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2020 Spit & Nexen changes

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by telus022420 » Sat Mar 14, 2020 8:01 am

Thanks for looking.
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by raquo » Wed May 06, 2020 1:55 am

I recently had a chance to listen / talk to someone from DFO who's working on this project, and since I don't see any other updates I guess I'll provide a summary of information that was new to me. I think my interpretation of what I heard is pretty accurate, but if anyone thinks or knows differently, please feel free to chime in.

As you probably remember, spit demolition is planned to start this December.

Specifically, the current plan is to keep the launchpad as an island and remove the last kilometer of the spit, from the yellow gate to the launchpad. DFO is currently running hydro modelling (water and sediment flow analysis) on this scenario, to see how it will affect the port.

If the analysis shows that in this scenario the river sediment will not be a significant problem for the port (I don't know what the actual criteria / threshold for that is), then the spit will start to be demolished this December as planned. As far as I understood, in that case there will be essentially no consideration for windsports access. They don't plan to build any bridges or piers or berms for us.

Apparently they see leaving the launchpad and having us figure out some kind of boat / ferry access on our own as an acceptable "short term" solution, but they will not provide any long term solution either. It was suggested that we ask the district to include some windsport access when upgrading the sea dyke. Not sure how the sea dyke is relevant to this but anyway, if I recall correctly the timeline for the sea dyke is... 2030-2040? With no spit, and Nexen crippled by limited space and lack of parking, windsports in Squamish will be a much more limited activity by then and no one will want to spend millions rebuilding long lost recreational infrastructure for us. Our only bet, IMO, is to maintain access, rebuilding it after it was lost is a pipe dream.

Now if the flow analysis instead shows that the port does in fact need sediment protection, the spit might not be removed in December – further analysis will be needed, and that will take time. The port's interest is actually accounted for. So in this case they will look at solutions including that new berm off 3rd avenue that SWS calls the desired outcome, but as I was told, DFO hasn't actually looked at any solutions to that problem yet. They will only start evaluating those solutions if and when their hydro modelling shows that the port needs sediment protection, and it's impossible to say now what they will come up with.

The results for the flow analysis are expected in "early summer". I hope someone will share these results with us. (Don't count on me for that)


To clarify, the hydro modelling is being done specifically for the scenario of spit removal. No other scenarios are being modelled now. It's too expensive / takes too long, so if the modelling scenario shows that it works for the port, it will proceed without exploring other options.


Remember that big box culvert that they installed last year? It doesn't work, the fish isn't going through it. DFO did run an analysis for making a much bigger channel in there than this culvert (instead of removing the lower kilometer of the spit that is), but it showed that the bridge structure would need to be super strong to withstand a 200 year flood, that was deemed unfeasible. So you know, just to set your expectations for how far DFO will (or won't) go to let us maintain windsport access: a single (admittedly beefy) bridge over a secondary river channel would be too much.


We asked if DFO could look into opening a new channel into the estuary upstream of this box-culvert point but they said this will not happen because the Squamish district has put their foot down saying they will not accept any solution with holes in the spit dyke upstream of the box culvert for flood risk reasons. Personally I'm not sure if any flood analysis was actually done for that. Probably not since it wasn't mentioned, and I don't recall this kind of breach scenario from the Squamish flood hazard plan.


So well personally I'm not happy with how this is going, to say the least. Looks like SRWS, DFO, the district and the port are all getting what they want, but not us, we'll be fighting for the scraps of Nexen and spending even more money and effort on boat operations, if that will even be feasible... and all that to keep only a fraction of access that we have now.

This is just sad.
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by shmish » Wed May 06, 2020 10:52 am

raquo wrote:This is just sad.

Thanks very much for the update. I agree.

Maybe foiling at Porteau can be a substitute. I know it gets less wind but I don't know how regular it is.
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by JonathanP » Thu May 07, 2020 2:34 pm

Dang, I was thinking that a bridge in the vicinity of that culvert would be the best option (probably cheaper and way more effective than removing a whole km of spit and trying to divert river over it). But sounds like the terminal is the real problem here!

