For three days in late August, a series of unexpected visitors came calling on Squamish. The sight of commercial fishing vessels that dropped their nets near the mouth of the Squamish River was, in fact, so novel that more than one person phoned The Chief on Aug. 22 report an obvious breach of commercial fishing regulations.
Except that it wasn’t a violation at all. Authorities with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had — without issuing any sort of media alert — decided to open a three-day “exploratory” fishery at the north end of Howe Sound to gauge the strength of a pink salmon run on the Squamish, Mamquam and Cheakamus river system that experts described as the biggest they had ever seen.
The three-day commercial opening was the first in Howe Sound since before most of us (present company excepted) were born: 1962.
We’d call that an historic and mostly good-news story. This writer would also call it the Story of the Year in Squamish for 2013.
Oh, sure. Major stories during the past 12 months included the selection of a development partnership for the Squamish oceanfront, plans by the organizers of the Squamish Valley Music Festival to almost double its capacity in 2014, the discovery of a troubling sinkhole in the Brackendale dike or new MLA Jordan Sturdy’s part in the surprising B.C. Liberal election triumph.
The fish story, though, was only the latest development in the ongoing recovery of our region’s waterways. That recovery has been achieved thanks in part to the closing over three or four decades of various industrial operations and in part because of the efforts of many to carefully nurture them back to their former glory.
Without question, Squamish desperately needs to increase its base of good-paying jobs and tax revenue sources if our community ever hopes to reach its full potential. While the Woodfibre LNG proposal, for example, would help in that regard, we need to be assured that it isn’t likely to jeopardize Howe Sound’s fragile recovery. After all, given that other facets of our economy — namely tourism — depend to a large degree on a healthy environment, it’s impossible to overemphasize the need for a realistic, professional assessment of the impacts of the LNG and other major proposals facing Squamish in the coming months.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
— David Burke