Keeping It Living Art Cards Now Available



Project Watershed has created a set of specialty Keeping It Living Art Cards just in time for the winter season. Now you can share the beauty inspired by the K’omoks Estuary with others.

As Get Well cards, Thank You cards or to go with your holiday giving these blank cards look great and help fund estuary restoration and protection.

The front of the cards are adorned with one of the images from our yearly Keeping It Living campaign. These images ere created by local Comox Valley Artists including Bev Byerley, Jennifer Weber, Rena Rogers, Shirley Dickie and Martha Ponting.

We will be selling the Art Cards for $3 each, or 2 for $5, or get a set of 5 for $12. Cards will be available at Project Watershed offices, the Swan Festival and online with our Keeping It Living Sponsorships.


Reclaiming Field Sawmill

Project Watershed and the Estuary Working Group have been developing restoration possibilities for the Field Sawmill site since 2009. “It is our belief that this property has the potential to become a highlight of a restored K’ómoks Estuary, itself a signature feature of the Comox Valley” states Don Castleden, Chair of the Estuary Working Group.

1931 Courtenay River Airphoto showing Future Site of Fields Saw Mill

1931 Courtenay River Airphoto showing Future Site of Fields Saw Mill

The sawmill that was located on this site in 1949 once served as an economic mainstay of Courtenay, however, that period was not without its cost to the health of the estuary, especially to our five major salmon runs. In fact, a governmental report made in 1976 Comox Harbor and later referenced in an article in the Comox District Free Press in 1977 stated that our estuary is one of the richest in Canada and the saw mill and log booming should be relocated. The sale of the sawmill site presents an opportunity to mitigate the damage done and to do what is humanly possible to restore salmon runs as well as other flora and fauna once abundant in the Estuary.

1958 - Field Sawmill in the background before sheet piling and in filling

1958 – Field Sawmill in the background before sheet piling and in filling

“Although we realize that the price at the moment is prohibitive we have encouraged the City to work with Interfor to acquire this property with a view to restoring its natural habitat. This could be a symbol of the commitment of the community to protect this important feature. Project Watershed has offered to work with the City and the community to help raise the money needed to purchase and restore this site” reports Paul Horgen, Chair of Project Watershed.

“The Chief and Council of the K’ómoks First Nation support the conceptual ideas presented by Project Watershed” states Cory Frank the K’omoks First Nation representative on the Estuary Working Group.

A Restored Sawmill Site

  • The sawmill site can be planted with indigenous plants and trees and would eventually blend in with Hollyhock Marsh with its beautiful stand of Sitka spruce which lies just south of the property.
  • A small stream can be created on the property that would connect the Dyke Slough to the river providing safe passage for migrating salmon in the Courtenay River (a channel is illustrated in the diagram accompanying this article). This channel would be too shallow for seals and therefore would alleviate predation and provide refuge for young salmon.
  • A riparian buffer and salt water marsh can be incorporated into this new stream and would provide rearing habitat as well as pools for migrating salmon fry that need to ‘hold over’ while they adjust to salt water before striking out into ocean waters. This restoration would tie in with the existing salt water marsh and slough adjacent to Hollyhock Marsh, an area which has been determined to be one of the most productive habitats for salmon in the estuary, of which there are very few.
  • Salt marsh could be planted in the area and would increase feeding and breeding grounds for bird species, act as a nursery for fish, filter and store pollutants from urban sources, anchor sediment and sequester carbon.
  • The steel sheet piling at the river’s edge of the property can be removed and naturally sloped banks restored, similar to Hollyhock Marsh. These banks could be planted with indigenous bushes to stabilize the banks and protect the area during floods. Removal of the steel sheet piling would greatly improve the river for salmon survival as seals currently use the corrugated feature of the piling to trap their salmon prey.
  • The concrete and pavement currently on the Sawmill Site can be removed and replaced with park space and walkways making the area accessible to the public for recreation, education and tourism. A bridge over the proposed creek would provide an ideal site for viewing salmon during their migration. One of the walkways could join with the walkway being planned by the Regional District between the Rotary Viewing Platform and Hollyhock Marsh. Kiosks, small vendors, interpretive signs, and benches would create an impressive gateway to the estuary.
Proposed channel at Fields Saw Milll connecting to Hollyhock Marsh