If the concern really is for the salmon population to return near historical levels I think the only solution is to let a large portion of the river through at or above the culvert, even where it's historical path went through. I can't imagine much of a difference for the baby fish with just the last km of the spit gone. Especially if modeling shows no sediment flow into the port, there probably won't be any fish flow either. The port avoiding sediment really seems to be the hidden culprit here, not the spit! Any other productive river system delta expands much wider then that narrow slot between the port and the cliffs.

How much extra revenue does the terminal get from having two sides vs one? I don't think I've ever seen two ships docked at once. Crazy idea, but maybe we could demolish the spit where the culvert was built and convince the terminal to give up the west side of the terminal to the sediment and fish (and windsport access?) Would definitely be the cheapest and most effective option for the DFO...
Pre-spit squamish.jpg
Pre-spit squamish.jpg (348.88 KiB) Viewed 5752 times
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by Young » Thu May 07, 2020 11:51 pm

After seeing the aerial photo of the waterfront and estuary pre-spit, a few questions come to mind;
-was the spit specifically built to prevent silting up at the freight dock? My apologies if this is common knowledge; it seems likely but I may be wrong.
- if the freight dock area silted up pre-spit, is it not a significant possibility
that it will silt-up after the removal of the spit? I ask because once the spit is removed it appears the area will be returned to a very similar looking set up to that shown in the old aerial photo, which I assume was taken when silting was a problem.
-Have the powers that be done any studies regarding whether the salmonids are likely to be able to get into and stay in the estuary and not be flushed prematurely out to sea? Did they do any studies before they put that culvert in last year or were they just hoping it might work?
- has the port ever expressed any interests in helping serve the community, other than just business? Im not maligning the port, just wondering since they are a major landholder.
- Is the port footing any of the bill? Again I realize this may be common knowledge.
Imagine if the terminal authority let us use the field to the north of the terminal? Okay, I know that's just a fantasy but still....
It would be great if a greater percentage of Squamish's waterfront remained actually usuable by more than the port, people with boats and/or waterfront property, the salmon and the birds. As it seems it will turn out to be, it saddens me to see the likelihood of so many missed opportunities for what Squamish's waterfront could be. I apologize if Im rehashing old news and hope I didnt ruffle any feathers with this.
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by raquo » Fri May 08, 2020 12:37 am

The spit was originally intended to keep the Squamish river in its west channel, to dry up the estuary to build a coal port there. Without the spit the Squamish river channel would have continued to wander around as time goes on, as all rivers tend to do (see aerial images 1930-2019). Pre-spit, at different times the river took different paths, and one of those paths was through the middle of the estuary – that's why you can't walk straight from the spit straight to the port, that water in between is the remainder of that other main channel that was closed off when spit was built.

Image of proposed coal port plan from 1972:


Something I forgot to mention about funding. This project is funded mostly by government grants. There are hundreds of millions of dollars of funding available for projects like this across BC and Canada. But for this Squamish estuary restoration project a certain amount and timeline of funding has already been approved, and my impression is that they either don't want to or can't spend any of it on windsports access, but are ok spending it on destroying our infrastructure without providing a replacement.

The funding they have is also time-sensitive, if they don't spend it this year, it won't roll over to next year. So you can see why they're rushing this through with just a few token consultation sessions that don't seem to amount to anything.

As for the port, it's a foreign private corporation on a long term lease. Why would they waste their money to help us when there isn't even a public outrage over this? The environmentalists did a great job positioning this as a salmon-vs-windsports issue, and that's how people see this, even some windsports users.


You're right about waterfront access in Squamish being pathetic. So much water, so little use. Could be much better but we need to stand up for it. How many calls / letters did the district receive about our issue? Barely any, I'd bet. Instead we were suckered into a "consultations" process that seems to ignore our needs wholesale. Anyone personally involved in that process is welcome to provide evidence of the contrary, of course, on the off chance that something dramatically changed in the last month.

That talk by DFO was triggered by this petition by the way. I've said it before, and I still believe that our only chance of maintaining any feasible access to the spit is to raise our collective AND individual voices a notch or two, NOW. We are now perhaps just a few short weeks away from the final decision to demolish the spit being made. It is not a decision to which SWS is a party to. The time to say something about that is now.
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by raquo » Wed May 13, 2020 3:54 pm

FYI regarding Nexen access:

As you probably know Nexen vehicle access is currently closed on the weekends for COVID reasons (pedestrian access is still open, but they don't want cars parked in front of the gate). I asked Oceanport Developments / Matthew West what time they're closing the gate on Fridays, they said "Our security company provides us with a time range of 8pm-11pm."

