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What the Fulawka? Silt still flowing into Coquitlam River

Groups send letter to provincial government demanding action
Tony Matahlija of the North Fraser Salmon Assistance Program scoops up a handful of fine sand that was deposited by a landslide in Fulawka Creek into the Coquitlam River. He is concerned that the lack of effort to stabilize slopes is causing the creek to send more silt into the river, ruining a salmon enhancement project and killing fish eggs.

Groups concerned about the health of the Coquitlam River are demanding the provincial government take action on stabilizing the slopes of Fulawka Creek because of concerns that several washouts and the continued flow of fine sand are destroying fish habitat.

In a letter this week, the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable is asking the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development and BC Hydro to “take immediate action” to stop silt pollution caused by slope failures in the Fulawka/Fulton Creek drainage areas.

The area of the landslides is approximately 2.1 km south of the Coquitlam Dam in the BC Hydro right of way on the mountainside while the silt from the slides is filling up a side channel of the river created out of a former swamp in Upper Coquitlam River Park.

The muddy water flows into the Coquitlam River, “impacting salmon redds [salmon egg deposits]" and “key rearing areas as well as critical off-channel habitats,” the letter notes.

At its most recent meeting, the roundtable — made up of representatives from the cities of Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, BC Hydro, Metro Vancouver, Kwikwetlem First Nation and others — passed a resolution seeking progress on work that was supposed to be done in June 2019 but was never completed. The group is concerned no one is taking responsibility for the work.

“Given the lack of progress on remedial measures, there isn’t any indication of priority on the part of those who should be responsible for prompt elimination of the sediment pollution flowing from the Fulawka/Fulton drainage area,” the roundtable states in the letter.

Among the actions the roundtable is seeking are an update on the progress of work in the Fulawka and Fulton creeks, and a target for when it will be complete, along with work to dig out silt that has already been deposited in the side channel.

In a photo sent with the letter, muddy water could be seen flowing into a drainage area next to Pipeline Road.

And one member of the group who created the side channel for spawning salmon is upset the work hasn’t been done to stabilize the slopes.

Tony Matahlija of the North Fraser Salmon Assistance Program said silt continues to flow into the salmon enhancement area. The area of pools and riffles for spawning salmon is now full of silt, Matahlija told The Tri-City News.

“It seems to me nobody gives a damn about it,” he said, noting that money spent to create the side channel has been wasted. “They were supposed to do it last year and it would have been only a few days remedy. They were supposed to get water redirected to another channel. We don’t know if they’ve done it because the mud keeps coming.”

The Tri-City News has sought an explanation about what progress has been made from both the forests and energy, mines and petroleum resources ministries but has yet to hear back, although a spokesperson said it would look into the matter.

The worry is heavy rainfall will cause a larger slope failure and send mud cascading into the river, further ruining salmon habitat. 

For years the Coquitlam River was considered endangered because of silt created by gravel operations. Much of that silt was contained and the river lost its endangered status in 2013, although this current problem is jeopardizing the health of the river once again.

It’s not the first time efforts have been made to get the problem dealt with, in late 2018, the city of Coquitlam called on the B.C.government to do something about the slope instability at Fulawka Creek.