100 years later: Reconnecting the Fraser River with its estuary

An excerpt from Tracking Raincoast into 2022.

As we move into 2022, our Fraser River Estuary restoration efforts move towards the next target, the North Arm jetty. In late 2021, we finished our Coastal Restoration Fund project, a five year multi-million dollar initiative to restore connectivity between the main arm of the Fraser River and the marsh on Lulu Island’s Sturgeon Bank. It was a huge success!

We created three large openings in the Steveston jetty to allow passage for juvenile salmon between the river and the marsh. From our monitoring, we know the breaches are already being actively used each spring during the outmigration. Small Chinook fry, which need the estuary marshes, are now reaching them through the breaches. Hopefully this provides them with a better outcome for survival than when the 8 km long jetty forced them out to sea.

As one project winds to an end another begins, as there is no shortage of structures that inhibit the movement of juvenile salmon in the estuary. Similar to the Steveston jetty on the Fraser’s Main Arm, the North Arm jetty was also constructed in the early 1900s to facilitate ship navigation. Ever since then, it has been a barrier to the natural movement of juvenile salmon, other organisms, freshwater, fine sediments, and nutrients that once reached Sturgeon Bank. We began investigating this project in 2018 and our research shows the North Arm is also highly utilized by juvenile salmon.

In 2022, in collaboration with a host of project partners, we plan to restore natural processes by creating three breaches in the North Arm jetty over the next three years. We will continue our monitoring program to determine the rates of juvenile passage in these new breaches and compare that to our previous work. As with the Steveston jetty, we are hoping this access to the marsh improves survival for juvenile Chinook and other salmon.

Our annual report is out now!

Get highlights from the year, our science, flagship projects, staff and volunteers, as well as a peek at what’s in store for the coming year.

Research scientist, Adam Warner conducting genetics research in our genetics lab.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.