GADD equipment will initiate work to remove the dock and dolphin pilings at Kus-kus-sum (the old Field Sawmill site) on Aug. 15, 2019 under the supervision of Warren Wartig, registered professional biologist and dock removal project manager for Interfor. For many, including Wartig, this process has been long in the making.
“It feels like this has come full circle,” he said. “I started discussing deconstruction plans with Interfor and others in the early 2000s and now they are hiring me to initiate this process. It may have taken a long time, but there was always some form of communication or negotiations happening to ensure the dream of the property being returned to nature would be fulfilled.”
Part of the dock, pilings and the dolphins (several poles strapped together with cables) are referred to as “improvements” by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO). In order to transfer the water lot leases to another entity or entities, Interfor must remove the “improvements” as a stipulation from MFLNRO. Comox Valley Project Watershed Society entered into an agreement with Interfor to purchase the property in 2017. While they have not completed the purchase of the site, this work is being done in good faith of that agreement.
The planning for this project has included notifications to MFLNRO and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, discussions with the Courtenay Airpark, Courtenay City Hall, Interfor and Project Watershed, and creating a sediment/erosion control and safety plan.
The removal process will take about a week. It will include removing the dock at the south end of the property, the pilings around the dock and the dolphins at the south and north end of the property. If time and resources permit, other debris that has accumulated against the steel wall will also be removed. This will not include removing the steel wall or any restoration activities.
“While there is work happening on the property, we want everyone to know that we have not yet acquired it. We are still fundraising and cannot start restoration activities until we have acquired the property,” stated Tim Ennis, Project Watershed Kus-kus-sum Project manager.
“Even though we have not acquired the property, we feel that this is the first tangible step of returning the land to nature and we are very excited,” said Dan Bowen, Project Watershed technical director.
To date Project Watershed has raised $2.4 million of the $6.5 million they estimate is needed to purchase and restore the site. The organization has also submitted a $1 million dollar grant application to the federal government through Canada’s Nature Fund. Locally it has raised $423,000 of the $500,000 targeted from the community.
Project Watershed is scheduled to make its next payment to Interfor at the end of October. In preparation for this, the organization aims to raise $35,000 by October 20, 2019.
“We are hoping that the publicity surrounding the dock removal helps us reach our October target early as we have another $35,000 target coming up in December,” said Caila Holbrook, Project Watershed manager of fundraising, outreach and mapping. The closing date for purchasing the property is end of June, 2020. To donate or find out more about the project visit www.kuskussum.ca or www.projectwatershed.ca.