Friday, September 30, 2005


Watching the Salmon run up the river while children, parents, and grandparents look on with awe, is truly inspiring to me. The interest that the general public has for the wonders of nature is growing. Today our society, and the government that represents it, acknowledges the value of the river systems in this province by dedicating one day of the year as ‘BC River’s Day.’ This gesture is heartwarming and many people take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate the rivers while learning from the many volunteers who work hard to provide informative presentations and valuable tours.

Federal and provincial governments are joined by large corporations in a public relations blitz that shows off all that is being done to ‘help’ the rivers of this province. The positive input is valuable and needs to grow, however the facts behind what is actually destroying rivers need to be addressed. Change is needed to correct the problems at their root rather than treating the symptoms after the destruction has occurred.

For example, a great deal of time, money, and effort has gone into a restoration project which is intended to help restore fish habitat in the Englishman River. This valuable effort is slowly helping to recreate pools that have been washed out over the years. While this remedy is a good step forward, it does not address the cause for the problems of erosion, siltation, and flood surges in the river that have led to the dismiss of salmon stocks.

Logging continues to degrade and destroy the watersheds that feed BC’s rivers. Clearcuts, now labeled ‘variable retention’ by corporations, remove the forest cover that slows down the flow of water. Trees pump millions of litres of water back into the atmosphere where new clouds are formed. The roots of these trees form a complex and interconnected web that holds soil into place. Roads are blasted in a crisscross pattern across mountain slopes, followed by heavy machinery dragging or yarding logs over soil devoid of trees causing massive erosion. This causes silt to be washed down with the rains into the water ways and eventually into the rivers.

Snow pack, built up under the shade of the forest, melts slowly over time and flows into the rivers in small increments. Exposed snow melting, and rain that is no longer diverted by the forest, result in surges of water that become flash floods downstream as the many riverlets converge and become larger creeks and rivers. Logging debris is flushed downstream by the immense power of water which leads to the erosion of river bank. At times log jams cause rivers to completely change their course.

Logging continues to destroy watersheds locally, around the province, across Canada, and around the world. Brascan has closed the gate to the public at North West Bay Road due to logging 7 days a week, so people no longer have access to the watershed that flows into most of Oceanside. Englishman River is listed as the #2 most endangered river in British Columbia, along with most of the rivers on the East coast of Vancouver Island. #1 is the Fraser River. The Little Qualicum is also suffering from logging in the wetlands upstream. Steelhead Salmon are an indicator species that shows just how degraded the rivers have become. The Englishman River used so show returns in the thousands, today far less than 100 fish survive. Salmon enhancement programs help revive the other species but do not solve the problems.

Development continues to encroach on local watersheds with hundreds of new homes being built along the banks of the Englishman River , and plans for many more along the Little Qualicum River. Beautiful places to live, but sewage always flows down hill and many people remove all of the trees to get a better view. Some agriculture also spreads large amounts of manure, chemical fertilizer, and herbicides onto land that was once wetland but has been drained and cleared. The Regional District of Nanaimo built a dam to control the flow of water. Is it working? Questions should be asked of mayors,councilors, RDN directors, provincial and federal government. How is the water being protected or is it just being repaired?