EDITORIAL: Protecting fish habitat in urban areas challenging

Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society talks with Parksville city council about Shelly Creek

We are all truly fortunate to count Faye Smith as a fellow resident of Parksville Qualicum Beach.

This is not the first time that has been written or said, but evidence came to light again this week in Parksville’s city council chambers.

Smith is the project co-ordinator for the Mid Vancouver Island Habitat Enhancement Society (MVIHES). Born on the Island, Smith was also a founding member of the Qualicum Beach Streamkeepers.

Tthrough Smith’s leadership and co-ordination,

MVIHES does its best to conserve and restore habitat related to salmon, including watersheds, estuaries and shorelines.

For starters, the mere existence of this organization shows a level of respect for the First Nations people who were here before everyone else. Qualicum translates to “where the dog salmon run.” Salmon were at the root of everything here before non-First Nations people settled on the coast of the Strait of Georgia.

To focus on the health of salmon habitat is to recognize and respect the history of our region.

Smith’s style and grace is another asset for MVIHES. Does she believe development is doing damage to the waterways so important to the coho and sockeye? Yes. Does she show up with signs, yelling and screaming, at every meeting where a subdivision is discussed? No.

Smith, like other smart people who are truly working to improve our environment, relies on experts and science. And history. And she reports the good as well as the bad. This week, she told Parksville city council she found a MVIHES study on Shelly Creek from 1999. She then hired an expert to do a study on the creek, using the same methodology, in 2014. She told council the riparian areas on either side of the creek are doing well and in 2013 volunteers counted 8,000 juvenile coho in the stream. But there’s too much sediment and pools are disappearing, big factors that negatively affect fish habitat. And she said she believes development in the city has contributed to those factors.

There may be a way for the city to help MIVHES improve the health of Shelly Creek. Something to do with the replacement of culverts. This is solid, co-operative work toward a common goal. Surely, with the help of people like Smith and organizations like MIVHES, we are smart enough as a society to allow development AND protect fish habitat.

— Editorial by John Harding

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