Forum puts focus on fjord 

Elected officials, business leaders and non-profits gather to discuss the future of Howe Sound

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - safe and sound Participants who attended the Future of Howe Sound Forum agreed on the need for an ongoing dialogue about the future vision of Howe Sound.
  • FILE Photo
  • safe and sound Participants who attended the Future of Howe Sound Forum agreed on the need for an ongoing dialogue about the future vision of Howe Sound.

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While the next HSCF event is five months away, Simons said the April 13 meeting in Horseshoe Bay has prompted one key action.

"From this event it's clear that we're going to be asking the provincial government to consider moving forward with some sort of land and resources management plan (LRMP)," said Simons.

The fjord has enjoyed some natural resource rebounds in the last decade with herring appearing in significant numbers. Dolphins and whales were a rare site in Howe Sound but they have been spotted plying the waters in recent years. Cloud sponge reefs were recently discovered off Lions Bay. Two herds of elk were transplanted to the area and they are thriving on the shores of the sound and the river systems above the fjord.

One of the speakers at the April 13 forum was Bob Turner, chair of the Howe Sound Environmental Science Network.

"We are seeing some of the most encouraging environmental trends in the last two decades," Turner told those gathered. "Howe Sound is in recovery. All of this is very exciting."

According to Turner, Howe Sound suffered badly from the impacts of pulp mill disposals of dioxins and furans, acid rock drainage at Britannia and mercury from chemical plant operations in Squamish.

The Woodfibre pulp mill stopped operating in 2007, Howe Sound Pulp and Paper at Port Mellon upgraded and decreased its impact in the early 1990's, a five-year clean up of the chemical plant site in Squamish has improved conditions around the Squamish River Estuary and acid rock drainage from the closed mining operations at Britannia dropped drastically when a water treatment plant was built in 2007. Turner, a geological scientist with Natural Resources Canada, pointed out that pink salmon returned to Britannia Creek in 2012 for the first time in 80 years.

According to Turner, community groups are rising up to take on the responsibility of restoration and repair of Howe Sound.

"Groups like the Squamish Watershed Society, Marine Life Sanctuary Society and the West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Society, to name a few, are doing remarkable work," said Turner. He added that the work of the Squamish Streamkeepers to promote the abundant recovery of herring is astonishing.

While there was emphasis at the Future of Howe Sound Forum on nature and the environment in an era following significant negative industrial impacts, two current industry proposals are also on the minds of environmentalists.

Burnco Rock Products wants to remove gravel from its privately owned land at McNab Creek and Pacific Energy Corp. has offered to buy the Woodfibre lands so it can build a liquefied natural gas plant on the east side of Howe Sound.

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