Agreement signed for local water stewardship

Improving fish passage is just the beginning for the local industry and environment groups.

(From left) Accompanied by L&M’s operations superintendent Trevor Joyce

(From left) Accompanied by L&M’s operations superintendent Trevor Joyce

Improving fish passage is just the beginning, as local industry and environmental groups commit to join forces for Vanderhoof’s freshwater wellbeing.

On April 27, the Nechako Environment and Water Stewardship Society (NEWSS) and L & M Lumber Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding to sustainably manage the Nechako watershed’s streams and forests.

“A great opportunity to move forward on water stewardship issues,” said NEWSS director Wayne Salewski. “It’s good to have a local company who is entrenched in these ideas and issues.”

While providing clarity on collaborations between the two organizations for environment stewardship projects, the agreement commits them towards conserving biodiversity in the Nechako Watershed, using natural resources responsibly, helping to build healthy and resilient communities, as well as being industry leaders in watershed management.

L & M and NEWSS last worked together in 2015 for the Stoney Creek habitat restoration project, removing three culverts that were placed over the creek more than 30 years ago as a private road crossing near the lumber company’s property west of Vanderhoof, Salewski explained.

Fish passage up the creek was obstructed as the culverts diminished the creek’s flow. Becoming wide and shallow over time, the channel was filled with silt and sand as the stream’s banks over-eroded, and other material was deposited due to poor land practices along the stream.

Replacing the culverts with a wooden bridge deck, the restoration project included removing sediment, recreating the channel by dredging upstream from the crossing, as well as adding armouring such as large wood debris and anchored logs to the stream banks to avoid later erosion.

The crossing is now a fish habitat, with installed stumps that allow juvenile fish to hide from predators, provide locations for food sources to grow on, and create deeper water holes for fish to overwinter, Salewski added.

Another sign of the stream’s health at the crossing is a beaver dam built downstream near the bridge during the first summer after the project’s completion.

The $40,000 project was also supported by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund, and TransCanada.

For Salewski, the collaboration fits with the company’s green philosophy — L & M completed its pellet plant to replace beehive burners in 2001 and added a bio-energy plant in 2014.

By burning waste such as hog and bark from the company’s sawmill to produce heat and then generate electricity, the plant currently produces enough power for one-quarter of the company’s energy needs — the equivalent of 1,500 homes, said L & M’s CEO Alan Fitzpatrick.

“As a privately-held company here since 1968, we’re committed to the long-term support of the First Nations, community and the forests,” Fitzpatrick said. “Wayne’s work is important for the area and its stakeholders.”