New funding expands Project Watershed’s vision for coastal restoration near Comox

New funding expands Project Watershed’s vision for coastal restoration near Comox
Photo by Sue Vince
Volunteers restore salt marsh habitat at Kus-Kus-Sum in Courtenay.

Recent funding boosts will allow the Comox Valley Project Watershed Society to implement an expanded vision for the restoration of marine habitats from Oyster Bay to Fanny Bay.

Project Watershed will receive $1.5 million through the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Fund. The funding will be given out over the next four years and will support the restoration and enhancement of local marine systems. The group will work to restore tidal marshes, eelgrass beds, kelp forests and critical salmon habitat.

Alongside this, Project Watershed will be receiving some funding from BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (SRIF), which is set to be announced later this week.

“We were very lucky. We worked pretty hard last fall to get in some good applications,” said Caitlin Pierzchalski, Project Watershed’s executive director.

The organization has been busy over the last few years. The Discourse talked to Pierzchalski back in October while they were fundraising for soil remediation at the Kus-Kus-Sum site, and they have since raised $23,063 for their Giving Tuesday campaign, which ran from Nov. 9 to 29.

Thanks to previous funding from the Coastal Restoration Fund, the organization was able to map out different shoreline ecosystems from Oyster Bay to the Fanny Bay area.

Pierzchalski said that this mapping helped show where there is a loss of habitat or big habitat changes, which informs how they restore habitats that were historically present in the area.

She said they did the mapping mainly through aerial photography. Specifically orthomosaics, which combine smaller aerial photographs to get one large image. They also gathered information from video imagery gathered by helicopter.

Now, Pierzchalski said, they are able to take the time to begin the active restoration of the areas that they mapped.

“But essentially, what we’re doing is we’re building off of those past efforts to do restoration in some of these areas.”

Pierzchalski said that an important part of this effort is aimed at restoring salmon habitats, particularly to boost the health of juvenile salmonids. The funding will also help them to look into the restoration of various different habitats, as opposed to solely focusing on one type. This includes marine riparian ecosystems, tidal marshes, and eelgrass and kelp ecosystems.

She said that they have an opportunity to look at these ecosystems in conjunction with one another with the goal of habitat benefit being as large as possible within a given area.

For next steps, Project Watershed will continue the push to hire field technicians. They are currently looking into funding solutions that allow them to hire seasonal support workers for four to five months or so, as opposed to the previous period of two months, to support them with this work.

Those interested in volunteering with Project Watershed can fill out their volunteer form and check out their calendar. Donations can also be made through their website. 

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