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.


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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.

Map of different species using the estuary.

Project Watershed Goes Eelgrass Planting

With the help of Biologist Lora Tryon and some keen volunteers  Project Watershed restored eelgrass in the Royston area this summer (June 2013).

Eelgrass restoration involves transplanting shoots from one healthy dense bed to an area that is void of eelgrass. Eelgrass is a little picky as it only likes to grow at certain elevations so the transplant locations must be roughly the same depth as the beds the eelgrass was harvested from. Eelgrass grows from +1 meter above zero tide to -3 meters below zero tide. Meaning that some eelgrass can be planted in the intertidal zone by volunteers on the surface and some in the subtidal zone by divers.

This planting done in June was done in the intertidal zone by volunteers on the surface. The transplanted area extended an existing bed of eelgrass. Volunteers planted bundles of 10 shoots approximately every meter out from a transect line. Over time the transplanted shoots will grow and in fill the area so that in a few years the transplanted bed will resemble the adjacent healthy bed. In fact, by the time the volunteers were finished planting small crabs and other sea creatures were already moving into the freshly planted shoots!

The planting was made possible by  funding from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment. Watch the slideshow below to see the transplant for your self.

estuarypw's Eelgrass Transplanting album on Photobucket

Habitat work by 19 Wing Comox and Project Watershed

Published: June 19, 2013 2:00 PM, Updated: June 19, 2013 2:07 PM


A diver plants an eelgrass shoot in a bed as part of efforts to restore natural habitat at Goose Spit Marina. Photo by Lora Tryon

19 Wing is restoring marine habitat near Royston as compensation for the habitat affected by the maintenance dredging of the Goose Spit Marina that took place in January.   The dredging was required to remove sediment that built up around the pilings and threatened dock infrastructure and the safe use of the marina by various Canadian Armed Forces and Sea Cadet vessels.  “Dredging needed to be done to restore the capability of the marina,” said Maj. Mark Kierstead, 19 Wing construction engineering officer. “The project’s planning team consulted with K’ómoks First Nation and obtained approvals from several government agencies to ensure the project would be successful and environmentally responsible.”

19 Wing environmental staff developed the project’s mitigation and compensation plan after extensive discussions with local environment experts, including Project Watershed, a local charitable organization that promotes stewardship of local watersheds.  “Over the past few years Project Watershed has been involved with smaller eelgrass restoration projects and also created aerial eelgrass density maps of the entire K’omoks Estuary,” said Dr. Paul Horgen, Project Watershed’s Chairman of the board of directors. “This data has proved valuable to the Department of National Defence.”  The eelgrass harvesting and transplant work started on May 28 and will continue for four weeks. Working from a boat, a surface team prepares and tallies the eelgrass and a team of scuba divers transplants as many as 1,500 shoots a day.  “We will create over 3,000 square metres of new eelgrass habitat near the Trent River Estuary,” said Bob Allan, 19 Wing environmental officer. “We are very pleased to partner with Project Watershed because they have proven success with this specialized habitat restoration work.”  19 Wing will monitor the health and recovery of the habitats for the next five years to ensure the success of our project.

— 19 Wing Comox

Comox Valley Project Watershed Society Elects New Board Officers

On June 11th the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society Board of Directors met and elections were held for Board positions. The 2013 Board members with their specific roles on the Project Watershed team are:

  • Paul Horgen – re-elected Chairman of the Board.  Paul has been associated with the Board for 5 years and along with Board Member Dan Bowen makes up the Research –Technical Working Group.  Horgen is a retired Biology Professor from the University of Toronto.  His research was in Microbial genetics and environmental microbiology. He has published over 140 scientific articles and has co-authored 3 books.   He moved to the Comox Valley in 2005, and has served as science coordinator for Elder College. He is also a member of the Vancouver Island CNIB Board of Directors and a member of the CNIB National Research Board.  Horgen also serves on the Area B Lazo North Area Planning Commission.  Horgen is coordinating the team for the Blue Carbon Project in the Estuary.

  • Bill Heidrick – elected Vice-Chair and also coordinates the society’s outreach efforts.  Bill retired after 25 years working in the Forest Industry.  He moved on to serve 8 years in local government, including 4 years as a director of the Columbia-Shuswap Regional District. He was a volunteer warden for the Zeballos River Estuary for many years and instrumental in forming the Zeballos Fish and Wildlife Association.  He participated in CoastalWaterbird Survey (Zeballos River Estuary) for 7 years and continues to be involved in bird counts here in the Valley.  Bill’s outreach efforts involve the establishment of a new stream keeper group and the Shoreline cleanup.  Bill also serves on the Estuary Working Group and represents Project Watershed on the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy Steering Committee.

  • Don Castleden – Chair of the Society’s largest committee, the Estuary Working Group.  Don has been on the Board of Project Watershed since 2000 and is past Chair of the Board.  Don became involved in environmental education in the mid 90’s when he was asked to develop a national First Nations training program in Environmental Impact Assessment after he had previously developed an award winning program for First Nation managers in Community, Economic and Organization.  He  proposed the ‘Heart of the Watershed’ Symposium on the Estuary in 2008, which proved to be a catalyst that has engaged individuals, organizations and local political leaders in a community wide effort to protect and restore this outstanding feature of the Comox Valley.

  • Dan Bowen – born and raised in the Comox Valley, Dan has a passion for protecting the Valley’s flora and fauna from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the mountains.  Dan worked for the Ministry of Transportation as an engineering assistant, overseeing numerous road construction projects on Vancouver Island.  In 2010, Dan started applying his expertise to the aquaculture industry, specifically sustainable hatchery and tenure development and operations.  In 2011, Dan became a director on the board of Project Watershed.  He, along with Paul Horgen, coordinates the Research and Technical Activities of the Society, with Bowen coordinating and managing the Puntledge projects and both coordinating the Estuary and Blue Carbon projects.  Dan also serves on the Estuary Working Group.

  • Brian Storey – elected Treasurer and is the newest member of the Board of Directors.  Brian is a Chartered Accountant.  He was the Business Manager of The Edmonton Journal for 25 years before he became a self-employed professional accountant in 1996.  From 1996 to 2009, he provided business advice and assistance to a number of enterprises – public, private and not-for-profit.  Since coming to the Comox Valley, Brian has been, and still is, involved with the Rotary Club of Courtenay, and the Comox Valley Elder College.

Assisting the Board are key staff:

    • Caila Holbrook – Estuary Coordinator and Mapping Coordinator. Caila has been with Project Watershed since November 2008. She has a Masters in International Nature Conservation and a BSc in Environmental Science. She has been involved in environmental research, restoration and protection projects all over the world.

    • Kathryn Clouston – Administration and Outreach Coordinator.  Kathryn has been volunteering with stream keeping groups since her retirement from the Air Force in 2007.  While doing this she also spent a few years at North Island College improving her knowledge of biological systems with an Associate of Science in Biology degree.

Caila Holbrook and Kathryn Claustin in recent eelgrass planting in the estuary.

Caila Holbrook and Kathryn Claustin in recent eelgrass planting in the estuary.

The society welcomes new individuals with interest in environmental stewardship and public education and outreach.  Interested parties can contact Paul Horgen at or visit Project Watershed’s website at for more information.