The Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is one of five North Island organizations receiving money from a federal program for fisheries conservation projects.
Government will provide up to $108,011 towards an Airpark lagoon project to restore habitat for salmon refuge, rearing and foraging.
Years ago, the area was diked as a sewage lagoon and later decommissioned. In the 1990s, it was reconnected to the Courtenay Estuary with an outlet (bridge).
The lagoon is used by fish, but in summer the water stagnates and warms to sub-lethal temperatures.
“There isn’t a good circulation pattern through there,” said Jennifer Sutherst, interim estuary co-ordinator and manager at Project Watershed.
The society plans to install a second breach — a culvert near the float plane ramp — to connect the river through the lagoon and out to the estuary.
“It’s going to improve the circulation patterns in there, and allow for better oxygenation and improve the temperatures in the summer,” Sutherst said. “It’s going to allow them (salmon) a chance to grow and develop.”
The entire project is worth about $200,000. The society hopes to secure a second part of funding in the new year.
The Tsolum River Restoration Society, another local group to receive funds through the federal program, will be provided up to $35,840 for fish enhancement and bank protection at the Babcock – Comox water pipeline crossing near the fairgrounds on Headquarters Road.
“Part of the project is to finish off our assessment of the Tsolum River,” society president Wayne White said. “Babcock’s project is seen as one of the higher priorities, just from the channel assessment alone.”
He said erosion behind a rip rap area, were it to relieve itself, could take out the regional district water line, which comes through from Comox Lake and feeds east Courtenay.
The next step is to seek partnerships with the regional district and BC Hydro.
“We have to find matching funding,” he said.
Another local beneficiary is the Little River Enhancement Society, which operates a fish hatchery on private property. The organization is to receive up to $74,875 for river restoration.
“We’ve done most of the restoration now in the Little River, and we’ve started in Scales Creek, too,” said society president Peter Williams, noting the group has received previous funds from the program.
The money will enable the society to finish its work next year.
The federal government has so far invested more than $18 million to restore recreational fisheries habitat through a National Conservation Plan.
The third round of the Recreational Fisheries Conservation Partnerships Program is providing up to $334,626 to conserve fish habitat in the North Island. The window to apply for funding under round four is open. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 12. Details can be found at bit.ly/1o4H9N1.