The District of Squamish is reviewing its management plan for one of the area’s most sensitive ecosystems.
Signed in 1999, the Squamish Estuary Management Plan sets objectives and strategies for maintaining and restoring fish and wildlife habit in the waterway. It also clarifies land use within the estuary’s boundary.
The management plan paved the way for the land exchange between the province, B.C. Rail and the Squamish Nation, and an agreement between the Ministry of Environment and First Nations, to create the 673-hectare Squamish Estuary Wildlife Management Area (WMA) — officially known as the Skwelwil’em.
Major land-use redesignation and project proposals within the estuary area must be referred to the estuary’s management committee or project review committee. However, awareness of the process seems to have waned, said Eric Andersen, a long-term Squamish resident who studied the management plan in university.
“I feel that the plan has been neglected,” he said.
The Squamish Oceanfront development is one such project that bypassed those committees, he said, noting an example is the proposed windsports zone at Nexen Beach. The new facility must be examined by the estuary’s committees, he said, as recreational use shouldn’t conflict with the Mamquam Blind Channel’s commercial waterway or environmental goals.
“All of these things need to be referred to these two committees,” he said.
District officials are in the process of reviewing and updating the plan, said Caroline Ashekian, the estuary committee’s chair. In 2005, an interim review was conducted and an additional study commenced in 2007.
The management plan sets out boundaries and informs regulatory planning. It also aims to clarify the various water uses in the area, aiming to balance environmental concerns with economic development, Ashekian said.
Part of the update will incorporate the Squamish Oceanfront Sub Area Plan — which outlines the oceanfront project’s commercial, residential, industrial and recreational uses — into the new estuary plan, she noted.
The Upper Mamquam Blind Channel Study will also be incorporated into the management scheme.
“It’s combing through these things,” Ashekian said. “Ensuring the plan is not out of date.”
It’s been a collaborative process, she said, adding that over the years many different interest groups have been a part of the discussion. District staff aim to finish the new management plan in 2014.