View Royal council resolved to send letters to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure and the mayor of Saanich expressing concerns and asking for information and responsibility in regard to mud washing into the Portage Inlet from runoff and development.
Several people came to View Royal’s council meeting Tuesday dissatisfied with what they called the lack of any legal responsibility for the issue and asked council to be proactive.
“We need to talk to all the parties involved and find out what’s going on and see what we can do,” Mayor David Screech told Black Press after the meeting.
Further studies are needed to see what can be done and what damage has already been done. “Then we can go on from there,” Screech added.
The inlet is home to salmon and cutthroat trout and is close to a federally protected bird sanctuary.
Excess silt has smothered the native oysters on artificial reefs said Yogi Carolsfeld. Carolsfeld, a steward and educator on aquatic life in the inlet and executive director of World Fisheries Trust, installed the artificial reefs. He noted the reefs were doing well for two years but last year he discovered they were being covered by mud.
The inlet naturally has a high sediment load, but lately it’s been “quite a bit more than was normal,” Carolsfeld said.
Lately, he’s discovered both silt and topsoil deposits. The topsoil is flowing in from Hospital Creek, while the silt is coming due to the construction of the Mackenzie Interchange, he said.
A few people in attendance, including Coun. John Rogers, noted the topsoil runoff could be caused by the recent clear-cutting of a forest on a private property upstream in Saanich. The lack of trees paired with two extreme rain events in January contributed to the water’s significant turbidity.
Climate change producing rarer weather events means the need for collective action is all the more pressing, noted Rogers.
Lindsay Critchley lowered a Secchi disk – used to measure the depth of disappearance – off her dock on the Portage Inlet to check the water’s turbidity. In clear water the disk can be seen dozens of feet below water. She told council the disk reached about four inches before disappearing, indicating the mark she made on the line.
Dorothy Chambers, who Rogers credits for bringing the issue to council’s attention, held a meeting by the Colquitz River on January 24. Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes, Rogers and Victoria-Swan Lake MLA Rob Fleming’s representatives were all present.
“Thank goodness for Dorothy Chambers, who’s been such a diligent and dedicated watchdog,” Rogers said. “She pulled us all together.”