Project Watershed’s 2020 Annual Report
At the 2019 Annual General Meeting three new directors joined our board, allowing us to grow our skill set, capacity and broaden our perspective. We thank Lyle Carlstrom, Alisha Drinkwater and Pat Sloan for quickly becoming part of our team and for their service over the year. Late in 2019 Pat Sloan took on the position of chair and she has done a marvelous job since. All of our directors will be standing for their position again this year. For more information about each of them visit our Board Directory.
There have also been a few changes at the staff level. Virginia East, who has a background in environmental education, has joined our team as our Forage Fish Assistant. She has been integral to creating and maintaining our forage fish citizen science groups, collecting forage fish information, and carrying out other fishy tasks. Beatrice Proudfoot who was our Program Coordinator and Biological Assistant, has left and we are in the process of hiring another person for her position. Bea joined us last year and readily became an integrated and important staff member. We hope to see her in the future. In the meantime, Nhan (Young) Nguyen, has come back to Project Watershed to help in this period of transition. Young was a Co-op student that worked with Project Watershed last fall. He was an asset to our team and was chosen as co-op student on the year. For more information about our staff click on the Staff Directory.
Please note that our offices are still closed as our staff are doing the majority of their work from home. If you need to pick something up from the office please email email@example.com to set up an appointment.
Our other important human resource is our dedicated and caring volunteers. We would like to thank everyone for all the time and energy that has been put into our projects and initiatives. A special thank you to all those who have helped us during COVID. We look forward to all the things we will accomplish together over the next year.
Project Watershed began fundraising for the acquisition and restoration of an abandoned sawmill site, now known as Kus-kus-sum, in September 2017. Since then over $2.8 million dollars has been raised for this cause. The support for this initiative from our community and those with ties to the community has been overwhelming and heartening – visit Friends of Kus-kus-sum to view the most current list of donors. The $1 million dollars from the Provincial Government was a great boon to the project.
On June 30, we made a $200,000 payment to Interfor Corporation. As we did not have the funds to complete the purchase at this time, we negotiated to extend the closing date. Our next payment deadline is August 28. Presently, we have approximately $700,000 to raise by that date. One of our Estuary Angels committed to matching $50,000 of donations in April – presently $20,000 remains to be matched. In addition to this gift, the Sitka Foundation has pledged $75,000 to the acquisition. We, along with the K’ómoks First Nation and our community’s government representatives, are working on leads with the Federal Government and other sources to raise the remaining funds.
Project Watershed would like to thank all donors who have contributed to Kus-kus-sum over this past year and we would especially like to thank Alexandra Calland, Dave Procter, Janine Martin, the Li-Grimmer Family, Ngan Page Family Fund, The Maple Cross Fund, The 100+ Women Who Care, the Engel & Volkers Team, Thomas Wilson and our anonymous Estuary Angels. We are closer than ever to unpaving paradise!
A variety of third party events were thrown in 2019/2020 for Kus-kus-sum including LIFT’s Festive Cheer, The Paddlers Club Martin Ryer Fundraiser, Silver Bowerbird Gallery & Studio Open House, Pacific Board Art Fundraiser, Celtic Cargo Cult at the Mex Pub, IPF’s Bend & Flow Yoga for Kus-kus-sum, a Run to Beer fundraiser, and Toshikan Traditional Karate and Kobudo’s 108 kata. Project Watershed thanks everyone involved in a third party fundraiser for helping us raise funds and reach new audiences.
With the help of a number of well known local artists Project Watershed ran the Keeping It Living Art Show at Bayside Cafe to raise funds for Kus-kus-sum. The show ran from October to November 2019 and raised over $6,000. Our next large fundraising event for this initiative is the Paintings, By the Numbers event which has been rescheduled for September 12. The event has already raised over $25,000. Unfortunately, all our other fundraising events were canceled due to COVID-19. This included a fundraising and cultural event being organised by the K’ómoks First Nation. We look forward to working on this event with the Nation in the near future.
An exciting event that took place late last summer was the removal of the dock, dolphins and pilings from the waterfront of the Kus-kus-sum site. This was work Interfor needed to complete before transferring the water lots with the sale of the property. The process went smoothly and much garbage and trash was removed from the site and water area, including 11 grocery carts. Some pieces of large woody debris were also removed from the river. These elements are being stored on site and will be used to help complex the new shoreline area and Hollyhock connection channel during the restoration process.
