After four years of study and planning the project to breach the Courtenay Airpark Lagoon and reconnect it with the Courtenay River is now underway. The breach will be in the form of a culvert which will 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.
At the same time a salt marsh restoration will be undertaken at the current outlet of the lagoon where it connects to the estuary. Salt marsh benches will be established in the water near the current outlet of the lagoon. These marshes will provide connectivity between the lagoon and estuary habitats. Work in this area will also protect the shoreline from storm surges and erosion thereby protecting the trail infrastructure.
Construction work at the site will result in a temporary closure of the popular Courtenay Riverway Airpark Walkway from June 15 – 30th, 2015. This closure will only affect the water side portion of the airpark walkway loop, from the cafe area to the outlet of the lagoon just before the Rotary Sky Park. The walkway running behind the hangars on the west side of the Airpark will remain open.
Other parts of the Airpark walkway that will remain open are the Rotary Sky Park playground and portions of the walkway from 6th Street to lower Mansfield Drive to 30th Street. However drivers and pedestrians should be aware that large trucks will be using Mansfield Drive to haul materials to the work site, and to pay attention to the flagger on site.
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 Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action, and the City of Courtenay.
Project Watershed is currently recruiting volunteers to be onsite at the Airpark. Volunteers will engage with the public and inform about the importance of this project.