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Author Topic: "There are safer places to get gravel"  (Read 103175 times)

troutbreath

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"There are safer places to get gravel"
« on: December 20, 2007, 10:26:29 AM »

Here is what I would call a total idiot promoting gravel removal from the Fraser, getting his say in the paper for all to read. Nowhere does this clown realize that there fish living among the gravel that's being removed. Maybe "don't build on a flood plain" would be the smarter thing. There are safer places to get gravel alright. ???



COLUMN: Take ‘gravelgate’ with a grain of sand
By Tom Fletcher - Surrey North Delta Leader - December 19, 2007    |    |      |    | 

 The latest controversy over gravel removal from the lower Fraser River illustrates the toxic climate of suspicion that still attends environmental issues in B.C.

For years the bottom of the lower Fraser has been inexorably rising, as millions of tonnes of gravel, sand and debris roar down through the Fraser Canyon each spring and drop on the flood plain as the water slows. Decades of diking and redirecting in one of the world’s great food production, transport and human habitation zones have changed the dynamic of B.C.’s main artery, confining the river and its vast detritus.

The science, like the sand, is settled. There is an unnatural but all too real buildup. We need the planetary equivalent of coronary bypass surgery, before the 2007 tally of floods (Prince Rupert, Smithers, and Prince George among them) starts to sound like fond memories.

The fruitless bickering and stalling between Ottawa and Victoria on this problem is all too familiar to Fraser Valley folks. Federal fisheries looks after salmon and B.C. environment looks after the sturgeon and other fresh-water fish. A long-sought agreement to take half a million cubic metres a year out is expiring with only a small fraction removed.

In the last couple of years B.C. ministers Barry Penner and Pat Bell have quietly pointed east when asked about this problem, observing the premier’s third or fourth commandment: Thou shalt not pick fights in public with Ottawa. Now word comes that last spring’s near-miss flooding has prompted a serious effort at Herrling Island near Chilliiwack to take out more than 50,000 truckloads. That’s most of the annual target amount that hasn’t been getting done, out a single site. And it has to be done between January and March when water and fish activity are lowest.

A fisheries biologist now at BCIT, Marvin Rosenau, tossed a Christmas cracker into this plan before going on holidays. In a long email that found its way to me and numerous river watchers, he calls the Herrling Island plan “the biological equivalent … of running a D9 Caterpillar tractor down the centre of the spawning beds of the Adams River.”

Further, he alleges that first he and then a couple of weeks ago another provincial biologist were transferred off the Environment Ministry’s gravel committee for standing up for fish. He and the other scientist say that in the latest case, deputy minister Joan Hesketh acted personally at the behest of Penner and his Chilliwack neighbour John Les, who as Minister of Public Safety is responsible for flood control.

Alas, Rosenau blows his credibility when he claims that this is all a gravel grab for the construction business. Not only is this hotly denied by both Penner and Les, it doesn’t pass the common sense test. There are safer places to get gravel.

What’s really happening is that Ottawa and Victoria were scared by the record freshet last spring. So scared that B.C. spent a fast $33 million fixing dikes, with Ottawa as usual tottering in weeks late to cover half of the cost. B.C. has put up another $100 million for the coming years, and it may not be enough.

As for the delicate habitat of woody debris that will be disturbed by a series of gravel extractions this size, I’ll just ask you this.

Have you stood on the banks of the lower Fraser River during a strong spring runoff? Once the ice is through, the “woody debris” can include clumps of giant trees ripped out of the ground. The power is exceeded only by glaciers.

Pardon our carbon emissions, but it’s time to start the gravel trucks.

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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chris gadsden

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2007, 10:49:23 AM »

Another gravel article on B1 of Vancouver Sun today.

troutbreath

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2007, 11:36:48 AM »

Thanks Chris here it is. Another fired or displaced employee for doing their job, pretty sick. :-\


 Thursday » December 20 » 2007
 
Politics led to dismissal: fisheries critic
Ex-biologist says Victoria intent on promoting gravel mining in river
 
Larry Pynn
Vancouver Sun


Thursday, December 20, 2007


The Ministry of Environment has removed one of its biologists from a technical committee because his concerns over fish habitat were standing in the way of massive gravel extraction plans for the lower Fraser River, charges a former provincial fish biologist turned BCIT instructor.

