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Keeping It living – Calling all ARTISTS

Project Watershed is inviting you to join us in inspiring the Comox Valley to experience the estuary by submitting a piece of your work in our 6th annual Keeping it Living Art competition and silent auction.

Keeping it Living is an art and literature awareness and fundraising campaign to give everyone the opportunity to contribute to the preservation and restoration of the K’ómoks Estuary.


Keeping it Living
Art for the Estuary
Then, Now and Future

The year’s title “Then, Now and Future” is to inspire the artist to capture their version of the past, present and future of the estuary…or all three! And as in every year the theme encompasses “all things estuary”, and is wide open to the whole ecosystem which extends into the Georgia Strait. Nationally renowned First Nations artist Andy Everson will be creating a unique image for this years’ campaign. Join Andy in the creation of art inspired by our one of  kind estuary.

All types of art including (but not limited to) painting, sculpture, jewelry, pottery, photography and glass are encouraged.

Art is displayed as follows:

Details:

  • Artwork image submitted online as JPEG using the form found at www.keepingitliving.ca or by clicking here.
  • Artwork must be submitted with entry fee ($20) and form (2 pieces can be submitted for this fee)
  • All mediums accepted; must be your own original work
  • Creative writing pieces are free to enter; max 200 words
  • All 2D artwork must be framed and/or ready to hang
  • All entries must be for sale, proceeds split 50/50 between Artist and Project Watershed
  • Submission deadline is Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

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Courtenay Council Candidates Consider Field Sawmill Site

With an election coming in a few days, all of the candidates running in Courtenay are firming up their platforms. One of the important issues facing our beautiful community and is on the minds of not only citizens of Courtenay,  but all of us who have chosen the Comox Valley as our home, is the old Field Saw Mill site.  In November of last year, Project Watershed presented some preliminary ideas about the site and published them in local papers.  They included feasibility of restoration.  We have recently submitted our most current thoughts in another article submitted to local papers in the first week in November.

 
I can tell you as a speaker that has talked to Rotary clubs, Probus clubs, Newcomer groups and courses that I have taught on the Estuary at NIC Elder College, that a question that comes up at every talk or course is, “What is going to happen to the old Field Sawmill Site?”
What to do with the Fields Saw Mill
 
The Project Watershed Board of Directors believes that this should be an issue discussed during the fall campaign. Consequently during the first week in October, Project  Watershed invited or attempted to invite all of the candidates running to meet and discuss the issue.
 
To date  we have had replies /or and met with Jon Ambler (mayoral candidate) and Council candidates Doug Hillian, Bob Wells, David Frisch, Bill Anglin, Starr Winchester, Rebecca Lennox, George Knox, Eric Erickson, Stu MacInnis and Marcus Felgenhauer.  All agreed that this issue should be put on the table for consideration. What a great start!
 
We look forward to involving the entire Comox Valley in discussions related to restoring this site. What a legacy it would be for future generations.
Yours sincerely.

Paul Horgen

Webcast for PICS seminar October 16, 2014

On 16 October 2014 Paul Horgen (Chair of the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society) and Christine Hodgson of North Island College (Chair of the Math and Science Department) were invited to speak at the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions “Climate Seminar Series”.

 

Paul Horgen

Many thanks to Megan Jameson and the PICS staff for having us over and capturing our presentation on video. We are very pleased to be able to share this information with our supporters.

Paul HorgenChair - Comox Valley Project Watershed Society

Restoring Tidal Marshes in Royston

A tidal marsh is a type of marsh that is found along the shoreline of coasts and estuaries of which the flooding characteristics are determined by the tidal movement of the adjacent estuary.  The vegetation on the shore is called a salt marsh and it is a complex of many salt tolerant plants.  The vegetation from the tide line out into the waters of the estuary is composed of a single flowering plant known as eelgrass.  Volunteers including three local candidates running for office in November have been working on the shoreline by the new Royston Seaside trail creating salt marsh benches.

This new park site, in the early part of the 20th century, was an area with extensive tidal marshes. As the first settlers began to log forests in the area rails ran along the shoreline on an artificial dyke and logs were transported and dumped into the estuary for movement to saw mills.  This activity went on for decades and caused major habitat damage to the estuarine ecosystems.

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The sunken ships that can be seen off the estuary shore are known as the ‘Royston Wrecks’.  For years, these ships served to protect the shoreline against storm action and the scouring of the shore with logs in the water.

“All of the damaging industry is in our past, but now is the time to work together and restore habitat.  The amazing success so far is really encouraging”, commented Bob Wells, candidate for Courtenay Council. The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society has embarked on a major restoration project to re-establish the tidal marsh system lost during that time.  All of this is occurring along this new CVRD trail which will become a major destination in the Comox Valley for residents and tourists wanting seaside outdoor activity.

