If you have been down to the Airpark lately you may have noticed the pathway has been closed over the past 2 weeks so that a team of hardworking engineers, machine operators, project managers and laborers could install a culvert under the Airpark Walkway. This work is the culmination of four years of study and planning. The culvert is 20 meters long by 3.98 meters wide and 2.48 meters high and is designed to 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 by helping lower water temperatures in the lagoon, increasing nutrients and mixing, providing better habitat for birds and marine life and improving connectivity between the river and the lagoon.
Salt Marsh benches of gravel and recovered sediment have been created for salt marsh planting both in the lagoon and in the estuary south of the lagoon. These marshes will provide connectivity between the lagoon and estuary habitats. The benches in this area will also protect the shoreline from storm surges and erosion thereby protecting the trail infrastructure. Saltmarsh species will be planted next spring.
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 Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program, North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action, and the City of Courtenay.
Paving will take place on June 30th and the pathway will reopen on Canada Day.