What is dredging?

First of all, what is dredging? Dredging is an excavation activity to remove sediment from the bed of a body of water. It is one of the ways Vancouver Fraser Port Authority supports Canada’s trade objectives and keeps our waterways safe.

Why do we dredge? Providing unimpeded access to terminals for vessels is critical to ensuring trade is conducted safely. Dredging is often required to ensure appropriate water depth for ships.

Dredging requirements differ depending on location. For instance, Burrard Inlet is a deep water port, but certain projects may require one-time dredging. On the other hand, the Fraser River requires annual dredging because of the continuous run-off of the river and the silt that is deposited from upstream as it nears the sea.

Dredging is an essential part of our navigational safety and we allocate significant resources annually to meet our federal responsibility to facilitate trade. In 2014, we spent $20 million on dredging to maintain the shipping channel, about half of which is recovered through tenant leases.

In addition to our maintenance dredging of the river, in 2009 we also made a one-time commitment to dredge smaller waterways to benefit local communities. Dredging these waterways is not a formal responsibility of the port authority. Our 10-year Local Channel Dredging Contribution program provides $7 million in funding for specifically identified communities to keep local channel waterways clear and allow recreational activities, such as fishing. Communities can apply for program funding.

In 2012, the federal government led a collaboration between Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and all three levels of government to launch a $10-million dredging program in Steveston and Ladner to ensure safe access for smaller vessels and harbours. Vancouver Fraser Port Authority provided $2.75 million from our local channel dredging program to support this effort and port communities.

We also developed our 30-year Dredge Material Management Program, which addresses the need to manage dredge material. The program sees the sand that is dredged used as a resource for industrial use, habitat creation and land exchanges.

As the port authority, it is our responsibility to balance the growth in trade with the need to protect our environment and respect the quality of life of our neighbours. Dredging is one of the many ways we are meeting our mandate every day.