This category features all posts related to Restoration (incl. Blue Carbon), Protection – KEMP / Land Acquisition / Walkway, and Education – Keeping It Living etc.

Project Watershed, K’ómoks First Nation announce deal to purchase, restore former Field Sawmill site

Wall lining the Sawmill Site – image credit: RWard (RicksKopter)

Project Watershedand the K’ómoks First Nation have reached an agreement with Interfor to purchase and restore the former Field sawmill site on the Courtenay River near the 17th street bridge.

“After several years of negotiations, we are pleased to announce that we have an accepted offer to purchase the property from Interfor,” stated Tim Ennis, Director for Project Watershed.  “Project Watershed, the K’ómoks First Nation and Interfor are all extremely excited to see this project take a positive step forward, but now it is time for the heavy lifting to start.”

In 2014, the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society began discussions with Interfor Corporation who own the site and ascertained that they were open to and supportive of a conservation solution for the land. Early conversations with both the K’ómoks First Nation and the City of Courtenay confirmed that Project Watershed’s proposal to purchase and restore the land was possible. While Project Watershed is recognized internationally for its freshwater and marine stewardship, restoration and science capabilities, it does not hold title to land.  Both the K’ómoks First Nation and City of Courtenay have stepped forward by agreeing to take on the role as landowners, once the acquisition is complete.

The K’ómoks First Nation’s interests in the site span millennia. In ancient times, the site was just across the river from a village called Kus-kus-sum. The property itself was used as the final resting place of K’ómoks ancestors. After consultation with the Nation, the name Kus-kus-sum was chosen as the new name for the property.  Chief Nicole Rempel and Band Administrator, Tina McLean have joined the Project Watershed negotiating committee alongside Ennis and Project Watershed Directors Bill Heidrick and Don Castleden.

An aerial view of the last major flood in Courtenay— image credit: Comox Valley Echo File photo

An aerial view of the last major flood in Courtenay— image credit: Comox Valley Echo File photo

“The K’omoks First Nation has long looked forward to regaining our traditional cultural sites throughout our unceded traditional territory,” explained Rempel. “Kus-kus-sum has been a site of cultural significance to our people since time immemorial as a place where we put our ancestors to rest. Restoring it to its natural state is a vision we share with Project Watershed.”

The City of Courtenay stands to gain significant benefit from the project including the attenuation of flood impacts that will come from the restored site’s ability to absorb floodwaters.

“We also gain the rehabilitation of fish habitat, the addition of park land and the enhanced esthetic value upon removal of the current blighted landscape,” said Council. Doug Hillian, who will act as project liaison along with Rebecca Lennox. “I look forward to the opportunity for the City to hear more about the specifics and to consider next steps.”

In June 2017, Council unanimously supported a motion agreeing in-principle to share in ownership of the property alongside KFN. “The City of Courtenay’s Council and senior staff, have been incredibly supportive of this project, and we are certainly grateful for this support,” stated Bill Heidrick, Director for Project Watershed.

Hollyhock Flats Salt Marsh, South of the Site

“Now that we have agreed on the basic parameters of a deal, we need to negotiate a contract of purchase and sale and work towards removing conditions,” explained Ennis.  “This will involve negotiating specific details with the City, the Nation and other governments with jurisdiction in the estuary. From there we will need to roll up our sleeves and begin fundraising in earnest.  We have a limited amount of time to raise the funds required to complete the purchase and restoration work.  Failure to do so could see the property go back on the market. The total project cost is estimated at $6.5M.”

Project Watershed is committed to restoring the decommissioned site with a view to returning the site as much as possible to its natural state, preserving it for future generations. “We have been successful at securing funds from federal, provincial, private and international funding agencies to support the conservation and sustainability of many vital areas in and around the Comox Valley. We are confident in our ability to protect and support this site’s ecological integrity once it is rehabilitated,” stated Dan Bowen, Technical Director for Project Watershed.

Paved area of the old sawmill site – image credit: RWard (RicksKopter)

“Over the next several years, by submitting grant applications, and obtaining contributions from local businesses, residents and service groups we will bring together the resources needed to achieve this vision.  It will be a total community effort”, states Project Watershed Treasurer Brian Storey.  Project Watershed Director Kathy Haigh, and Chair Paul Horgan are heading up the fundraising committee.  “Ultimately, we seek to un-pave a parking lot and put up a paradise”, says Haigh.  “We have established a local fundraising target of $500,000 towards that end, and hope to bring in the balance from Provincial, Federal, international, corporate and other private donors”.