Marvin Rosenau, who says he was similarly removed from a gravel committee by the province in 2003, asserts that biologist Ross Neuman was removed in November from the technical committee because he was "obstructive" to the province's gravel removal plans at Herrling Island, upstream of Rosedale.

Rosenau said "the political agenda of giving access to local gravel interests in the upper Fraser Valley was not being achieved because this civil servant was doing his job" and that "his information strongly showed that this site should not be mined based on the available information . . ."

Neuman, head of the ministry's ecosystems section for the Lower Mainland, e-mailed Rosenau on Nov. 26 stating: "I have not heard anything re a decision on the lower Herrling gravel removal proposal and I do not expect to.

"Effective last week, I am no longer a member of the Fraser Gravel Technical Committee. I was removed from the committee by the deputy minister. As I understand it, I will not be replaced and environmental stewardship will no longer sit on the technical committee."

The Sun's call to deputy minister Joan Hesketh was referred to Sarah Harrison, communications director for the environment ministry.

Harrison explained Neuman's removal in an e-mail Wednesday: "It was a routine staffing decision based upon the best use of staff resources. The ministry has another committee member who will continue to represent our interests."

The six-member technical committee is comprised of provincial and federal bureaucrats who consider the merits of gravel extraction proposals for the lower Fraser River in terms of the environment, public safety, navigation, and hydraulics, and make recommendations to a management committee.

Neuman's departure leaves the environment ministry with Ron Henry, a river engineering specialist, as the ministry's only representative on the committee.

Rosenau argues that the province's contention that the gravel removal is needed for flood control has no scientific basis and puts salmon and other fish that rely on the gravel channels off Herrling Island at risk.

"In its own uniquely Canadian way, senior government managers responsible for the protection of the lower Fraser River and its habitats are able to turn a country of First World wealth into a country that has the environmental ethics and behaviour of a Third World totalitarian regime," he said.

Glen Thompson, director of flood protection for the B.C. government, refused to comment on Neuman's removal but did say that the provincial and federal governments reached a five-year gravel extraction agreement in 2004 for the lower Fraser based strictly on flood protection.

He said the agreement set targets of 500,000 cubic metres each in 2004 and 2005, and 420,000 cubic metres each in subsequent years. No more than 60 per cent of the annual targets have been reached.

He said the province, in consultation with Ottawa, has proposed four gravel extraction proposals for 2008 ranging between 25,000 cubic metres and about 400,000 cubic metres -- the Herrling Island proposal.

Once a proposal is developed, the province seeks expressions of interest from companies to remove the gravel. Three aboriginal bands are among those to benefit so far from contracts.

The technical committee was formed after an environmental fiasco involving the removal of gravel in 2006 in the Fraser River at Big Bar near Rosedale. A report by the BCIT fish and wildlife program estimated two million young salmon were destroyed by the construction of an access road during the gravel mining operation.

Rosenau, recipient of the Vancouver Aquarium's Murray A. Newman Award for Excellence in Aquatic Conservation in 1999, contends he knows something about political meddling by the B.C. government in fish science.

He said he, too, was removed from his position on a gravel committee in October 2003 and seconded to the University of B.C. because of his concerns about loss of fish habitat.

He said a senior provincial environment ministry official told him there was nothing wrong with his science, but that eastern Fraser Valley MLAs didn't like him.

lpynn@png.canwest.com

© The Vancouver Sun 2007
 

 
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RA40

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2007, 11:58:53 AM »

My letter sent to the the editor

Mr. Tom Fletcher, although I usually enjoy reading your columns, I think your way off on this issue. I have been on the Fraser for the past 30 years fishing and boating and make a living guiding for salmon and sturgeon. Senior biologists on the Fraser have been working on this issue for many years and each and every one of them have come to the same conclusions. Removing large amounts of gravel from the Fraser will do little to lower the water table and do enormous damage to the salmon spawning and fish rearing habitat not to mention the damage to sturgeon habitat.
 