“I was very encouraged  with the enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers of Project Watershed for  this tidal marsh restoration effort ,”  stated Rebecca Lennox, candidate for Courtenay Council.

“We have restored almost 2000 m2 of eelgrass in the intertidal and sub tidal waters near the Wrecks and have just started the construction of three salt marsh benches which will occur over the next six months” reports Paul Horgen Chair of the Board.

Jim Gillis, running for Director of Area B in the Regional District, exclaimed that  “it was wonderful that a stewardship group like Project Watershed could secure over $100,000 in competitive funding to carry out these restorative activities on our new seaside trail.”

Image Credit:

  • Photo by Jennifer  Sutherst –  Rebecca Lennox and Technical Director Dan Bowen discussing the planing of salt tolerant species on the newly formed Royston salt marsh benches.

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?

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Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up

Kathryn Clouston

Trust you all had a relaxing and enjoyable summer and are keen to get out and enjoy some great fall days in our valley’s superb natural environment.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup will be running for a week (Sept 20 to 28) so it will give you a moral reason to be out helping to clean up your local streams and waterways.

If you want to participate in an organized cleanup the CV Nature group will be picking up litter at the Airpark on Sunday, Sept 21st and I have registered the Simms Park area on behalf of Project Watershed to be groomed on Sunday, September 28th (also BC Rivers Day).

Both cleanup parties will be meeting at their respective parking lots and run from 10 AM until noon . Bring gloves and a garbage bag (also family and friends) and wear appropriate footwear. Refreshments will be served during a tally-up of debris at the end.

Hope to see you out there – working to better our natural environment is always a feel-good and very worthwhile activity.

Kathryn CloustonProject Watershed Staff Member

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.

View From Airpark by Bev Byerley

See who is Keeping It Living at the Swan Festival

Every year Project Watershed bestows an array of Keeping It Living Awards to a deserving group and chosen artists. These awards are part of a campaign created to promote community knowledge of and pride in the K’omoks Estuary. One such award is the Keeping It Living Award, a merit based award that recognises an organisation, group or business exhibiting leadership in protecting and restoring the K’omoks Estuary.  The other awards – People’s Choice, Artist’s Choice and Keeping It Living’s Choice – go to artists from their winning submissions to the Keeping It Living Campaign’s Art Competition. You are invited to come out to acknowledge and celebrate these awards as they are presented at the Swan Festival in the K’omoks First Nations Hall 12 noon Saturday November 23rd.

 This year the Estuary Working Group and Project Watershed will be bestowing the 2013-14 Keeping It Living Award on the Comox Valley Naturalists. In making this Award, we wish to recognize the contribution the Naturalists have made over the years in protecting and restoring vital habitat in the K’όmoks Estuary. This includes the many years spent removing invasive species, planting native species, undertaking habitat restoration, and gathering a wealth of local information through bird counts and botany surveys. Historically this includes the work done on a Trent River Study which led to it remaining a natural area, getting the estuary and surrounding area designated as an Important Bird Area, promoting the idea of converting the Sewage Lagoon to the present day Air Park and helping to save Hollyhock Marsh. Comox Valley Nature is also recognized for its public education efforts – the nature walks you have provided and the information on your website has led to greater awareness and more intimate knowledge of plant and bird life in the Estuary.

View+From+Airpark

Bev Byerley “View from Courtenay Air Park #34”

The Naturalists will be receiving the original Bev Byerley painting “View from the Courtenay Air Park #34” to display in a location of their choice for one year. This painting was generously donated to Project Watershed in 2010 for this purpose.

Bev Byerley herself will be at the ceremony as she will be receiving the Artist’s Choice Award for  “View from the Courtenay Air Park #66”. Shirley Dickie will be receiving the People’s Choice Award for her painting “Reaching Up” and Martha Ponting will be receiving the Keeping It Living’s Choice Award for “Living Waters”. Project Watershed thanks these artists and all the other artists (~40) who contributed pieces to the competition and auction this year. “It is a wonderful show of support for the Estuary from the Art Community” says Paul Horgen, Chair of Project Watershed.

Martha Ponting has graciously donated Living Waters, as Keeping It Living’s Choice, to be used as the image for the 2014 Keeping It Living Campaign.  Art cards, posters and limited edition prints of this and the previous years winners will be on display and available for purchase at the Swan Festival.  They are also available online at https://projectwatershed.ca/get-involved/donate/. Purchasing any of these items raises funds for activities such as eelgrass planting, habitat restoration and protection. If you are were looking to offset some holiday travel through the purchase of carbon credits or for an ecofriendly gift, a Keeping It Living card, poster or print will not only improve your local environment but also keep the money in the community.

Living Waters_web

Martha Ponting “Living Waters”

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Bev Byerley ” View from the Courtenay Air Park #66″

Reaching-Up

Shirley Dickie ” Reaching Up”

 

Keeping It Living Art Cards Now Available

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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.

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    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.