Election 2014: Push continues to restore Katzie Slough

Politicians and hopefuls get behind project of restoring the Katzie Slough.

The 2014 election campaign could be a key time in the restoration of Katzie Slough.

During the municipal election campaign, Watershed Watch Salmon Society is doing its best to lobby local politicians and hopefuls to take action on restoring the once-vibrant slough.

Lina Azeez, the engagement coordinator for Watershed Watch in this region, organized a tour of the waterway that winds through Pitt Meadows, mostly north of the Lougheed Highway.

“The goal was to let them know about this project,” she said, “to introduce them to the slough and its history, and look for points of collaboration.”

Azeez was impressed that the tour was well attended on a soggy Saturday. Pitt Meadows mayoralty candidate John Becker was there, along with the entire team that supports him – incumbent councillors David Murray, Janis Elkerton and Bruce Bell, and candidate Mike Stark. Another Pitt Meadows candidate, Andrew Thompson, also attended.

From Maple Ridge, candidates Grant Sanderson, Sara Dawn Beckett , Kirsten Duncan and council incumbents Corisa Bell and Al Hogarth were also there.

Azeez said Hogarth, in particular, was “very supportive, after he learned about it.”

Hogarth suggested a round-table involving council and staff from both cities to discuss strategies for restoring the slough.

Pitt Meadows candidate Scott Magri acted as the tour guide, as he has been working with Watershed Watch on the Katzie Slough restoration in recent years.

Although most of the slough is within Pitt Meadows municipal boundaries, it is a collaborative issue with Maple Ridge because storm drains from commercial and residential developments in the latter drain into it, said Azeez.

As well, the slough is also part of a greenway system that is shared between the two communities.

Watershed Watch sent all of the candidates in the two cities a questionnaire about the slough, and of the 12 respondents, all said they support the effort.

“Nobody thinks it’s not going to work – it’s just going to cost some money,” noted Magri.

Gates need to be installed in the slough to allow water from the Fraser River to flow freely into it with the rising tide. The slough also needs pumps that are fish friendly, where the current pumps kill fish.

Magri estimates the cost will run into the $10 million range, to convert the slough from a mostly stagnant ditch filled with American bullfrogs and other invasive species, back to a watercourse with clean, flowing water where salmon can spawn.

Key to restoring the slough will be funding from senior government. The federal government will want to see a business plan, and Becker has offered his assistance to Water Watch in developing one.

Beckett said she would like to be personally involved in the project, whether or not she is elected.

“I believe that my knowledge of science, especially in biology, could contribute a lot to the cause,” said Beckett, who teaches high school science.

Bruce Bell also offered to be personally involved in the project.

“Restoring the Katzie Slough to as near as possible to what it originally was would help to keep Pitt Meadows the natural place,” he said in the questionnaire.

Pitt Meadows Coun. Tracy Miyashita said in the questionnaire that she has participated in the clean up of the slough and the Fraser River Shoreline, and said more regular clean-up days would be an asset.

“Funding is always a real consideration, but much can be done in terms of education, partnerships and volunteer efforts,” said Pitt Meadows candidate Bill Dingwall.

“We made our point,” said Azeez, “and it was good to meet all these potential leaders of our community.”

Slough stories

The Katzie Slough Restoration Project is looking for “Huckleberry Fin stories” about the Katzie Slough. These can be posted online at www.ksrp.ca under the “Slough Stories” tab.

“We want people to share their stories. It’s another way for people to engage with this project,” explained Azeez.