The Fraser River's prime rearing habitat is a very small area of gravel between Hope and Sumas Mountain. This 60 km stretch of river is probably the most important piece of water on the entire 1200 km of river. There are only a hand full of productive fishing, spawning and rearing locations on this piece of water and most of these locations are scheduled for massive gravel removal. How do I know this, well they hired me as a boat pilot to show them the proposed gravel removal sites.
 
In your column you forgot to mention the real reason that local politicians are all in favor of gravel removal. It really has nothing to do with flood control, it has to do with money. If they remove gravel, local communities like Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope and so on will receive a royalty for the gravel, if they build the dykes, these same communities will have to pay millions of dollars in labor as they did this past spring. This is not new,it's been going on for years. Pay millions or receive millions?hmm. Don't need to be a brain surgeon to answer that one.
 
The so called build up of gravel in the lower Fraser is more a myth than fact. Over the past 10 years UBC has been conducting  studies try to determine the true volume of gravel deposited in the lower Fraser each year. Each and every time they come up with lower numbers and credit most of the so called build up to in-river shifting. In -river shifting occurs every freshet when hundreds of thousands of liters of water come rushing through the Fraser Canyon. This high volume of water tears apart at islands and gravel bars along the Fraser often depositing the gravel several miles down stream. That new bar that is formed at mile 26 is not new gravel but gravel that was removed from mile 23. For every new bar on the Fraser in the summer, I can show you exactly where it came from, upstream.
 
Instead of bashing dedicated people like Dr Marvin Rosenau, maybe you should write about the  real story. Our government hires dedicated, educated and highly respected biologists and when they don't like what they have to say. They remove them from their jobs and try to discredit them.
 
Have a great holiday.
 
Please feel free to call or e-mail us with any questions or concerns
 
Vic Carrao
STS Guiding Service
www.guidebc.com
sts@guidebc.com
Toll free- 1-866-771-3474
 

chris gadsden

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2007, 08:40:11 PM »

Very good letter Vic and thanks so much for taking the time to write it.

 It is good that you and others do this as both the press and our elected officials from all levels of government have to be held accountable for what they say and write.

RA40

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2007, 10:10:07 AM »

Chris, it baffles me as to why this subject has gotten very little attention on the forum. I've walked the proposed sites and have seen the damage already done to some of the best fishing locations on the Fraser. Spring Bar would be a great example and so would last years kill of Pink Salmon Fry.

This issue should receive far more attention and could be the start of the end of the Fraser as we know it. Anglers and the general public should be outraged at the way the government, local media and politicians have treated the very people they hire to protect the enviroment.

I think we need to get very loud and organized on this issue.

Merry Christmas

mattcass

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2007, 03:44:07 PM »

I'm sorry to say that aside from reading the pink salmon fry story last year, I haven't been following this issue.

However, it does not surprise me at all to see the BC and local governments silencing the environmental science and flashing the words PUBLIC SAFETY to achieve their goals. Economic interests always come first people, always.

The BC government was warning a lot of people this spring that flooding would happen due to the record snow-pack. If my memory serves me right, flooding was being pushed as a serious risk to fish health because of what the flood water would pick-up (debris, contaminants) and carry back into the Fraser, if the river breached the dykes. Now as far as I know, that flooding never happened despite snow-pack levels 300% above average. I think there was some dyke work done, and was that touted as being the reason the flooding never happened? I can't remember.

What I see here is the BC government capitalizing on the fears people have regarding flooding in the Fraser Valley. What Vic has mentioned in his letter to Tom Fletcher, about gravel shifting, if true, is something the public is completely unaware of (I consider my attention paid to this issue to be about average and I haven't heard a thing about this shifting). All that the public has heard is that gravel builds up in the Fraser, raises water levels, and unless the dykes are raised, the gravel will inevitably cause flooding. Vic would you happen to have a link or PDF for the UBC studies you mention?

Thankfully Marvin Rosenau has raised the issue of the government dismissing those promoting proper environmental stewardship. I have met and talked with Marvin before and while I do not know him well, his character and genuine sincerity when it comes to issues of conservation make him far more trustworthy than any government official who must satisfy the economic interests of the region adjacent to the Fraser.
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mattcass

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2007, 04:11:23 PM »

On a separate note, I am as surprised as RA40 that issues such as this (and others like sea lice) get so little attention on this forum.