Funds permitting, Project Watershed plans on initiating the restoration of the site this fall, starting with the demolition of the condemned office building that sits on the property. We also plan to remove a portion of the concrete. Currently, our Technical Team is working with Northwest Hydraulics Consultants to develop a detailed restoration prescription and hydrological model for the restoration. Once this is completed and approved by our board we will share it with the public.
Friends of Kus-kus-sum
Sponsor a Business Salmon
Latest Kus-kus-sum News
An important milestone was met on November 30th, 2020 as Project Watershed transferred the remaining funds for the acquisition of Kus-kus-sum to Interfor Corporation LTD.
A three tiered fundraiser that includes a 50/50 raffle, online auction, and reverse telethon to raise funds to protect and restore Kus-kus-sum.
On Saturday, September 26, forty volunteers pitched in to collect garbage at Kus-kus-sum and Hollyhock Flats as part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. The photos and short video captured from the day illustrate just how industrious it was.
In 2019, Project Watershed published the Salish Sea North East Vancouver Island Salmon Highway (Nearshore Habitat) Coastal Restoration Plan as a required part of a Coastal Restoration Fund grant. This was a$589,000 grant from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The plan identifies 70 potential nearshore habitat restoration projects along 120 km of the east coast of Vancouver Island – one of which is the saltmarsh restoration of Kus-kus-sum.
The other annual Coastal Restoration projects listed in the plan focus on the restoration of saltmarsh, kelp and eelgrass. Over the past three years, Project Watershed has been working diligently to tackle these projects which are spread between the Oyster River and Annie Creek (near Qualicum Bay). In 2019-2020 the projects have included two planting areas of saltmarsh along the shorelines, we planted 3000 plants in Royston and 2500 plants south of Ships Point. We have also completed planting over 2000 sq m of subtidal eelgrass transplants at the Bowser lagoons and fronting Miracle Beach Park using our contract SCUBA divers. Thanks to the over 30 volunteers that helped out with all these projects and thanks to Jennifer Sutherst, Staff Biologist, who kept us on budget and on time, supervised the work and did the final annual reports.
Over the next two years we plan to continue our Bull kelp restoration and research, and undertake more saltmarsh and eelgrass restoration projects based on high priority projects identified in the coastal restoration plan.
In addition to identifying restoration projects, our coastal restoration initiative created the opportunity for Project Watershed to establish important connections and good working relationships with three First Nation Bands, and three of the largest stewardship groups in the area. In an effort to empower these stakeholders, we have developed a Citizen-Science Saltmarsh and Eelgrass Monitoring Program. The program gives volunteers and community groups all the information, materials and support necessary so that they can help us monitor our restoration projects. We also have volunteer divers helping to monitor our kelp work through the Reefkeepers Program.
Coastal Restoration Page
Coastal Restoration Plan
Latest Coastal Restoration News
Nikki Wright from Seachange Marine Conservation Society and Maria Cantazaro from the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) visited our kelp research site at Oyster River and our saltmarsh projects. Maria is a researcher working for the PSF on a report looking at the importance of nearshore, habitat connectivity and estuarine habitat to Pacific salmon.
On June 17-19, 2020 Project Watershed organized a planting session to restore the vulnerable coastline in the Fanny Bay area. During the three days, our staff and 19 volunteers helped plant almost 2500 individual plants, comprised of Salicornia, Distichilis and dune grass species. This planting compliments another coastal restoration project where the shoreline was revegetated to protect the area from erosion.
A kelp forest is a type of nearshore aquatic habitat, found along rocky coasts with wave action or strong currents in depths of 4 to 20 meters.
Project watershed has formed a scientific partnership to collaborate on forage fish research. Forage fish are small schooling fish that form an important part of the marine food chain and they are prey for many other marine species. Some of these forage fish, specifically Pacific sand lance and Surf smelt, spawn on beaches in our area. In order to protect these gravelly nurseries and support larger marine life, we need to know where they are. To this end Project Watershed has created a citizen science initiative in which small groups of trained volunteers survey beaches in search of eggs.
