Project Watershed thanks TD Friends of the Environment for their support of the Air Park Lagoon Planning project. The objective for this project is to create a detailed design for constructing a breach from the Courtenay River into the Airpark Lagoon. A breach through the dike from the Courtenay River into the Airpark Lagoon to allow river and tidal flow through the lagoon at higher tides will increase the productivity of the lagoon and increase the carrying capacity of the estuary to support fish and wildlife, and provide escape from seal predation.
The funding from TD Bank will be used for soil and water testing to comply with contaminated site criteria and for monitoring of water levels in the lagoon and adjacent river areas and collecting other baseline information. These are key criteria for the design of the lagoon breach construction.
Studies in the K’omoks Estuary have identified a lack of off-channel rearing areas, tidal sloughs and low tide refuges and surveys of the Courtenay Airpark Lagoon have indicated low fish numbers while other off channel habitat has higher juvenile fish densities. There is much evidence from other estuaries that restoring flow to off-channel habitat by breaching dikes greatly increases the productivity and utilization of the newly restored habitat.
Seed funding in 2010 determined that creating better access to the 2 hectares of under-utilized lagoon habitat is feasible and desirable. The breach would also help to address seal predation on salmonids which has been identified by both DFO and MFLNRO biologists as one of the major limiting factors for salmonid production.
The next step in this process will be the construction of the breach and salt water marsh benches as well as post-construction ecosystem monitoring. The long term goal is to increase the diversity and complexity of intertidal habitat in the K’omoks Estuary.