The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society and the K’ómoks First Nation looks forward to updating the public, as more information is available about this land purchase. Project Watershed invites the people of the Comox Valley to help launch this initiative at our Keeping It Living kick-off event sponsored by The Old House Hotel and Spa, 5:30pm on Sept 21st on the lawn in front of Local’s restaurant on 1730 Riverside Lane.Event Information and RSVP

Donate now to fund the transformation from Eco-liability to Eco-asset


Project Watershed’s Summer Activities Forge Ahead

Project Watershed forges ahead during the month of August with the major restoration project at Simms Park.  This project involves the reworking of an off-channel habitat area for fish within a tidally influenced section of the Courtenay River.  The existing off-channel was poorly constructed and did not function effectively.  We are in the process of creating and installing culverts which will create a “bypass” for the normal salmon highway which will provide better connectivity between the River and the Courtenay Slough through the Park.  “This will improve access for fish seeking refuge from high river flows and predators” comments Jennifer Sutherst, PW staff biologist. The plan includes enlarging a pond which is set up for public viewing during fish migration.

This involved draining the existing pond and salvaging the various fish and amphibian species at the site.  Project volunteers recorded over 7 different species of fish, amphibians and other organisms which were salvaged.  All these species were relocated to equivalent habitats outside of the work zone, with the exception of invasive bull frogs, both juvenile tadpoles and adults, which were found at the site and disposed of.

In order to improve the hydraulic functioning and water quality at the site, PW volunteers and City crews are working together.  “Working in coordination with the City of Courtenay, we are installing two large culverts which will allow daily tidal and river flow through this area which we are referring to as a ‘salmon highway bypass“, comments Technical Director Dan Bowen. He was happy to see the second 2.4 m diameter X 16.5 m long culvert installed.

New Officers Announced

In conjunction with our Simms restoration activities, this summer at our July Board meeting, directors decided on the PW Society Officers for 2017-2018.

These volunteer directors include Paul Horgen as Board Chair, Bill Heidrick as Vice Chair, Brian Storey as Treasurer, and Don Castleden as Chair of the Estuary Working Group.

The Technical Portfolio is held by Directors Dan Bowen and Bill Heath, the Fundraising portfolio has been taken on by new Board Member Kathy Haigh, and the Volunteer and membership portfolio is held by Barbara Wellwood.  Tim Ennis is Director at Large.  He, along with the Vice Chair and Estuary Working Group Chair, make up the Acquisition Committee interacting with the corporation who owns the decommissioned sawmill site.  “These negotiations are proceeding extremely well” reports Board Chair Paul Horgen.

Fundraising Dinner

Finally, to end the summer, the Society is holding a fundraising dinner and wine tasting at 40 knots winery on Sept 9.  “This fantastic event will include a traditional First Nations dinner catered by Cory Frank, and entertainment by a new group called Watershed performing an original musical piece, “Our Estuary”,” said Kathy Haigh, one of the evening’s organizers.  More than half the tickets are now sold, so get them while they last!  Specifics of the evening can be obtained on line at or by phoning the Conservation Centre at 250-703-2871.

Upcoming Construction at Simms Millennium Park to Improve Salmon Habitat

Project Watershed will be working in Simms Millennium Park this summer to improve the habitat in the area for fish and other wildlife.  The Simms side channel is used by species such as Coho salmon, however it is not functioning as well as it could be. In order to access the pond habitat, fish must […]

Environmental Education Ideas, Activities and Volunteers Needed

Our first step is to compile items that already exist in the Comox Valley. If your organisation has already created any such materials, presentations, field trips, handouts, activities etc… on the topics of water, watersheds or Historical First Nation Resource Use please contact us at

Trent River Estuary

Signs of Abundance Tour – The information on this page compliments that which appears on the sign that has recently been erected near the mouth of the Trent River. To go to the map of all the signs in this series click here.

Macdonald Wood Park

Signs of Abundance Tour – The information on this page compliments that which appears on the sign that has recently been erected on the boardwalk at the bottom of Croteau Road in Macdonald Wood Park. To go to the map of all the signs in this series click here.

Ancient Fish Traps

Results of highly detailed mapping and radiocarbon dating at a vast and largely unknown intertidal fish trap complex indicate a large-scale, technologically sophisticated Aboriginal trap fishery operated at Comox Harbour, Vancouver Island, British Columbia between about 1,300 and 100 years ago.

Call for Volunteer Invasive Removal – Tuesday, June 06

Hello Volunteers,

Project Watershed in partnership with CV Nature and the Courtenay Air Park are removing invasive blackberry next Tuesday.

This is a call out for volunteers to help with the removal of invasive species.

Date: June 06, Tuesday
Time: 830 am – 1130 am
Where to meet: Dan and team will meet you at 8:30 am at the Air Park Cafe (
102 20 St, Courtenay)
Please bring work cloths, a shovel/or garden shears, and gloves, water, snacks. Gear will be available.
Watch the weather and dress accordingly.
For more information, please call 250 703-2871 or email
Thank you for supporting Project Watershed. Together we are Keeping it Living