Metro Vancouver is putting the brakes on a provincial plan to use part of Colony Farm Regional Park for a $3-million fish habitat improvement project after Port Coquitlam directors said they’re not sure it’s the best way to spend the money.
The Transportation Investment Corp., the arm of the province overseeing construction of the $2.5-billion Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 expansion, must make up for the new bridge’s damage to fish habitat by improving other nearby areas.
The proposed enhancement project at Colony Farm would span 80 hectares and include new or improved channels and ponds, special vegetation plantings and fish-friendly pumps.
It would also create a tidal flow of water through part of the park, through gates that let in water from the Fraser River at high tide, creating winter habitat for juvenile coho and chinook salmon.
But Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore said he’s concerned other wildlife, such as birds, may be disrupted by the construction and changes necessary to improve salmon habitat.
Colony Farm, near the north end of the new 10-lane Port Mann Bridge, is likely the most convenient site for the government, Moore said.
But he questions whether other sites further up the Coquitlam River might provide as good or better fish habitat without uprooting other species.
“The TI Corp. needs to prove to us that this is the best project in that corridor, not just the easiest project,” he said.
Moore said there are oxbow lakes and channels further up the river that could be opened up to salmon, as well as an old garbage dump on city land that could be a suitable site.
Metro staff had recommended final approval of the project contract with the TI Corp, but the board voted to refer the matter to the Metro environment committee for more discussion with the proponents later this month.
Once built, Metro would take on responsibility of running and maintaining the pumps, gates and channels.
TI Corp. would make a one-time payment to Metro of $322,000 to cover the first five to 10 years of costs, estimated at $36,000 a year.
The proposal had previously been vetted by Metro’s parks committee and Langley City Coun. Gayle Martin, who chairs that committee, said she had no concerns about the plan for Colony Park.
But she said further delays could set the project back a year.
Work on the Colony Farm project was to take place from August to October this year, when impacts to fish and wildlife would be minimal.
Once complete, the changes are not expected to significantly alter public access to the park.
The former Wilson Farm area of the park was once an important wetland until it was diked for agriculture a century ago.