Preet Pall and son_Katzie canoe tour_May 2018_credit Preet PallLast year, I joined Watershed Watch for a canoe tour and garbage clean-up on the Katzie Slough in Pitt Meadows.

I live in Coquitlam, and while I had heard about the Katzie Slough over the years, I had never visited it. So when the invitation from Watershed Watch came across my desk, I decided to take the opportunity to finally see the slough, and to enjoy an outdoor activity with my son.

The day we went out was bright and sunny. As we got ourselves settled into our canoe, I was impressed to see how many people had showed up. Around 15 people were jostling about in canoes and kayaks, organizing equipment for the garbage clean up.

The Katzie Slough is much smaller than I imagined it, and very straight like many of the waterways in the lower Fraser. Lina, our guide, explained that as the area has been developed for agriculture, natural waterways have been cajoled into straight lines and awkward right-angled turns for the purposes of moving water – for irrigation or flood control –  as efficiently as possible. These waterways were once natural streams, side channels and sloughs that ebbed and flowed, providing safe habitats for overwintering and rearing salmon. Garbage clean-ups and restoration projects on the Katzie are returning this waterway to a healthy habitat for wild fish.

With everyone spread out along the slough, within just a few hours, we collected a shocking amount of garbage. We found everything from bottles and plastic wrap to tires and even a shopping cart. While some of the garbage has likely blown in from the nearby highway, we found bags of garbage that appear to have been thrown in purposefully. I think many people in the area do not realize the importance of this waterway. It looks like a ditch, but it provides habitat for juvenile salmon.

Once we had filled our canoe with garbage, we paddled back enjoying the result of all our hard work. It felt amazing to see the slough clean.

Our day on the Katzie was a great experience. It  deepened my understanding of the importance of restoration work on our waterways, and it felt great to get out and make a difference for our wild salmon. I look forward to getting out there again.

Preet Pall, is an insurance advisor living in Coquitlam and a board member for Watershed Watch Salmon Society. She keeps herself busy as a parent, an active volunteer in local non-profits and enjoying the outdoor life in the lower mainland.