Project Watershed Session and Blue Carbon Workshop

Bringing Communities Together to Embark on Major Estuarine Restoration – Scientific Session Join Project Watershed on April 4th for discussion of our community restoration efforts and research over the last 2 years on Blue Carbon in the K’omoks Estuary. This workshop will provide a sneak peek of the presentations and material that will be discussed […]

Comox Valley Harbour Authority Donates to Project Watershed

Brian Storey (far left) and Barbara Wellwood (far right) accept a generous donation from (l to r) Rob Clarke, Lito Veloso and Elizabeth McLeod of the Comox Valley Harbour Authority.

Brian Storey (far left) and Barbara Wellwood (far right) accept a generous donation from (l to r) Rob Clarke, Lito Veloso and Elizabeth McLeod of the Comox Valley Harbour Authority.

The Comox Valley Harbour Authority held the first ever “Comox Harbour Hole in One” competition at Comox Nautical Days.  They put a “T Box” in the Comox Harbour parking lot with the “Floating Hole” approximately 100 yards away in the water between the docks and the Black Fin.  Almost 500 stepped up and gave it their best shot with only one achieving the goal of landing on the floating hole. 

Donations of $1 per ball were accepted and resulted in a donation of $550 to Project Watershed.  We would like to thank them for their generous donation of the proceeds of this competition as well as for the donation of dock space earlier in the summer for our eelgrass team to prepare eelgrass stems for transplanting near the Royston Wrecks.

Project Watershed estuary restoration work continues

Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions summer intern and UBC student Maya Guttmann tying eelgrass bundles for planting with the shore crew.

Pacific Institute of Climate Solutions summer intern and UBC student Maya Guttmann tying eelgrass bundles for planting with the shore crew.

During the second and third week of July, Project Watershed carried out a sub-tidal eelgrass planting of approximately 1,000 square metres.

“This makes our total restorations to nearly 6,000 square metres since 2013,” said Paul Horgen, board chair.

Funding for this 2015 effort was through the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

There was a 2014/15 estuarine tidal marsh restoration and establishment of a kelp seeding site that were earlier phases of a plan to link saltmarsh, eelgrass and kelp habitats.

“This year, we focused on the sub-tidal planting underwater with the use of divers,” said Angela Spooner, head biologist managing the effort. “Project Watershed appreciates the commitment and expertise of UB Diving who have worked with our restoration team for the last three years. They have become so good in harvesting donor plants. We estimated 98 per cent accurate harvest counting and observed diligence in planting the bundles.”

“Many volunteers and professionals have committed to our estuary vision, but we would especially like to acknowledge the Comox Valley Harbour Authority as they have donated the dock space for the tying and they carried out a hole-in-one event during Nautical Days where the proceeds will be donated to Project Watershed,” said Kathryn Clouston, administration and outreach assistant.

“Tidal marsh restoration is part of rebuilding the salmon highway which was seriously damaged during the years of log booming and industrial activity in our estuary,” said Horgen.

“Considerable progress is being made.”

posted Aug 10, 2015 at 11:00 AM  http://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/community/321291201.html

The Airpark Lagoon has been Breached

If you have been down to the Airpark lately you may have noticed the pathway has been closed over the past 2 weeks so that a team of hardworking engineers, machine operators, project managers and laborers could install a culvert under the Airpark Walkway.  This work is the culmination of four years of study and planning.  The culvert is 20 meters long by 3.98 meters wide and 2.48 meters high and is designed to direct river flows through the lagoon area. This will flush and re-oxygenate the area with cooler river water, and restore the lagoon closer to its historical condition. The construction, coordinated by Project Watershed, will significantly improve fish habitat and deal with factors limiting productivity culvert with flow by helping lower water temperatures in the lagoon, increasing nutrients and mixing, providing better habitat for birds and marine life and improving connectivity between the river and the lagoon.

Salt Marsh benches of gravel and recovered sediment have been created for salt marsh planting both in the lagoon and in the estuary south of the lagoon. These marshes will provide connectivity between the lagoon and estuary habitats. The benches in this area will also protect the shoreline from storm surges and erosion thereby protecting the trail infrastructure.  salt marsh island Saltmarsh species will be planted next spring.

Jennifer Sutherst, Estuary Coordinator for Project Watershed, advised the project will greatly improve the habitat in this area. “The culvert will improve circulation and nutrients in the lagoon, making it excellent rearing and foraging habitat for juvenile salmon,” noted Sutherst. “The salt marsh benches will also provide habitat for fish and protect some of the shoreline that has suffered damage from erosion in recent years.”