Proposed channel at Fields Saw Milll connecting to Hollyhock Marsh

In addition to the Estuary Working Group’s vision for a restored property, several professionals have reviewed the issues associated with developing this property for commercial purposes. It is important to note that any development would have to contend with:

  • height restrictions due to the Air Park and floatplane operations on the river. Any building on the property will have to be assessed by NAV CANADA and Transport Canada for potential impacts to the Air Navigation System and for marking and lighting requirements.
  • rising sea levels, storm surges, and flood waters as a result of severe weather events are to be expected in the future. Flood waters even now inundate the sawmill site during severe upland flooding and storm surges on the Strait. Provincial officials are now advising municipalities to plan for a minimum one metre rise in sea levels. It is estimated that this can result in much higher threat during the highest tides and extreme weather events. The best defences under these severe conditions are natural barriers – shrubs, trees, and aquatic plants that absorb the energy of ocean waves and fast flowing waters.


    2010 Flooding at Fields Saw Mill Site. Photo courtesy of Betty Donaldson

  • insurance issues as there is every likelihood that buildings in floodplains will be uninsurable.
  • setbacks which may be required for any building from both the natural shore and from the highway. When setbacks are factored in, the usable land may be very limited.

It also appears that the steel sheet piling along the west side of the property has encroached on the river and is a major hazard for salmon.

Acquiring this property for the benefit of all citizens will be a major undertaking but there are ways environmental groups, the community, local government, and local businesses can work together to achieve this goal. “We believe the community will rally behind this initiative and support the effort with volunteer time, money and materials” says Don Castleden. Possible tax deductions may be granted to the vendor and carbon offsets may be available to assist in the cost of restoration work. Funds can also be solicited from conservation trusts that support the restoration of estuaries.

The Project Watershed and the Estuary Working Group remain committed to assisting in this restoration. It will be a tangible way to follow through on our commitment to Keeping the Estuary Living.

K’omoks Estuary Video

The video below was produced and prepared through the Comox Valley National Historic Site Committee, as a descriptive information piece to go along with the submission to the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada to respect, honor and give Historic Site recognition to the Ancient Wood Stake Fish Trap System studied by Community Archaeologist Nancy Greene and Geologist David McGee in the K’ómoks Estuary.

The K’omoks Estuary- A cultural & archaeological treasure.

Duration: 17 minutes, 19 seconds


Project Watershed thanks Michael Fountain of Blue Bamboo Productions for his ongoing contributions and outstanding work in producing this, and other videos, towards the restoration and preservation of the K’omoks Estuary. 

Please note that as a Stewardship Society it is not within Project Watershed’s mandate nor will it ever be to be owners or have any kind of jurisdiction over land and water. Our interests are purely in education, restoration and protection.

We acknowledge that the K’ómoks First Nation has been the caretakers of the K’ómoks Estuary since time immemorial, and will continue to care for the lands, waters, forests and air in their territory for generations to come.


Puntledge Hatchery Open House

The staff of

Puntledge River Hatchery

Invite you to:


Interact with Hatchery staff as well as local volunteer Community Groups hosting displays at the facility. This family event provides opportunity to view hatchery activities as well as painting fish prints, Public Involvement displays, salmon breeding operations, incubation room, marking operations and the always popular underwater viewing area.

Please join us

Sunday, October 20, 2013

10 am to 3 pm,

38 Powerhouse Road, Courtenay

(off Lake Trail Road)

PH Poster 2013

A Plan for Improved Habitat at the Air Park Lagoon

Following the Restoration and Prioritization study that occurred in 2010 Project Watershed has been investigating the possibility of doing some restoration work at the Air Park Lagoon, one of the sites identified as a high priority from that study. The Air Park Lagoon has the potential to be more productive especially in terms of salmonid habitat. Unfortunately, the water is relatively stagnant meaning that the temperatures get very high in the summer, oxygen levels decrease and the water column becomes very stratified.  All these factors make the lagoon less attractive for salmonids and other associated species. Hollyhock flats on the other hand, which is directly across the water from the lagoon off the Dyke Road, is one of the most productive salmonid habitats in the estuary.

