Fraser River Maintenance

As the federal agency responsible for the stewardship of the Port of Vancouver, we lead a number of initiatives to protect the lands and waters within our jurisdiction, including measures to protect and maintain the Fraser River as a key trade-enabling artery of the Vancouver gateway. 

The Fraser River is the longest river in the province, flowing 1,375 kilometres from its source in Yellowhead Lake along the British Columbia-Alberta border and emptying at the Strait of Georgia. This waterway has long played a significant part in the history and economy of this region, facilitating industries such as forestry and fishing, and serving as the original connection between British Columbia’s interior and the lower coast. 

Because parts of the Fraser River are within the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority’s jurisdictional boundaries, it is classified as a federal waterway, and our role is to ensure our portion of this vital artery is properly maintained. This includes ongoing maintenance dredging and other port authority-led initiatives to clean and improve the overall state of the waterway for trade, environmental, and community purposes. 

Dredging the mighty Fraser

Dredging involves the careful removal of sedimentary deposits at the bottom of a body of water, such as a river, lake, or inlet. Each year when the snow melts, the Fraser River carries millions of tonnes of sediment like silt and sand, depositing some along its route and discharging approximately 20 million tonnes into the ocean each year.   

Because of the high volume of sediment left in the river, the port authority must dredge the south arm of the river every year to carefully remove and dispose sediment that can clog the waterway, create navigation hazards, and impact marine-related trade. This work helps ensure the safe and efficient movement of commercial vessels, which is vital to our mandate to enable Canada’s trade objectives.  

Outside of annual maintenance dredging, the port authority has supported programs to dredge smaller channels of the river used by recreational boaters and houseboat residents. These one-time programs were offered as part of a range of community support initiatives we contribute to regularly as part of our mandate to consider local communities.  

  • The Local Channel Dredging Contribution Program was a 10-year program that provided financial support to riverfront communities to do their own dredging. We were the first port authority in Canada to provide local communities with this kind of funding opportunity, donating $7 million over the course of our involvement in the program. 
  • The Ladner/Steveston Local Channel Dredging Project was a collaborative effort between the port authority, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, the City of Delta, and the City of Richmond. This $10 million project supported the successful dredging of the lower Fraser River in Ladner Herbour, Deas Slough, Sea Reach, and Cannery Channel. 

Keeping the Fraser River safe and clear

The port authority’s involvement in maintaining the Fraser River extends beyond dredging activities. We also have an interest in keeping the river sound and safe for the public and the environment. 

The Fraser River Improvement Initiative was a five-year, port authority-led program from 2013-2018 that addressed derelict vessels, structures, and trespassing in and on the Fraser River. Cleaning up waste and old materials, such as abandoned vessels or old dock piles, led to a number of benefits, including: 

  • Removed obstructions to river navigation and port activity 
  • Mitigated harm to wildlife and habitat from toxic chemicals such as fuel, oil and paint 
  • Reduced smothering and destruction of environmentally sensitive habitats by derelict structures 
  • Improved the quality of life for surrounding communities 

The program cost $2 million and addressed 151 sites. 

Sample projects

Before After
Fraser River Improvement Initiative - derelict vessels Annacis Channel BEFORE
Derelict vessel in Annacis Channel before
Fraser River Improvement Initiative - derelict vessels Annacis Channel AFTER
Derelict vessel in Annacis Channel after
Fraser River Improvement Initiative - Piles in Gunderson Slough, Delta BEFORE
Piles in Gunderson Slough before
Fraser River Improvement Initiative - Piles in Gunderson Slough, Delta AFTER
Piles in Gunderson Slough after
Gunderson Slough vessel BEFORE
Derelict vessel in Gunderson Slough before
Fraser River Improvement Initiative - Gunderson Slough vessels AFTER
Derelict vessel in Gunderson Slough after