The Cowichan Estuary Restoration and Conservation Association (CERCA) has its sights set on two priority projects in the estuary, worth a total of $145,000.
They include construction of an Estuary Educational Nature Trail and open classroom plus a set-up to monitor salmon smolts.
According to Dr. Goetz Schuerholz, CERCA member and conservation ecologist, the proposed educational nature trail will follow the old railroad line along the Westcan causeway in the centre of the Cowichan Estuary, offering spectacular views of interesting sections of the northern part of the estuary.
The $120,000 project is expected to start by early winter and includes the rehabilitation of a two-acre slough with the aim of reconnecting it with the estuary.
Construction will include eight wooden platforms along the trail, a viewing tower, and a roofed overview billboard at the trail head along with eight billboards with information about the estuary.
The second project involves salmon smolt monitoring at the causeway breach, which the group considers an essential follow-up to the completed breaching of the causeway, Schuerholz said.
“The man-made artificial causeway which effectively has cut the estuary in half for over 60 years, has prevented proper ecosystem functioning, preventing fresh water from Cowichan River entering the southern section of the estuary, and most important, preventing salmon smolt from accessing the only eelgrass fields left in the bay,” Shuerholz said.
“Breaching the causeway allows for estuarine water circulation, re-channeling freshwater from the Cowichan into the southern section, and permitting smolt to access prime habitat to the south of the breach,” he said.
The proposed salmon smolt monitoring will start in 2016 and is expected to provide statistics about how the breach is being used. This project cost will be approximately $25,000.
To help finance these projects, CERCA is holding a fundraising dinner and art auction Friday, Oct. 9, in the banquet room of Arbutus Ridge Golf Club.
The highlight of the evening will be the auction, presented by witty, well-known artist Will Millar and entertainment featuring Millar and Grammy-nominated pianist Michael Creber.
The cover charge for the evening will be $150 per person and there is also a cash bar. If you plan to attend, confirm your attendance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 250-748-4878 by Sept. 15.
Attendees will receive a complete information package with background on CERCA projects, art objects for the auction, and the menu.