And regarding the expected timeline of Nexen closures for construction: "Yes, during construction of the Oceanfront Park we will be barring access to the Oceanfront for the duration. We don’t yet have concrete timelines but we know that the earliest we could start construction would be in August of this year. We will be messaging this to the public weeks in advance of site mobilization so there will be sufficient notice. At some point access to the beach will be limited for a construction period of anywhere from 12 to 24 months. However, after that is completed there will be a wonderful new 11 Acre park for the community to enjoy. Construction of other buildings within the development will not have any significant impacts on access to this park from that point forward."

So it looks like Nexen will be open subject to COVID measures for most of this summer, but will likely be closed for summer 2021 and maybe even summer 2022.
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by fuji » Thu May 14, 2020 1:38 pm

raquo wrote:I've said it before, and I still believe that our only chance of maintaining any feasible access to the spit is to raise our collective AND individual voices a notch or two, NOW. We are now perhaps just a few short weeks away from the final decision to demolish the spit being made. It is not a decision to which SWS is a party to. The time to say something about that is now.

(a) If I wanted to send a letter, where do I send it to and what do you think is the best argument to make?

(b) The About page on the SWS website says that "The SWS sits on the intergovernmental regulatory body, the Squamish Estuary Management Committee, to ensure that recreational interests are heard when policies are determined for the estuary in which the dyke is situated." Shouldn't they have a say in this decision?
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by raquo » Thu May 14, 2020 7:53 pm

Whom to write to:

Jordan Sturdy
Patrick Weiler
Squamish Council (form at the bottom)

For good measure the first step would be good to double-check the current status with SWS. They haven't provided a lot of updates since the 2019 AGM, probably because there isn't much to report. If you hear anything new please let us know. I could really use some good news.

SWS does sit on the committee but DFO isn't listening to our needs, it is only listening to the district, the port and SRWS. When the spit is removed, everyone will be happy except for us even though it's possible to make a solution that works reasonably well for everyone, for example a berm off 3rd avenue, or a proper bridge instead of the culvert where the river used to flow before it was dyked. This lack of meaningful consultation is not new. If I recall correctly Squamish district councilor Eric Andersen mentioned at our 2019 AGM that the committee doesn't even have the liason for tourism appointed, the position is vacant. I forget the precise name of the position.

As for things to say:

- We need meaningful consultation, and a commitment from DFO and SRWS to find a solution that is a win for all stakeholders

- We need the exploration and analysis of options to not be rushed, even if that means delaying the demolishion of the spit into 2021. DFO is rushing to start demolishing the spit in 2020 in order to make use of their 2020 budget which didn't account for windsport interests. They should instead get a new budget that accounts for the need to maintain windsports access if they can't do it within their current budget. There is a lot of provincial and federal funding available for projects like spit removal.

- We will be left without any windsport launch site in Squamish in 2021 if both the spit and Nexen beach will be closed in 2021, which is the current plan. There are no other feasible windsport sites around Squamish where we could go instead

- The new oceanfront park is estimated to take two years to be developed, and it will be smaller than the spit and not nearly enough to handle even half of the current demand on windsports, let alone the expected growth. The new development will also have no dedicated parking for windsport users, so we will quickly overwhelm the very limited street parking that will be available in the commercial district. Nexen beach simply can not be our only spot.

- Economics factors: the spit is a world class windsports destination, and it brings people to Squamish – both new permanent residents as well as day visitors – who spend money here and contribute to the economy directly and indirectly. This kind of activity should be (and officially is) the district's priority but we're being sidelined because DFO's unwillingness to review their budget and timeline is being covered up by a salmon-vs-windsports narrative, which is dishonest at best. We can certainly have a solution that will work for everyone.
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by AlexK » Thu May 14, 2020 9:40 pm

Anyone know if it is sailable from Nexen 2morrow? Or do they have the place sealed off?
Thx in advance.
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