A plan is being floated to clear gravel-clogged Fraser River channels that are preventing log booms from being towed down river, said Abbotsford-Mission MLA Randy Hawes.
A group of forestry industry representatives, government ministry officials and tug boat operators went upriver last Thursday to see the problem first-hand.
“It looked like there are three to four spots where it should be cleaned,” said Hawes, who organized the trip.
The consensus was that scuffle dredging — where gravel is moved to either side of the channel and not removed — would allow the river to revert to its original path, and to “self-scour again,” he continued.
This work would be strictly to address transportation and navigation, and does not deal with flooding.
There is approximately 50,000 board metres of wood boomed and sitting in the river. Since the passages aren’t deep enough to allow a tug boat access, the logs would need to be trucked out, at a cost of about $15 per metre.
This “unsustainable cost” to the forestry companies will force some to shut their doors and lay off staff. Additionally, the extra logging trucks on the road contribute to more environmental degradation, said Hawes.
The three-term MLA said the federal government used to scuffle dredge until 1987, and work in the river halted altogether in 1996. In 2002, the provincial government pushed to start gravel removal in the river and received approval from Fisheries and Oceans Canada in select sites.
It hasn’t been sufficient, said Hawes.
A plan is being hashed out between companies that work on the river and the government — including a biologist who would say where it’s safe to work — and once it’s completed, Hawes hopes to see the endeavour completed by February.