The culvert and salt marsh restoration project is made possible thanks to funding from The Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action, and the City of Courtenay.

Paving will take place on June 30th and the pathway will reopen on Canada Day.

pano of construction

NIC and Project Watershed unite for blue carbon research

NIC will sign a Memorandum of Understanding June 4 with Comox Valley Project Watershed to restore the estuary environment and research new guidelines for blue carbon research in B.C.

Comox Valley Project Watershed Board Chair Paul Horgen and NIC President John Bowman sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to work together to restore the K’ómoks Estuary and research new guidelines for blue carbon research in B.C.

Comox Valley Project Watershed Board Chair Paul Horgen and NIC President John Bowman sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to work together to restore the K’ómoks Estuary and research new guidelines for blue carbon research in B.C.

“NIC students are bringing science to life – mapping eelgrass, improving estuaries and creating positive change in their own community,” said NIC Science Department Chair Christine Hodgson, who is also a Project Watershed member.

Blue carbon is carbon captured by salt marsh grasses, eelgrass and other aquatic plants.

The grasses provide critical fish habitat, storm surge protection, and value for shellfish operations. They also absorb carbon up to 100 times faster and more permanently than terrestrial forests – making their habitat crucial to understanding and reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

Project Watershed is the leader in blue carbon research in the K’ómoks Estuary. It researches, plants, and maps eelgrass and salt marsh grasses. In 2014, it received federal recognition and a $230,000 grant from an international research institute on climate solutions, as well as a $10,000 provincial grant to hire a student summer intern.

The agreement could create a protocol for other coastal communities interested in restoring their own estuaries and support the creation of blue carbon greenhouse gas offsets under the B.C. offsets system.

“There are many opportunities for the public and communities to get involved by planting intertidal eelgrass and restoring the shoreline with us,” said Paul Horgen, the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society.

In conjunction with NIC’s Centre for Applied Research, Technology and Innovation, Hodgson received a $25,000 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant to map the distribution of eelgrass relative to Shellfish Aquaculture sites, and monitor habitat with NIC students, the K’ómoks First Nation, Pentlatch Seafoods and Comox Valley Project Watershed.

NIC student Jamie Lund hands the GoPro camera to a KFN student while documenting eelgrass beds in the K’ómoks Estuary. Photo: Island Life Photographics

NIC student Jamie Lund hands the GoPro camera to a KFN student while documenting eelgrass beds in the K’ómoks Estuary. Photo: Island Life Photographics

NIC student Jamie Lund’s research into the distribution of eelgrass beds near the Royston Wrecks involved Project Watershed and a group of K’ómoks First Nation students. Her work, as well as Beatrice Proudfoot’s digital estuary maps, were presented at a Project Watershed Conference in the Comox Valley in March.

For more information on applied research at NIC visit: www.nic.bc.ca/CARTI.

Estuary Workshop March 14

*Image: Eelgrass restoration by Project Watershed in the estuarymeasuring

Comox Valley Project Watershed is pleased to host a one-day workshop on Saturday, March 14:

Climate Change Solutions and Habitat Restoration at the Community Level: Results of Projects completed by Comox Valley Project Watershed Society in 2014-15.” Read more

Climate change could increase estuary flooding

Image Credit: Contributed – In the spring of 2012, residents along the Dyke Road were evacuated by the RCMP due to flooding. This was how things looked in front of the old cement tower.

Contributed – Comox Valley Recordposted Oct 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

Today’s coastal areas face an unprecedented challenge, struggling to cope and adapt in the midst of a changing climate.

In coastal areas, the consequences of climate change are already evident, with global sea-levels rising 10 to 25 cm over the last century. By 2100, this number is expected to increase anywhere from 0.5 to 1.4 meters above the 1990 level. Increased incidence and severity of coastal storms are also predicted to result from warming oceans and weather anomalies.

Coastal zones such as estuaries, are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise and enhanced storms, facing serious impacts including: (1) inundation and displacement of wetlands and lowlands; (2) increased coastal erosion; (3) increased coastal storm flooding; and (4) salination.

Flooding incidents

The last five years have been amongst the warmest ever recorded on earth.  In the Comox Valley we have had several flooding incidents and a few near disasters. Widespread human development and industrial activity over the last half century, a working saw mill, (log booming, etc.) further compromised the coastal system’s natural integrity, simultaneously augmenting erosion and forfeiting inherent resiliency.

