Lexi Bainas, Cowichan Citizen, April 3 2015
Members of the crowd at the official opening of the causeway bridge at the Cowichan Estuary were in a celebratory mood Saturday as they saw the ribbon cut on the long-awaited project.
They had many reasons for being there: some were members of the Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association (CERCA), others from Valley naturalist groups. There were local politicians, a Cowichan Tribes elder and representatives from nearby industrial operations.
But in one way or another, everyone either had been involved directly or had been watching with interest as a cut was made, breaching the dike and allowing salmon access to new areas of the estuary.
Dr. Goetz Schuerholz of CERCA opened the event, by pointing out that many groups put their backs into assuring the project's success, notably Cowichan Tribes. Breaching the dike finally enables proper water circulation and ecosystem functioning in the estuary.
It has been divided for more than 50 years, ever since an earlier trestle bridge was replaced by infilling.
He said everyone is hoping that the water of the south fork of the Cowichan River will now flow again into the southern section of the estuary, helping the salmon spawn access the only eelgrass fields left in the estuary between Hecate Park and the Westcan Terminal.
"It's very important to get both parts of the circulation going again," he said, pointing out that looking at an old map had shown where the water used to flow across.
"We found the remains of the pilings here," he said, explaining that although there is a four foot difference in elevation between the two sides "you can see the river ripping through at high tide."
The project was completed before its March 31 deadline, with funding from several donors but there is still $25,000 owing, Schuerholz said.
Schuerholz said he was particularly delighted, when, at the end of the project, he was able to show representatives from one of the funding groups a couple of schools of salmon making their way through the new cut.
Now that the bridge is open, Western Stevedoring is taking on the responsibility for it, according to Brad Eshelman, company president, and he told the crowd that his company will contribute $12,500 toward the deficit.
Cowichan elder Luschiim (Arvid Charlie) said the area has been of real significance as a source of food for the Cowichan people for generations and that they are looking forward to seeing a re-emergence of a shellfish harvest there.
Then, as he prepared to help with the official ribbon cutting, he took hold of the pink strands and said their colour was a reminder of how we have all been bullying the environment and that we need to stop doing so if it is to recover.
Lori Iannidinardo, regional director for Cowichan Bay, also spoke briefly to the crowd, adding her hopes that Cowichan Tribes can start harvesting food from the estuary again by 2020 and holding up a bag of garbage she had gathered while walking along the causeway to the ceremony and urging everyone to take up her challenge to clean up the bay area.
© Cowichan Valley Citizen