Some local residents are concerned about a proposed log dump in what they say is prime herring territory south of the Woodfibre LNG site in Howe Sound.
Black Mount Logging has applied to the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations for a 10-year license for a 3.5-hectare log dump at the mouth of Foulger Creek.
Local environmentalist John Buchanan has spent seven years mapping herring in Howe Sound and said herring are consistently in the area of the proposed dump.
“That is fact,” he said. “It is the densest spawn area that I have ever documented in Howe Sound. The layers are nine, 10 layers thick of eggs.”
Buchanan said Fisheries and Oceans Canada has not done extensive herring studies on the west side of Howe Sound near the proposed log sort project and Woodfibre LNG site. “The problem with that is the regulations say that industry can go in and do anything they want, as long as there is no known herring spawns in the area, and according to DFOs [Fisheries and Oceans Canada] documents, there are none.”
Members of the environmental advocacy group Concerned Citizens Bowen are also worried about the proposal because of the herring.
“Oh geez, this isn’t what we want,” said Anton van Walraven, a spokesperson for the group. “Putting a log dump right on top of that would not be a good thing.”
Van Walraven said he first learned of the logging proposal while researching the Woodfibre LNG plant, which the group opposes, slated for north of the dump site.
The Bowen group has sent a letter regarding the herring issue to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Hunter Tootoo and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.
A spokesperson for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said detailed information on the herring spawn in Howe Sound was not immediately available, but she did comment on its annual herring spawn survey.
“In recent years, most survey activity has occurred along the Vancouver Island shore,” Jaclyn Cleary of Fisheries and Oceans Canada said via email. “In an area such as Howe Sound, the local residents and/or streamkeeper groups often have more detailed information on herring spawn locations, and we rely on their expertise to help document the presence of herring and spawn.” **
Black Mountain Logging Inc. is one of the larger licensees and timber harvesting companies in the Sea to Sky Forest District and operates a facility at Watts Point.
“It is basically re-activating the old Foulger log dump,” said Dave Rollins of Black Mountain Logging, noting the site was active as a dump until approximately the 1980s.
The site will be accessed by water or a network of forest roads, according to the application to the province. Previous dump facilities may be reactivated and a floating dump skid and a dock may be included in the project, the provincial application states.
In terms of herring, Rollins said the company did a marine assessment of the area and a mitigation plan will be in place.
The Squamish and District Forestry Association said it has no issues with the Foulger proposal. “The Foulger Creek site was recommended to be reserved for future log handling use in a 1997 report for the Ministry of Forests. It remains a strategic, critical site for this use today,” said Eric Andersen, who speaks on behalf of the association.
**Here is the full statement from the DFO
"The annual DFO herring spawn survey concentrates on areas where large spawning events are observed, in order to document the presence, timing and amount of the main spawning biomass. In recent years most survey activity has occurred along the Vancouver Island shore (Nanaimo to Comox areas). In addition to these SCUBA surveys, DFO receives spawn reports from community groups, First Nations, and local residents, and where possible these spawn events are verified, measured and documented. In an area such as Howe Sound, the local residents and/or streamkeeper groups often have more detailed information on herring spawn locations and we rely on their expertise to help document the presence of herring and spawn."
*Please note this story has been modified since its original posting to include the entire quote from Jaclyn Cleary.