for our work.

“We understand that to protect what we hold cherish in B.C. We need to look beyond our backyard for collaboration, help and support,” says Nathan.