Fraser River in Need of Dredging

Fraser River in Need of Dredging

In order to prevent future flooding of the Lower Mainland, British Columbia, and ensure economic prosperity and growth of the whole region, infrastructure of Fraser River must be improved, managed and maintained.

According to the latest report on the Economic Importance of the Lower Fraser River, released by the Metro Vancouver and Chambers of Commerce, “to enable continued navigation on the Lower Fraser River, regular maintenance dredging is required. Dredging increases the flow capacity of the river and keeps water levels below dike levels during periods of increased flow, such as during spring freshets.

Each year during this period, approximately 32 million m3 of sediment is transported by the Fraser River, with roughly 10 per cent of this material settling in the navigation channels of the lower reaches. This suggests that the channel transport capacity decreases substantially downstream of New Westminster and that without ongoing dredging, the reaches between Sand Heads and New Westminster would experience rapid degradation in terms of draft and navigation.

From 1900 to 1998, dredging was conducted by the federal government, but in 1998, responsibility was transferred to local port authorities on the Fraser River. In 2008 Port Metro Vancouver self-funded and administered Fraser River
dredging programs, with a focus on international and domestic trade routes.

“As a result of the transfer of dredging responsibility to the ports, as well as funding shortages, many local channels are not being adequately dredged. In various sections of the Lower Fraser River, docks have become inoperable and in some cases, vessels and floats have grounded in previously used channels,” says the report.

For example, Ladner and Steveston Harbour have accumulated unmanageable amounts of sediment. In response to this situation, the federal government has announced a $10 million dollar funding initiative to dredge these local channels. This initiative is a multi-stakeholder collaboration between Port Metro Vancouver, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the Corporation of Delta and the City of Richmond.

Map Courtesy of Port Metro Vancouver
The map illustrates the various river channels within the jurisdiction of Port Metro Vancouver that require regular maintenance dredging.

The report states that it is prudent that all levels of government and major stakeholders come together to put a long-term dredging plan in place. Allen Domaas, retired former CEO of the Fraser River Port Authority, has noted that the Fraser River is a kind of living entity that needs to be managed, and no one has taken responsibility for the overall maintenance.

Cost of Adaptation

  • The total preliminary estimated cost of adaptation of the LFR to sea level rise is $9.5 billion. Of this, $8.8 billion is the estimated cost for protection along the tidal part of the LFR below the Port Mann Bridge, and the adjacent coastal reaches. This estimate is contingent on dredging continuing, with removal volumes roughly equalling disposition, which is not occurring, and will result is significant increased financial costs;
  • The cost of adaptation to climate change for freshwater areas of the Lower Fraser River does not appear to have been estimated as yet.

Fraser River, being 1,400 hundred kilometers long from its base at Mt. Robson to its mouth at the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) is the most economically significant waterway in the country. The river is responsible for approx. 80% of provincial economic activity as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) and 10% of the National GDP.

Read the full report


Source: bcchamber, July 16, 2014