October 2006

Roundtable Report
Salmon Enhancement and Habitat Advisory Board
October 2006
Doug McFee

1.    Protection
There are two main issues here.  One is the failure of the response line (i.e. no response) and the other is the overall lack of enforcement.
We continue to have problems with DFO not addressing issues and with them making decisions that the community does not find out about until it is too late.  A recent example involved the Nikomekl where they negotiated a reduced setback along the stream in one area which upset the community greatly.  By the time it became known the community was told by the DFO Habitat person that it was a done deal and that it could not be changed.  Although the habitat person involved is trying to do the right things I have contacted him with issues that he seems unable to get to and he has told me in the past that getting the community involved earlier in the process (which is an issue I have suggested) is too time consuming and there are do not have the resources to do this.
It is difficult to attract and retain volunteers when DFO is not doing their part.  Failure to respond to a call because the issue is judged to be too small often means that we lose a volunteer as the cynicism that results frequently causes that person to question whether they should bother being involved.  Perhaps we need to convince DFO that a call from the public is a high priority whatever the seriousness of the situation as any report from a volunteer should be considered serious if they want to retain volunteers.

2.    Groundwater
Langley Township recently tried to remove to replace the moratorium on development in the Salmon River Uplands area.  They relented after we pointed out that the ground water quality issues that led to the moratorium have still not been addressed and are actually worse as quality and quantity appear to be deteriorating further.  The bottom line again is that there is no ground water legislation.  The second phase of the legislation was due last fall but has disappeared.  There is some chance that Langley may become a test area for ground water protection but whether this will include the power to improve the manure issue (which is the main quality issue) or to restrict large volume withdrawals (which is the cause of the dropping water table) is a good question.  We have seen these sorts of roundtables founder before such as the Salmon River Watershed Management Plan which was put together agonizingly over 6 years and then disappeared.

3.    Fort Langley floodplain
We had a forum with the Fort Langley Community Association reviewing the floodplain issue.  The Township has an engineering report from a consultant that suggests the area could be “improved” for higher value agriculture by dropping the water table 2 or 3 feet via various means.
We tried to point out that this area is just not suitable for agriculture and that draining it will just lead to subsidence of the land and an ongoing problem with more and more needed to keep it dry.
In addition the measures they suggest would clearly be bad for the river.  DFO is again a problem with this issue as the local habitat person, instead of pointing out that some of these things don’t make any sense, essentially says that all proposals will be reviewed.  It appears that he is afraid of saying anything as the people above him may take over and make worse decisions. We have seen this in recent years as all sorts of dredging etc. operations have been approved despite the harm to the resource.

4.    Assessment
The fish fence in the Fort Langley floodplain is still not being operated.  This is the second year that they have failed to find operating funds for a working fence on what has been one of their most important index rivers.  Since the Salmon River coho are the basis for the data on Georgia straight coho this is a regional issue.

5.    Education
We are continuing to have success with education programs working with Trinity and other groups.

Check out our website at WWW.salmonriver.org

February 2006

Roundtable Lower Fraser River South Side

1)       Environmental All Candidates meeting before the Langley election.  Lots of information about this on the website WWW.salmonriver.org. 
Well attended (130 vs usual 80).  Good attendance by candidates although most of them don’t seem to know much about environmental issues including the incumbents several of whom didn’t                spend much time preparing.  The candidates were given written questions to answer before meeting an extensive amount of background material to read (again see website).  They seemed to find this overwhelming and the answers were often rudimentary.  We may need to simplify the questions again in the future as we have tended to do in the past. 
2)       Successfully putting together a field trip curriculum for the Langley schools working with Trinity Western.  The first module is geared to the classes that take the fish in the classroom curriculum and we anticipate many of these classes participating this spring.  We have had good support and help from Bev Bowler.  We are also developing a new unit that requires less background knowledge and addresses the problems that can occur (mostly through human impacts) to habitat and how habitat issues affect the fish population especially as the Salmon is a coho stream. 
3)       Continuing to lobby the Township to preserve the Fort Langley floodplain as there is a lot of pressure from farmers to drain the floodplain and it is clear that the Township wants to do something to appease the farmers.  The latest study shows that a number of measures (drawing the water level down in the river, constructing a bypass drainage channel etc. etc.) would be needed at a cost of almost $10 million or likely more.  This would only dry out (to ARDSA standards) 144 hectares so the land is likely not worth anywhere near the $10 million that they would have to spend.  In Surrey, however, over $20 million was spent and the provincial agriculture people seem to think that this is what Langley should do as well.  Unfortunately although we all know that coho populations plummeted due to agriculture issues around the Serpentine in Surrey there doesn’t seem to be any data to prove this was related to agriculture so the provincial agriculture people are quite obnoxious in their insistence that what was done in Surrey was a good thing for everyone including the fish (they created a nice wide “highway” for the fish to go down which according to them has to be good).
4)       Groundwater issues are still not being addressed with no Ground water Act yet that does anything effective and with manure issues everywhere around the valley.  See the page sent out via the list serve about loosening of the manure guidelines this winter. 
5)       Good feedback from the schools on the environmental library (books given out to the schools last spring).

And now for the main issue which will come as no surprise.
Lack of enforcement and protection

This is still my priority item and will continue to be until is it addressed effectively.