These environmental issues have moved far beyond activism into the realm of genuine and meaningful scientific research. None of the people involved in these issues can be labeled as 'tree-huggers' in any sense of the word. They are simply passionate about their cause and cry foul when the government turns a blind eye to issues with significant consequences for generations to come. I feel many of these issues are avoided or ignored by people because of outdated views and misconceptions about those bringing these issues to the center of public attention.

As a group that collectively uses and enjoys a vast resource, anglers have a responsibility to understand and speak up on these incredibly important issues. Whether these issues happen in the heart of the Fraser Valley or in an isolated fjord a thousand kilometers up the coast, the policy and decisions surrounding them will end up affecting your own personal lives at one point or another. Unless you voice your dissatisfaction with actions taken (or not taken) by government or corporations, the resources you enjoy will become permanently depleted.

If that happens, and we lose a resource like Fraser River salmon, the powers at be won't be responsible. Instead, the blame will lie with the indifference of an uninterested, uninformed, and uncaring public.
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chris gadsden

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2007, 04:50:49 PM »



 Vic would you happen to have a link or PDF for the UBC studies you mention?



Google Fraser River Gravel Reach Studies.

RA40

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2007, 12:25:18 PM »

Mattcass, thanks for your reply.

4 or 5 years back, prior to Marvin being removed as the Fraser River Senior Biologist, I attended a few workshops which included presentations from UBC Hydrologists and Marvin. The UBC team had been working on a model for flood protection. To do this they needed to calculate the amount of gravel deposited each year in the area know as the gravel reach ( Hope to Sumas). This wasn't the first time this had been done, if my memory serves me, this was the 3rd or 4th time in the past 20 years.

One of Marvins main bone of contention was that each and every time they looked at gravel deposits, the number was lowered. How do you decide on the correct amount of gravel to be removed without doing major damage to the river when everytime you look at it, the number gets lower. I think it went from 400,000 CM to less than 150,000.

I don't think Marvins position was ever to take no gravel, it was simply, don't take more than is deposited each year. Until you know the true number, be conservative. Proponents of gravel removal want to use outdated numbers as this allows for more gravel removal. The other big issue was how and where to take it from. The more environmental friendly approach would be to skim gravel bars at low water. This means that no spawning grounds or rearing habitat would be impacted.

Although everyone agrees that this would make the most sense, gravel removal would be costly and probably not pay for itself.
I think that issue alone begs to question, is this about money or flood control? If it really is about flood control, than it still would be cheaper to skim bars and remove small amounts of gravel than build the Dyke's. It is very clear that the gravel removal proponents want massive amounts of gravel taken from single locations as this would make the job more cost effective. The down side is obvious.

I can tell you first hand that the majority of local politicians and mayors support gravel removal in mass amounts. I've been to more than a few meetings and mentioning the words " Dr Marvin Rosenau" will quickly get you noticed.

If your not familar with the Fraser in the Sea-bird Island area, there is a bar called Spring Bar. This bar was well known for its excellent holding water for Chinook, Sockeye, Cutthroat trout and is prime rearing water for juvinile Chinook. The water just above  & below this bar is fairly fast so fish use it for resting and rearing. The last two years the gravel trucks have been working hard removing gravel and this bar is now completely gone, its now a deep hole with silt.

Last spring just before the freshet hit, the bc government was panicing. I got a call from a local company asking me to take them out onto the Fraser to identify potential sites that have easy access for gravel removal. These sites are already marked for gravel removal and some have already been worked on. One we looked at was just below Gill Road, the other was in Agassiz at the foot of McDonald road. It was already too late and they had stated more than once that this was a move by the provincial government to appear to have done something to protect the valley from flooding and it was little too late to actually effect the outcome. This scared the hell out of me and showed clearly just how they do business.

Those people who are trying desperatly to save the Fraser from massive gravel removal and destruction are up against some of BC most powerful people. The future looks grim and by the looks of the attention this is getting and the direction local news media are going, makes me even more sceptical. I will do my part and more, everyone who cares about this river needs to speak up, write letters and support people like Dr Marvin Rosenau and anyone else who is taking up this battle.