The current program is a community partnership with K’ómoks First Nation, North Island College, and BCSRIF (BC Salmon Research and Innovation Fund). Many changes and advances have occurred and Project Watershed is now training citizen science groups in the latest methodology. Two types of beach surveys are being performed, one of which is carried out every 2/3 weeks on specific beaches that have a high potential due to certain physical characteristics. Once eggs are found on one of these beaches, a beach blitz survey is initiated where a variety of beaches are surveyed all at once. These surveys are done with both citizen scientists and technical staff.
We now have groups surveying beaches in the Comox Valley, Cortes Island, Hornby Island, and a small team on Quadra Island. Currently, we are looking for more volunteers to survey beaches in Campbell River and on Quadra Island.
Eggs have been found at 10 of the 23 beaches surveyed between November 2019 and Summer of 2020. Of these, six are beaches that were never previously reported as supporting forage fish. We are also connected to a variety of forage fish groups on the island and beyond, creating a network of citizens concerned about forage fish and a repository of information.
In addition, we are working with graduate students to determine where Pacific sand lance are burrowing in the subtidal areas and where forage fish are schooling and feeding in the open ocean. The plan is to produce a forage fish biodiversity ‘hot spots’ map to better guide conservation and management decisions.
Latest Forage Fish News
Suggested Grades: 4- 11
The World Wildlife Fund has released a variety of resources for both professionals and citizen scientists researching forage fish. This includes a spawning survey guidance document, as well as QEP and Citizen Scientist sampling methodologies and data sheets.
NIC biology students are getting a unique opportunity to help with an important forage fish research project, thanks to a partnership between NIC and Comox Valley Project Watershed.
Reed Canary Grass
Reed canary grass
Reed canary grass is a growing problem in the Comox Valley and many other coastal communities. Since 2004, it is estimated that the amount of reed canary grass in the K’ómoks Estuary has tripled. It is an invasive European cultivar that was brought in with agricultural practices. Unfortunately, it provides little value for native wildlife or insects, and has a high growth rate.
Last year, with funding from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Project Watershed mapped and inventoried reed canary grass in the K’ómoks Estuary to determine the size and scope of the problem and develop a plan to manage and control it. As a start, we removed patches of the grass along Mallard Creek. We also ran test treatments, specifically mowing, mowing/shading (with cardboard) and digging it out, and shading it with willow staking to investigate the effectiveness of each treatment. Our findings suggest that a combination of mowing, shading and staking with willows may be the most effective treatment. Regardless, it will take many years of working to control this invasive to deplete the seed bank and establish more natural streamside vegetation.
Reed Canary Grass Page
Latest Reed Canary Grass News
On October 23 and 24th, 2020, volunteers helped reclaim 150 meters of streamside along Mallard Creek.
Project Watershed needs volunteers to help us harvest willow cuttings, and then plant them alongside sections of Mallard Creek.
Reed Canary Grass (RCG) is a perennial cool season grass that can grow up to 2 meters tall and expands by creeping rhizomes, vegetative fragments and seeds. It out-competes other native vegetation due to its effective dispersal mechanisms and ability to shade out slower growing native species. In areas where it has been introduced it will quickly dominate from 50-100% of the site.
Project Watershed is currently working on a mapping and inventory of reed canary grass in the K’ómoks Estuary. This invasive European cultivar, brought in with agricultural practices, is taking over from native grass species and provides little value for wildlife.
Resident Canada Geese
Resident geese grazing on saltmarsh
While we have not spent much time on this subject over the past year, we have met with concerned groups and kept abreast of developments in this field. In particular, we have been keeping informed on the work the Mid-Island of the Estuaries Society has been doing in our local estuary and others to help control the numbers of geese and restore the habitat they have impacted. In our estuary the K’ómoks Guardians have been installing fencing to prevent resident geese from feeding on saltmarsh plants. These areas have been replanted to allow the establishment of this important vegetation. In other estuaries the Guardians have been doing egg addling to try and curb the rising numbers of resident geese (the K’ómoks Estuary does not have a lot of active nesting sites, and those that are in the area are hard to get to).
