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Creating shoreline habitat to support local species

For almost 30 years, we’ve been creating and restoring shoreline habitat to help maintain a balance between a healthy environment and port activities.

November 4, 2020

At the Port of Vancouver, port activity and nature are close neighbours, and it’s the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s job to balance the needs of both. It’s a role we take great pride in.

Among other things, we have been proactively creating, restoring and enhancing shoreline habitat with the help of Indigenous communities and partners for nearly 30 years. Our work involves building habitat such as salt water and intertidal marshes and eelgrass beds, which support fish, wildlife, and biodiversity.

To date we’ve completed work at 12 habitat sites along waterways across the Lower Mainland, totaling an area of 10 hectares (or the equivalent of 13 football fields). Here are three examples of our most recent projects:

Maplewood Marine Restoration Project

Located on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, this project is a collaboration with Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and includes participation from other Indigenous groups. When the project is complete, we will have converted approximately five low-value hectares into higher-value intertidal, subtidal rock reef and eelgrass habitat. During construction, we placed nearly 230,000 cubic metres of sand to support shellfish and crab and created conditions that now allow plants like eelgrass to establish and grow. Eelgrass is important because it provides refuge and nursery habitat for juvenile fish, such as salmon.

We also placed over 13,000 tonnes of rock to create a rock reef and other features to support kelp species and contribute to an increase in the diversity of fish and wildlife in the area.

Cross-section illustration of the Maplewood Marine Restoration Project area.

New Brighton Park Shoreline Habitat Restoration Project

Before and after view of the shoreline at New Brighton Park.

Located on the south shore of Burrard Inlet, this project presented a significant opportunity to restore coastal wetland habitat and reintroduce the influence of tides. Extensive planting took place within the newly constructed wetland, which included approximately 25,000 salt marsh plugs, 200 native trees, and 4,000 coastal shrubs. Project construction was completed in summer 2017 and was a collaboration between the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, along with Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

Glenrose Tidal Marsh Project

This project and was done to improve the biological productivity of the Fraser River between the Alex Fraser Bridge and Gunderson Slough by providing high-quality habitat for juvenile salmon. Work included clearing brush, planting marsh vegetation, protecting a slope, placing containment berms, dredging the channel, and building land to allow for marsh habitat. This project was a collaboration with Musqueam Indian Band and was completed in September 2014.

Example Cross-Section of a Constructed Tidal Marsh

Cross-section illustration of the constructed tidal marsh.

Before and after view of the Glenrose Tidal Marsh Project.

Once a project is complete, our biologists and coastal engineers monitor the habitat annually to ensure it continues to provide ecological benefits. As you can see from the photograph above, it is very satisfying to see these habitats thriving.

Projects like these allow us to proactively maintain a balance between a healthy environment, port activities, and future development projects that may be needed for port operations.

It’s just one of the ways we’re working to help protect the environment, ensuring the port and nature coexist, and thrive in the most sustainable way.

More information

Habitat Enhancement Program
Interactive habitat map
Video: People of the Port – Boundary Bay Habitat Enhancement with Jim Roberts

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