Although SEHAB has sent letters about this some time ago I don’t think we have addressed it as consistently as it needs to be addressed for DFO to understand how upset the volunteers continue to be about this.  For them to still be talking about the community changing the ethic and somehow reducing violations indicates that they just don’t have any understanding of how the volunteer community feels and how badly DFo is failing. 

The example for this meeting is Stokes Pit where a tremendous amount of habitat has been lost in the Surrey Campbell Heights industrial park development (yes they named it after the river while they destroy the habitat and drop the water table drastically).  It appears that Surrey and Envirowest mislead DFO, that DFO did not realize how much habitat was at risk (this was an abandoned gravel pit and was advertised as not being much use for anything) etc. etc.  WCEL is involved in trying to see if a case can be made against the city, the consultant or even possibly DFO. 

The common denominator in the protection problem is that DFO is going in the opposite direction from what has been shown to work across North America in law enforcement.  Books such as “The Tipping Point” graphically describe how the crime rate in New York City declined as a result of hiring more officers, making their job easier (simplifying the paperwork so they could get on with the job and having a fine system that didn’t require court time), and dealing with all the little things (the broken window theory).  This is how to change the community ethic.  This is what DFO says that they want to do but they are going in the wrong direction with their present changes. 

I also presented articles from the Vancouver sun (3 over the last 2 months) documenting that this need to increase enforcement personnel is a key to reducing crime as opposed to what DFO is doing reducing enforcement and reducing the field presence.  . 

I also presented a few pages from another book “The Wisdom of Crowds” describing games theory research showing that a game set up so there is an opportunity to cheat will tend to have a certain percentage of cheaters (15 to 25%) but that percentage increases if there is a lack of enforcement of the rules and decreases if the rules are enforced.  This is more evidence that DFO needs to enforce even the smaller things to prevent the bigger things from happening.  

Doug McFee 

check out our website  WWW.salmonriver.org

October 2006

Doug McFee – South Side Fraser River to Boson Bar
1.Salmon River enhancement is continuing to develop school curriculum with Trinity Western University with field trips starting in June of this year (pilot/test case) and a full program anticipated for the fall.
2.Salmon River was named one of the 10 most endangered rivers in B.C. this spring again (it was also named last year).  This is not because the river is in poor shape but because there are a number of pressures and problems that loom and may affect its health in the near future.  IN recent years adult coho returns have averaged about 5,000 which is up from the lows of 2,000 5 years ago.  The difference has been attributed to improved ocean survival as the number of smolts exiting in the spring has remained constant at about 100,000.  Ocean survivals 20 years ago were much higher at 15 to 20% with returns of over 15,000 coho.  The main concerns about the river are:
i)water quality and quantity problems
ii)pressures from farmers to drain the Fort Langley floodplain by dredging the Salmon River
iii)concerns about the effect of development in Willoughby
Re:  Water Quality (Read Manure)  
Dumping of manure by farmers in the Fraser Valley has been a problem for many years as industrial farming leaves the agricultural operations with a problem disposing of their manure as many of these operations have little land surrounding the chicken, hog or dairy farm.  Even if there is land to spread the manure the farmers often don’t have the storage capacity to store manure over the winter and dump it on the fields in the cold season where it runs off the fields into ground water and streams.  This is despite program over the last ten years that have offered incentives to build more storage etc.  There have even been situations where dairy farmers have been found connecting a pipe from their barn carrying the floor washing that are full of manure either into the local stream or even connecting illegally to storm drains systems and even the sanitary sewer.  
The manure problem has been a provincial responsibility.  There was one provincial employee in charge of this 5 years ago and she did a helicopter survey that showed documented many cases of manure dumped in places where it should not be.  This employee was let go shortly after as part of the Liberal’s downsizing.  There was word of a team put together by the province to take over manure issues last year but there has not been a lot of evidence so far that they have accomplished much.   
Sediment is also a part of the quality issue and is being addressed in Langley by a sediment bylaw.  When pressed, however, o how this bylaw will be enforced Langley Township becomes a bit shifty as it does not appear that they intend to be aggressive in enforcement (where have we seen that before?).
Re Water Quantity (Read Falling water tables)
The water table under the middle part of the salmon River has been falling 1 foot per year.  Water tables have been dropping all over Langley and in Surrey where a large industrial park is being developed.  Even some of the Langley Township municipal wells that were thought to be safe for the long term are now running dry.   There are new ways of developing that return water to the ground rather than collecting it and dumping it into streams to cause runoff problems downstream but they are being embraced slowly with a lot of worry about problems that might arise as things are changed.  
The proposed Ground Water Act does not appear to be a very effective device to correct these problems as control of these issues is supposed to be via water management plans which will likely only be developed for the worst aquifers and (like most management plans) will likely be slow to develop and may be subject to the user groups dominating the roundtable discussions.  Water management plans are not proposed until Phase 3 of the Act (only Phase 1 is in place now) and there will likely need to be lobbying by environmental groups to get even the proposed Phase 2 and 3 enacted much less get something put in place that is more effective.  
The water issue is an important regional issue and is one that SEHAB should pursue on behalf of the volunteer community. 
3.The other important issue for all stream groups is the effect of the new RAR (riparian regulations).  Langley Township does not seem to have a good idea of how this will affect things in Langley nor do they seem to know how to respond.  
We discussed contacting Dave Tattum about appearing before SEHAB to discuss the agricultural part of this issue and approaching the province to have someone appear to discuss both the Ground Water Act and the RAR.
Check out our website at www.salmonriver.org