The 2010 study revealed that adding a breach from the river to the upper area of the lagoon could help change the functioning of the lagoon for the better by bringing in more fresh water, increasing fish access, and helping to flush water through the lagoon. In 2011, a feasibility study was done to asses the idea and it was found to be feasible. This year a planning project was done to gather baseline information, model the system and design a breach. To date we have gathered baseline information including bird, fish and vegetation data and have assessed the sediments for hazardous compounds. Northwest Hydraulics has done the modeling and has designed the breach itself. Below are two presentations the first summarizing the  background and information collected so far and the second detailing the engineering model that was created to assist the design of the breach.

This Project is funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, the Province of B.C. and Fisheries and Oceans Canada who work together to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams. It is also funded by TD Friends of the Environment.


FWCP Wordmark cmyk bigtype tagline

TD logo





Shoreline Cleanup a Success

Another successful shoreline cleanup of Simms Park and its waterways was organized by Project Watershed and took place September 29th on BC Rivers Day. An intrepid crew of 11 braved the weather and collected 22 kilograms of garbage and one bag of recyclables as part of the week-long Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Cookies and juice, along with interesting conversation, finished off the event under the gazebo while we tallied up the morning’s harvest. A bicycle helmet and urine sample bottles constituted the most interesting objects from our efforts.

pwshoreline cleanup 2013

With the exception of “dog poop bags” which continue to get thrown in walkway vegetation by lazy dog walkers, we were pleased to note the decrease in litter and hazardous materials from previous years.


Other groups, including the Comox Valley Kayaks crew and the 20th Street Gang from the Tides, were also active picking up litter along the Courtenay River on Rivers Day. With strong determination and effort the paddlers even managed to remove two shopping carts from the waterways.


Many thanks to all the caring folks that participated.

Royston Trail Under Construction

Rebuilding the Royston Trail - Shoreline PhotosComox Valley Regional District (CVRD) is going ahead with the reconstruction of the Royston Waterfront Trail. More information and details on their plans can be found on the their website Project Watershed and the Estuary Working Group are working with CVRD Parks Staff and the construction team to ensure that environmental values in the area are optimized. The environmental features that Project Watershed and the Estuary Working Group are interested in are:

• Breaching the Hilton Slough

• Adding Salt Marsh

Breaching the Hilton Slough will allow (tidal movement of water into the now stagnant algae slough). This will encourage a board range of marine flora and fauna to access that area. Once the slough is breached salt marsh will be added both inside the lagoon and outside along the foreshore. This will help to restore the saltmarsh areas back to their original condition before the railway construction and the booming ground activities damaged much of this area.

The saltmarsh restoration process will include mapping, foreshore saltmarsh vegetative reports and construction berms and saltmarsh benches.

Salt marsh is an important habitat type in estuaries. Unfortunately it is also one of the most threatened. Salt marsh losses in estuaries in BC range from 50 to 93%. Salt marsh not only provides habitat and food for marine species but also sequesters carbon helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

To see the construction as it progresses visit This blog by Ross Munro of Royston House shows pictures and brief comments on the development of the trail in his area.


Salmon Return to the Tsolum in the Comox Valley After 50 Years

The salmon have returned to the Tsolum River! This is the very best news I’ve heard and/or seen in a very long time. My heart soars. This is a celebration worth sharing. and, just so you know, the Tsolum is a no fishing river. It is now designated only for salmon spawning.

After 50 years as an officially “dead” river, the Tsolum is alive again. The river died as a result of a speculative mining copper mining operation that lasted only 14 months, but left toxic levels of copper and arsenic draining into the river.

After 25 years of effort of a small group of dedicated people who protected the river from loggers, cows, and who persistently sought a lasting solutions, a few years ago the tailings were finally capped in a manner that worked. A hatchery was established, and the river has slowly returned…the first year, 7 salmon were counted, the next 48, etc..until this year 35.000 were counted in one day. 55% pf those salmon are wild..not begun in the hatchery.