Project Watershed and the Estuary Working Group has been focusing on shorelines and climate adaptation.  “Beginning this year, and for the next several years, we are going to focus on salt marsh shoreline areas,” commented Dan Bowen, technical director.  This, in conjunction with our intertidal and sub-tidal eelgrass restoration, provides shoreline protection (climate adaptation) and removes the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere.  “The basis of this protection is simple,” says Paul Horgen, board chair of Project Watershed.  “The eelgrass and salt marsh vegetation provides a physical barrier against surges.”

2010 warmest year

Including 2013, nine of the 10 warmest years in the 134 year period of record keeping have occurred in the 21st century. Only one year during the 20th century—1998—was warmer than 2013.  And 2010 was the warmest year on record.

What could this mean for the Comox Valley?  A completely logical conclusion would be more frequent incidents of flooding.  In which case we brace ourselves for more frequent events of the type observed in the winter of 2010 and spring of 2012 when residents along the Dyke Road were evacuated by the RCMP (see photo).

Co-operation and collaboration between governments whose jurisdiction includes our estuary seems like a logical part of a solution that should involve planning and uniform standards.  Governments and stewardship groups need to co-operate and work together.

Which candidates running for local governments will put this important issue high on their election platforms?

CVRecord-genericfeaturedimage

Project Watershed Plants Eelgrass near Port Augusta Park in Comox

Project Watershed, as part of their Blue Carbon efforts and habitat restoration activities, collected 2500 donor eelgrass shoots and then transplanted them into an area devoid of eelgrass off Port Augusta Park in the Town of Comox. These restorations provide habitat for migrating fish and other wildlife as well as increasing the blue carbon sink in our estuary.

The effort involved Project Watershed staff and over 9 volunteers during the low tide on August 8th and 9th. “These donor and transplant locations are part of our research sites and will be monitored for carbon sequestration over the next five years”, states Christine Hodgson, lead scientist for the project.

“We have taken core sediment samples at various locations and this particular location that we planted was barren”, says Paul Horgen, Chair of Project Watershed. Future measurements will give an indication of how much carbon dioxide is being removed by this newly planted site. During this restoration effort intertidal eelgrass, which is the eelgrass you see at low tide right at the tide line, was reestablished. Later this month more intertidal and some subtidal eelgrass will be planted. Divers will be involved with the subtidal efforts. Funding for the project is from The Council for Environmental Cooperation a three country partnership of Canada, the USA and Mexico and from the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

Barbara Price (Town of Comox Councilor) with eelgrass shoot.

Barbara Price (Town of Comox Councilor) with eelgrass shoot.

Nearly 6000 m2 of eelgrass has been restored during the summers of 2013 and 2014. At a recent Fisheries and Oceans workshop in Ladysmith a few weeks ago, it was reported by the Contractor who sub-contracted with Project Watershed for the eelgrass planted last year that we have a 95% success rate.

Jim Gillis (Comox Valley Regional District - Director Area B) – tying eelgrass.

Jim Gillis (Comox Valley Regional District – Director Area B) – tying eelgrass.

Horgen specifically extended invitations to the Mayor and Council of Comox to come and observe the eelgrass collection and transplanting. While Mayor Ives had a prior commitment, Councilors Price and Fletcher found the time to observe the restoration activity. We want to encourage more politicians to become engaged in environmental stewardship activities. “Although it is a busy time an some individuals are away on holidays, with an election coming in November, it is useful for constituents to know which political leaders put the restoration of damaged habitat as a priority and a valuable community activity to support”, states Horgen. It is clear that Price, Fletcher, Ives as well as Regional Director Jim Gillis, who was given a recognition award in May by Project Watershed, fit into this category.

Additional eelgrass work is planned for later in the month and in September. And Project Watershed will soon initiate salt marsh shoreline restorations later this month and in September.   Anyone wishing to be a volunteer on these projects please call Project Watershed at 250 703 2871 or e-mail projectwatershed@gmail.com.

Eelgrass planting activities

Volunteers Needed for Eelgrass Planting!

Project Watershed needs volunteers to help transplant eelgrass for our Blue Carbon project.

As you have probably heard by now, we have received funding to develop a protocol to determine how much carbon is sequestered by eelgrass in the estuary. We have marked out the plots and taken our sediment samples and now we need to fill them in with these amazing plants that remove carbon from the atmosphere better than mature coniferous trees, reduce storm surge damage to the shoreline and provide great habitat for tons of different critters, from fish to shellfish to crab to whatever.

We will be harvesting the plants from around 9:00 am until around 11:30 am and then tieing washers to them for a few hours on 8 Aug.

We will then be transplanting the prepared eelgrass from around 10:00am until around 12:00pm on 9 Aug.

Lunch will be provided so please let us know if you can volunteer alongside Project Watershed staff on either or both of these days.

Your time and energy is greatly appreciated!