The Squamish River Watershed Society (SRWS) hosted a planting party at the newly restored Newport Creek on Saturday (Oct. 27), but the real celebrating just might be done by local coho salmon and cutthroat trout, who now have a more functional water course to call home.
Edith Tobe, the president of the SRWS, along with several volunteers braved the rain to help improve conditions for fish that will likely be using the new channel, located on the former Garibaldi Springs Golf Course.
“It all stems from the impact of the original watercourse from when a retaining wall was put over Newport Creek from the Dowad development back in 2009,” she said. “The concern we had, along with the Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO), is that we wanted to somehow restore that watercourse to make it functional for salmon and cutthroat trout.”
In June 2011, W. Dowad Ltd. and L&A Equipment Ltd. were charged with constructing a rock stack wall closer to Newport Creek than is normally permitted by the DFO. As a result, the two groups paid $62,000 as part of a settlement reached through a restorative justice process.
The land was then acquired by local developer Doug Day, whom Tobe said proved to be an easy partner to deal with.
“Doug was really supportive of the project from the moment we met with him,” she said. “He’s been excellent to work with at every stage.”
Day said it made sense to work with the SRWS to improve the creek.
“It was brought to our attention by Edith and it was really no secret that the Dowad Group and L&A… effectively destroyed a serious section of Newport Creek,” he said. “It became incumbent on the rest of us to figure out what the hell to do about it.”
He said he was surprised to see the depth of the damage done but that he and Tobe needed to take action quickly.
“Quite frankly, we could have sent this plan to a bunch of lawyers and maybe 10 years from now they could agree on releases and a bunch of other nonsense to get this done, but I decided to roll the dice and told them [SRWS] to just go for it,” he said.
Tobe said the new watercourse will improve conditions for local fish, but a lot of damage was done with the original re-routing.
“It’ll provide the fish with a winter habitat that right now is non-existent for them,” she said. “Newport, Thunderbird, No Name and Meighan Creek were all dramatically re-routed by the construction of the Garibaldi Springs Golf Course, so we’re really doing a pale second best, but we’re doing our best to restore it to the original state the watercourse had been in.
“Originally, the watercourse was through a fairly mature forest canopy and now it’s through a golf course — what are you going to do? But with the support from Doug Day we’re delighted to be able to restore the watercourse to a fraction of what it used to look like.”
Day added that he has no immediate plans for the land. For more information on the SRWS, visit www.squamishwatershed.com.