Lowering of Saratoga Beach lagoon only temporary

Intertidal excavation work in the Saratoga Beach area has some beach users concerned about potential impacts on wildlife.

ALF BUTTERFIELD stands beside what used to be a flat part of a sandbar just north of Saratoga Beach. This trench was excavated about a week ago by a nearby business

Intertidal excavation work in the Saratoga Beach area has some beach users concerned about potential impacts on wildlife.

“It’s just despoiled this whole area,” area resident Alf Butterfield said of the excavation work. “It’s pretty unbelievable.”

A large sandbar runs parallel with the shore out in the intertidal zone at the north end of Saratoga Beach. This sandbar held water in a depressed area closer to the shore, creating a lagoon-like area or a large sand-based tidal pool.

But, Pacific Playgrounds — which owns a marina just north of the tidal pool area and just south of the Oyster River Estuary — excavated a section of the sandbar about a week ago.

“Now the lagoon is draining,” Butterfield said Wednesday. “Right now, it’s just unbelievable how empty it is compared to the way it always was, because that rock bar held the water to a great extent.”

Butterfield, who has waterfront property looking out onto the area, said he’s concerned wildlife may be impacted from the change.

“There’s tremendous amount of animal life in there and plant life and everything so it’s a real feeding area for migratory waterfowl and everything else,” he said, noting wildlife likely choose to feed in the shallow area because the water drops off quickly out past the sandbar.

A number of area residents have been talking about the change and their concerns around it, including Alan Nield, who popped down to the beach for a look Wednesday, noting there’s a “vast difference.” Butterfield said he tried to talk to Pacific Playgrounds about the matter, and he tried to get some information from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Ministry of Environment. As of Wednesday he said he hasn’t had much luck, but noted Pacific Playgrounds told him the necessary authorizations have been taken care of.

Pacific Playgrounds declined comment on the matter.

However, DFO spokesperson Carrie Mishima said Pacific Playgrounds’ project was reviewed by the DFO and the work is not expected to damage fish or fish habitat.

“Pacific Playgrounds has retained the services of a professional biologist to oversee the works to ensure fish and fish habitat are protected,” she added in an e-mail.

She noted the excavation work is related to dredging maintenance of a small channel running through the intertidal area into Pacific Playgrounds’ marina; the marina entrance borders the north end of the tidal pool area.

“The dredging work may temporarily lower the water level in the salt marsh (tidal pool) but is not expected to be a permanent alteration,” continued Mishima.

“Works to be completed include replanting the area with native intertidal and marsh vegetation, as well as restoration of the original water depth in the marsh/tide pool area. There will not be a loss of tidal pool/marsh habitat.”

After hearing DFO’s statement on habitat safety and the restoration of original water levels in the tidal pool area, Butterfield said he is cautiously relieved, but he will keep an eye on the situation.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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