Province changes course after scientist finds fish in ‘not fish bearing’ stream

Placing soil on Abbotsford farm could jeopardize health of fish in nearby creek, biologist warns

A plan to dump tons of soil on two Bradner properties that was set to go back to council despite a local scientist’s continued insistence the project poses a risk to spawning fish is going to get yet another look.

An Abbotsford couple wants to dump more than 70,000 cubic metres of soil on their two Townshipline Road properties with the hope it will create better growing conditions. An environmental consultant had said the project may actually help local fisheries.

But Marvin Rosenau, a BCIT fisheries biologist who lives in Abbotsford, has warned that the project could damage fish habitat in McLennan Creek, which he described as one of the most important fish-bearing small streams in the city.

His protests led provincial fisheries staff to investigate themselves, and prompted council to defer their own vote on the project. But provincial officials confirmed their previous decision, and the plan had been slated to head to council on Dec. 3, a city staffer told Rosenau in an email.

But renewed protests from Rosenau has – for the second time – prompted provincial officials to investigate further. And the top is not on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.

Earlier this month Rosenau was told that provincial staff found that “while the stream in question may provide food and nutrients downstream, a large fish barrier is present downstream of the proposed works which would make fish presence in the proposed work zone highly unlikely. They also indicated that since the stream is being re-aligned, and not eliminated, it will continue to act as a food and nutrient source to downstream fish habitat.”

But this week, Rosenau sent fisheries officials a pair of emails taking issue with a declaration that a stream was “not fish bearing.”

Rosenau wrote that he and another person had personally found fish in the stream on a neighbouring property.

“It is absolutely crawling with fall/winter rearing juvenile coho and cutthroat trout,” he said in the first email. In the second, he bluntly warned the “project will seriously damage a critical overwintering juvenile Coho Salmon and Juvenile Cutthroat Trout stream.”

Rosenau also wrote that the soil application is likely to affect the water quality downstream from the farm, where he said “significant numbers of adult coho are spawning” and where he and members of a water stewardship group found many young fish.

Coun. Patricia Ross also wrote to Robinson, saying she had visited the site and could confirm Rosenau’s observations.

On Friday, Bryan Robinson, the province’s manager of water authorizations for the south coast region wrote that staff “will complete a further investigation of this project next week and will take all the necessary action required to rectify an issues that are identified.”

RELATED: Abbotsford scientist says more oversight needed after last-minute report stops soil permit

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