Because of the salmon, bear, cougar, wolf, eagle, osprey, and many other wild animals are living and thriving in the area again. The forest will thrive as they leave carcasses in the woods that will feed the trees and plants. The pink’s carcasses in the river will supply the nutrients needed for coho to return, as their juveniles stay in the river for a year, and need the pink run to sustain themselves.

Heather WilkinsonMystery Contributor

Project Watershed would like to congratulate our friends and neighbours at the Tsolum River Restoration Society on achieving yet another amazing milestone in their ongoing efforts to keep our Valley beautiful, naturally.

Project Watershed and other Local Groups Cleanup Shoreline

It’s time again for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and several groups in the Comox Valley are helping to get this initiative off the ground locally.

Lauren Labossiere with the remains of a shopping cart from a previous clean up.

Lauren Labossiere with the remains of a shopping cart from a previous clean up.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup started with a small team of employees and volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium who decided to cleanup a local beach. It became a national program in 2002 and last year over 57,000 volunteers participated coast to coast (

Cleanups happen between September 21st and the 29th. Project Watershed along with several other groups, including Comox Valley Kayak staff, are organising cleanups this year, both private and open to the public. To find a group near you check out

Project Watershed has chosen to coincide their Simms Park cleanup with BC Rivers Day on Sunday, September 29th. If you are interested in participating in this cleanup meet at the Simms Park Bandstand at 10am on the 29th. Bring garbage bags, gloves and appropriate footwear (somewhat rugged, may get wet). There will be refreshments at the end as the items and amounts are tallied up.

“This event is a great way to meet people and make a noticeable difference” says Bill Heidrick Project Watershed Board member and cleanup organiser. In fact, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is one of the largest direct action conservation programs in Canada.

Project Watershed Restoration Activities in the K’omoks Estuary

September 23-29 has been designated as National Estuary Week by the organization Restore Americas Estuaries so Project Watershed encourages you to get out and do something good for the estuary like picking up garbage or removing some invasive plants.  There are a variety of groups and locations registered for the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up including Project  Watershed and Comox Valley Nature who will be doing their work on 29 Sep.

Volunteers preparing to transplant eelgrass.  Photo by Crystal Norman

Volunteers preparing to transplant eelgrass. Photo by Crystal Norman of Unique Roots Photography (

Project Watershed would like to thank our volunteers and our sponsors for making this a very successful summer for Blue Carbon.  As mentioned, Project Watershed carried out a compensation transplant which resulted in around 34,000 stems being planted around the Trent River Estuary which should result  in a great deal of additional habitat for all the organisms that live there.

As well, thanks to a generous donation from the Pacific Salmon Foundation we were able to transplant around 4,000 stems near the Royston area.   This new vegetation will increase the carbon sink available in the K’omoks Estuary. We had planned to continue populating the area beside the Royston Wrecks which had been denuded due to years of being overshadowed by log booms but this proved impossible as the previous two transplants of less than 1,000 stems has grown and spread to the point that there is little room left for additional plants.

“I couldn’t believe how much eelgrass was in the bay when I went over there kayaking,” said Kathryn Clouston, an employee of Project Watershed. “It was great, too, to see a family of about a dozen mergansers taking advantage of the food that was sheltering in the eelgrass.”

Eelgrass filling the formerly empty bay beside the Royston Wrecks.  Photo by K Clouston

Eelgrass filling the formerly empty bay beside the Royston Wrecks. Photo by K Clouston


Project Watershed has also made some good progress on our Blue Carbon project thanks to some funding from the Climate Action Secretariat and our awesome volunteers.  Biologist Angela Spooner has taken some biomass measurements which provide some initial data on the amount of carbon that can be sequestered by eelgrass in various locations, both intertidal and subtidal.  We have also made some progress on verifying our eelgrass map thanks to all of the sponsors mentioned above.  We hope to continue progressing our Blue Carbon project with our stewardship partners in the years to come.