Terry Bodman

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2007, 04:06:18 PM »

Excellent letter, Vic. I for one will be sticking with Marvin Rosenau on this one. Nothing gets my blood pressure to go up more rapidly than having some politicians remove committee members because they are not coming up with the "right answers." That kind of action is a real slap in the face to us mere citizens. The convincing factor for me was the statement, "there is nothing wrong with your science....... ."

I for one will be chatting with the Minister of the Environment about this matter but expect that I will only get left off his Christmas card list for my efforts.
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roeman

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2007, 04:23:01 PM »

I think it is great that there are people out there giving up their time going to meetings and writing letters on the matter. 
RA40, as far as your points about Spring Bar and a couple of other sites that have already been worked on, do we really think that writing letters and going to meetings is going to help at this point.  Please do not misunderstand what I am saying, I do appreciate peoples effort, but maybe it is time to pick up the pace as far as what we all can do.

Unfortuneately I do not have any brilliant ideas on what to do next..but letters and meetings, we might just as well clean out our boats and put them on craigs list. 

1. what if we were to get as many people as possible and take boats and anchor them on the gravel bars, or what ever else would get in there way. I would be up for this..

2 start a petition and have it for signing at all the tackle stores ( I would be willing to get this going)

Every year we hear about groups camping out to protect old growth forests, spotted owls, ect
The commercial guys go out and do a protest fish to prove a point.
Like I said I do not have any brilliant ideas on what to do, and I do appreciated all those who have wrote letters.
But all it will take is some error in judgement and the gravel will come tumbling down the river and fill in some large parts of the rivers that sturgeon call home, and that will be the end of that as well...

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RA40

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2007, 09:52:56 PM »

Roeman, I think your dead on. The only thing politicians understand is bad press. I thought about a protest and that might be the only way to stop this.  Water levels on the Fraser are not suitable for gravel removal so that is buying time. Maybe Chris can update us on what the FVSS or SFAC position is on this issue. Also did the Chilliwack Watershed Committee have a position? Chris, do you think that we are at the last stage where a protest is the last resort?

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2007, 06:55:10 AM »

What the Politicians understand is bad press over decisions they or their staff make.
The Ministers do not like to be embarrassed.
It is clear that taking gravel out of the river does nothing for the flood's increasing the dike height does and it is up to all of you to press this point at any opportunity.
Gravel removal is all about $ and nothing else.
Stick it to them at every opportunity.
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chris gadsden

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Re: "There are safer places to get gravel"
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2007, 08:14:33 PM »

Roeman, I think your dead on. The only thing politicians understand is bad press. I thought about a protest and that might be the only way to stop this.  Water levels on the Fraser are not suitable for gravel removal so that is buying time. Maybe Chris can update us on what the FVSS or SFAC position is on this issue. Also did the Chilliwack Watershed Committee have a position? Chris, do you think that we are at the last stage where a protest is the last resort?
Some FVSS members and directors have been actively involved with this for nearly 2 years starting with the Big Bar incident that killed millions of pink alveins in their redds because of the causeway that was built to access the gravel excavation site. Of course this was unbelievable that this could be allowed to happen and this is why so many are so concerned with what could happen again.

 As well Frank Kwak the FVSS president has attended several meetings over this 2 year time period including going to Ottawa where he helped make a presentation to The FOC Standing Committee, on this Big Bar incident.

I am not sure what the next step will be but the media has been kept abreast of the going ons as best as possible the last while. I believe a meeting may also be arranged with The Environment Minister shortly.

For now letters to the Federal Fisheries Minister, Environment Minister, MLA's, MP's and the media is something everyone concerned about this should try to do in the next few days. Of course if you do write always ask for a reply.

A protest of course is a option as well but they have to be handled carefully. The problem in this is most of the general public has been lead to believe gravel removal is the answer to preventing a flood. You may have noted in the media during the 2007 flood threat nearly everytime prevention measures were mentioned gravel removal was one of the priority that needed to be addressed. It maybe hard to get the general public on side and that is what one has to try to do so Political people will pay attention.

I do know a lot has been done over the last while on this file by many people that care with a passion about our fish stocks and the environment these salmonids call home. I guess enough to write a book on what goes on, behind the scenes.