Vedder River gravel mining cancelled!

Thanks to public pressure, including over 1050 letters sent to decision-makers and the advocacy of local stewards, the province of B.C. has walked back their plans to mine gravel from the Vedder River in a pink salmon spawning year.

Pink salmon return to the Vedder and the rest of the Fraser River system every two years on odd-numbered years, sometimes in very large numbers. Shortly after they spawned in 2021, we were hit by major flooding in the Fraser Valley. How many eggs got washed away, and how many adult fish will return this year? We don’t know yet, but the projections are not looking great. Because of this, it is even more imperative to protect any pink salmon that return to spawn this year.

Suffice it to say, this is the wrong year to be messing around with important pink salmon habitat by removing thousands of truckloads of gravel.

Of course, this is a small win and just pushes the problem into the future. Next spring, advocates will once again need to keep a close watch on how much gravel mining is planned. We will need to negotiate in the best interest of salmon and trout and other species that use the river.

Thoughtful and strategic removal of gravel might be okay for this reach of river, but not in a pink salmon year, and only if better options aren’t available to reduce flood risk. And…spoiler alert…there are better options.

One way to avoid constantly having to mine gravel is to increase the height of the dike on the Chilliwack side of the Vedder so it matches the dike height on the Abbotsford side. Another is to ensure the river is not channelized but allowed to braid, meander and flood safely. Examples of what this can look like can be found in Watershed Watch’s blog post: What makes flood infrastructure fish-friendly.

Instead of one-off band-aid fixes, we need a strategic process and plan to manage for floods across the lower mainland. Our work with the Lower Fraser Floodplains Coalition aims to see B.C. move towards a more sensible approach to flood management that benefits people and other species, like salmon.

We know all of this will take time, collaboration and significant investment. In the meantime, we want to express a big thank you to everyone who supports our efforts to take on these individual threats as we work on the longer-term strategic solutions to improve flood management and protect salmon habitat in the Heart of the Fraser.