Photo by Lorraine Noble
Estuaries are rare comprising only 2.3% of British Columbia's coastline
This land connects older growth Coastal Douglas fir forest, estuary, river and the Salish Sea, providing habitat for an extraordinary diversity of wildlife and plants. Among its wildlife are raptors such as eagles, hawks and owls, as well as deer, otter, beaver and a multitude of resident and migrating birds. Two of Vancouver Island's three large carnivores, black bear and cougar, are known to occur here.
Species At Risk
Nineteen identified Species at Risk are found in this area:
Great Blue Herons
Coastal Douglas Fir Forest
Is ranked globally and provincially as a high priority for protection due to its ecological importance. As an essential part of our unique biodiversity; protecting this forest will help maintain habitat for numerous plant and animal species.
It is the last remaining Coastal Douglas fir forest in the area. The mature forest is dynamic in protecting the estuary and fish habitat from runoff, erosion, flooding and sedimentation. It provides shelter for wildlife, gives oxygen, and stores water and carbon.
This forest is a storehouse of large Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock trees, many ranging from over 70 cm to 155 cm in diameter. These large 2nd growth trees are becoming increasingly rare on east Vancouver Island.
Estuary and Stream
Estuaries are rare, comprising only 2.3% of BC's coast. They are "nature's nurseries" and one of the most productive ecosystems in the world supporting wildlife with food, breeding grounds and migration.
Wild salmon are a keystone species in the Pacific Northwest providing food for many predators including Orca, dolphins, sea lions, seals, otters, bears, birds and more. After spawning they are "recycled" to provide nutrients to more wildlife and our forests.
French Creek and its estuary are home to a vital salmon run with 100,000 Chum and 35,000 Coho fry released in 2019 by the Marion Baker Fish Hatchery. Cutthroat trout and steelhead, both considered "severely depressed", are found in this stream.
The Fish Protection Act categorizes French Creek as a "sensitive stream" for its potential to recover high fish productivity, for being in a watershed containing a significant population of salmon, and for the stream's ability to return to historical numbers of fish.
French Creek estuary is one of the most important migratory bird areas in Canada. In spring a phenomenal herring spawn occurs attracting
thousands of birds plus salmon, seals, sea lions, whales and other species. Their existence depends on the health of the estuary and herring run.
French Creek water region (WR3) is the smallest of the six watershed regions, receives less recharge and has a high number of ground water users resulting in increased acquifer stress. There is an urgent need to better manage groundwater extraction in this region.
The Regional District of Nanaimo reports concern about fish habitat due to excessive water extractions from the creek and aquifers. Yet logging continues adjacent to French Creek with over 34 acres recently cleared.
The Ministry of Environment (MOE) states that standard practice has been to complete a well capacity rating for a 100 day period to assess if sufficient supply exists for a proposed development. This practice is inadequate for considering the long term effects of ground water extraction.
They further identify that the situation in WR3 is a good example of how short term predictive assessment is inadequate for planning community water supply that extends over a lifetime (100 years or more). MOE states that all new projects being proposed within the RDN need to be assessed if a stable, long term groundwater supply is required.
In addition, MOE warns that with the relatively high population in this area and with further development and the effects of climate change, it is likely that low flow conditions will worsen.
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Many residents of French Creek express escalating concerns over the increasingly dangerous traffic situation at the intersection of Hwy 19A, Columbia Drive and Sunrise Drive.
With only one access road from Columbia Drive serving 295 households, it involves long waits to make a left turn onto Hwy 19A. Pedestrians and cyclists have no safe way to cross the road or access the bus stop.
In the event of emergency or evacuation situations, exiting onto Hwy 19A would be extremely difficult.
Permitting further development in this area will add additional vehicles amplifying existing traffic problems potentially increasing the risk of serious traffic accidents.