Resident Canada Geese Page
Latest Goose News
These resident geese overgraze the vegetation and grub the roots of the ‘marsh platform’ – a thick accumulation of nutrient-dense soils from land, freshwater aquatic and marine sources bound together by vegetation.
By reviving cultural practices and innovating restoration techniques, the Guardians are preventing rich soils from being eroded and washed away with the tides.
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As part of our 2019 Students Keeping It Living in the K’ómoks Estuary education program over 380 students participated in an estuary presentation and/or field trip. Most of these students then had the opportunity to paint a wooden salmon. Over 300 of these salmon have been sponsored and placed on the fence at Kus-kus-sum – raising over $15,000 and much awareness for the project. Project Watershed will be putting up the last of the salmon on the fence at Kus-kus-sum in August – we have 8 painted fish waiting to be sponsored and 9 unpainted fish waiting to be sponsored and painted. Sponsor one today or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We received funding from the Comox Valley Community Foundation and the Comox Valley Regional District to run the program again during the spring/summer of 2020. The program has become quite popular and we had a variety of classes from Miracle Beach, Arden, Aspen, Huband, Robb Road, Valleyview, Puntledge and Navigate NIDES sign up for presentations and field trips. While we were able to visit Robb Road the rest of our presentations and field trips had to be postponed due to COVID-19. We are working with teachers to explore our options for presenting our environmental education program in the fall. There are many options available and the ones we choose will depend on the state of the COVID pandemic and the comfort level of each class/teacher.
Fortunately, we had already developed a variety of resources for students from Kindergarten to Grade 7 and made them available on our website. We were able to share all these resources with teachers across the district so that they could share them with students and parents forced into homeschooling.
Sponsor a Salmon
Resources K - 12
Community Events and Outreach
Project Watershed booth at Seafood Festival – Virginia East
Ken Kirkby and Nana Cook have donated 43 of their paintings and seven from their collection for a semi-formal gala event to raise funds and awareness for the purchase and restoration of Kus-kus-sum through the engaging and powerful medium of art and the promise of getting a great deal. Each painting is worth between $1,500 and $4,000. 50 ART DRAW tickets at $500 each will be presold for the event (ART DRAW ticket holders may bring 1 guest). Tickets to attend the event as an onlooker will be $15.
Prior to the lull in events over the last few months Project Watershed has been busy hosting and attending events since our AGM last May. These have included:
- Project Watershed’s 2019 Wrap Up Party – where we thanked volunteers and donors and wrapped up the Keeping It Living Artshow at the Bayside Cafe
- Working with the Youth Media Project to produce a variety of project related videos
- Managing booths at Seedy Saturday, World Community’s Film Fest, Puntledge Hatchery’s Open House, and the Seafood Festival
- Participating in the Youth Climate Action event and The Climate Crisis: Place-based Adaptation & Resilience event
- Being nominated for a Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Award and attending the Gala
- Running our 9th Annual Carol Walk
- Doing a huge Shoreline Cleanup at Kus-kus-sum – 24 people participated and we collected around 300lbs of garbage
- Hosting a very successful Salmon BBQ at 40 KNOTS
- Co-ran a raffle with Queneesh School and helped them create a Kus-kus-sum gingerbread model for Crown Isle’s Gingerbread House event
An important milestone was met on November 30th, 2020 as Project Watershed transferred the remaining funds for the acquisition of Kus-kus-sum to Interfor Corporation LTD.
After a brief hiatus from Project Watershed Jennifer Sutherst has returned to the organization as our Senior Staff Biologist in order to continue to support our sensitive habitat stewardship objectives.
The Board of Directors is proud to announce the recruitment of an Executive Director to the Project Watershed team.
In honour of Valentine’s Day and to show our love for our community and everyone in it, Project Watershed proudly announces that we have signed the Safe, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Pledge that Comox Valley Pride has created.
Over the winter period, there have been many forage fish and/or forage fish egg sightings spread along the coast of Vancouver Island.
Jennifer Sutherst has been a key leader at Project Watershed for the last seven years.
Project Watershed hosted a Fundraising Blitz this November which closed with a Reverse Telethon on Saturday, November 28th. The Blitz successfully raised over $60,000 and donations are still rolling in. All donations from the Blitz have been matched by the Ngan-Page family fund and they have extended their commitment to match donations until December 31st!