Lina Azeez

Lina Azeez cleaning up garbage on the Katzie Slough.

2020 will be a huge year for the Connected Waters campaign! The goal of Connected Waters is to reconnect vital salmon habitats in the lower Fraser blocked by outdated flood control structures. Loss of habitat is a key factor in the decline of struggling Fraser salmon populations and currently over 1500 km of salmon habitat is blocked by aging flood gates that don’t allow fish passage, and by flood pumps that literally kill fish.

Since we launched the campaign in 2016, we have made some enormous strides. And last year, in partnership with Tides Canada, we were awarded funding through the BC Salmon Restoration & Innovation Fund to identify and prioritize the most viable sites for infrastructure upgrades and habitat restoration. The  project, called Resilient Waters, will be led by a team of biologists and engineers, guided by an advisory committee of local First Nations, municipalities, scientists, industry representatives and environmental colleagues. Watershed Watch is co-chairing this advisory committee and assisting with the field work.

The second phase of the project (if funded), will begin the restoration projects identified in phase 1, in partnership with local First Nations and municipalities. With luck, this will lead to several high-value habitats being opened back up for Fraser River salmon over the next few years.

I’m really looking forward to field work this year. In early March, as the juvenile salmon leave their home streams, we’ll be taking fin clips as part of a DNA study for DFO to help identify where in the watershed these fish originate and compare that to where we found them. The project biologists are creating a very thorough data collection plan for the spring and summer so we can collect the most important data from water quality to habitat health and the state of current flood infrastructure. Data collection will take place at numerous sites across the lower Fraser watershed. If you are interested in stomping around the side channels and sloughs of the Fraser Valley join us and get some eye-opening field experience. Sign up for our volunteer email list to have opportunities sent to your inbox. 

We are excited to have this work off the ground and look forward to working with communities along the way. And while this important study takes place, we will continue pushing government decision makers to make fish-friendly flood management the new norm. It will take a lot of work to do to make all flood infrastructure in the lower Fraser fish-friendly, but this study is a huge step forward and it would not have happened if we hadn’t pressured government to deal with their antiquated flood management system.

Thank you to all of you who have signed our Connected Waters petition, written letters to decision-makers and come out to help at our restoration sites. You helped finally move the needle on this issue.

For the fish,

Lina Azeez

Find out more about the Connected Waters campaign and sign the petition asking decision-makers to ensure our flood management practices are fish-friendly!