Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society remains confident that it can raise enough money to restore the former Field Sawmill site on the Courtenay River. The final payment for the Kus-Kus-Sum property — named after an ancient village in the area — is $1 million, due at the end of June.
“We have some of that in the bank, but the bulk of it still needs to be raised,” said Bill Heidrick, PW director at large. “It continues to trickle in. I don’t know if we’ll make the big push by the end of June or not.”
In 2017, Project Watershed and the K’ómoks First Nation reached an agreement with Interfor Corporation to purchase and restore the site near the 17th Street Bridge. The total cost will be about $6.5 million, including the restoration of the property to a natural state. About 43 per cent of the total has been raised.
“The restoration funds, we believe strongly they’re going to be a lot easier to raise than the actual acquisition,” Heidrick said. “We’re going to have a lot of different funding agencies we can go to once we have it acquired, as will the City, as will the KFN, our other partners.”
The Pacific Salmon Foundation, Habitat Conservation Trust and the Vancouver Foundation are among the potential funding organizations for restoration work, once the society has acquired the Interfor property. Heidrick said Interfor has also been supportive. The company waived at least $10,000 worth of taxes on the first year of the contract.
“They’ve shown a lot of sympathy for our cause,” he said. “There’s a myriad (of organizations) out there that are quite willing to see fish and wildlife habitat restored. There’s been a number of local organizations, families, trusts that have stepped up big time.”
The society recently received a cheque for $20,000 from the Ngan Page Family fund. Furthermore, an ‘Estuary Angel’ will match all donations up to $30,000 over the next few months.
At the time the COVID-19 crisis hit, the society had been pushing for federal funds set aside for projects of this sort.
“Hopefully that’s still there,” said Heidrick, who credits Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns for advocating on behalf of Project Watershed in Ottawa. “The whole valley’s been behind it. We will get there.”
The Paintings, By The Numbers fundraiser slated for May 2 has been re-scheduled to June 27.
Other ways to support the Kus-Kus-Sum project include Sponsor A Salmon, where a minimum donation of $25 will add to the painted wooden salmon that hang on the fence along Comox Road. The salmon were painted by elementary students.