The Quatse estuary at low tide. (Zoe Ducklow|Black Press)

Quatse Estuary Trail closed over winter for restoration work

A second bridge will increase water circulation in the estuary

The Quatse Estuary Trail will be closed from December 2020 to March or April 2021 while crews upgrade the walkway and bridge in an effort to restore the watershed.

The current trail, a part of the old Goodspeed Road, only allows a small amount of water circulation in what used to be a large estuary in Hardy Bay.

When the road was built in the 1960s, it bisected the estuary significantly changing the tidal exchange and damaging the ecology. This project will add a second bridge to allow for more water flow which will restore the habitat over time. They’ll also be planting native vegetation some upland mudflats.

“Folks who walk this estuary trail regularly will understand that opening up the dike/trail will allow better ‘cleansing’ of this particular part of the estuary,” said Sherri Labour, the Lands and Resources Manager for Kwakiutl First Nation in an email.

“At certain times of the year, usually summer when water is lower, I have observed parts of this section of the estuary become standing water leading to bad odours and unusual proliferation of mosquitoes. I am not a fisheries biologist, … but it is clear that this back end of the estuary needs some remediation.”

Estuaries and coastal wetlands are a very small portion of B.C.’s coast, and yet a staggering amount of coastal fish and wildlife rely on them. This particular estuary is where the Quatse (Gwa’dzi in Kwak’wala) and Quatsese Rivers drain, and is one of five priority watersheds the Kwakiutl have identified in their Land Use Plan. It supports runs of chinook and chum salmon.

Nature Trust BC, a non-profit dedicated to “building a treasury of wild natural areas to conserve iconic and important species at risk,” is leading the $400,000 project in partnership with Kwakiutl. Funding is coming from a combination of the Coastal Restoration Fund from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the province, and some COVID-19 related economic stimulus funding. Port Hardy Bulldozing and Onsite Engineering have contracts on the project.

The relatively small project is an important start not just for healthy watersheds but for building partnerships and opportunities for the North Island, Labour said.

“This partnership between our Nation and Nature Trust is providing contracting opportunities and employment for our members and local companies.As is Kwakiutl tradition and custom, we wish always to work in a spirit of maya’xala (respectfully) with our neighbours, with a desire to support and promote beneficial and productive outcomes for all. The Kwakwaka’wakw Peoples have been here for thousands of years, and will be here for thousands more.

“We want to build opportunities for our community of course, but our leadership also sees economic and community development as something that all North Islanders should be a part of. To date, as is the case in other Indigenous Territories throughout B.C., benefits and impacts have not been evenly shared. Our Nation is working hard to change that, and hopes that those who have come to live and love and raise their families in Kwakwaka’wakw Territory will work with us as the Nation takes on a greater role in managing our lands and resources,” Labour said in an email.

There is also a water main underneath the walkway that serves Bear Cove which will be upgraded at the same time.

The construction schedule expects work to be finished by late February, with an extra few weeks in March to catch any delays.

The Quatse Estuary Trail will be closed over the winter for construction. (District of Port Hardy image)

The Quatse estuary at low tide. (Zoe Ducklow|Black Press)

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


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