Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Silty matters

One of the captains that we work with at Accent Cruises pilots this government survey vessel, the MV Profiler. I like picking his brain on things related to the river as I always learn something new.

And relative to the up and coming dredging that is supposed to happen in our little boat yard he's often a good source of information about the bigger picture and politics of all things Fraser.

It makes sense but I never visualized how the various sections along the river act like a seive or a series of sieves. The fine slit that builds up around our marina is a bit more prized than the material up around Mission. Some gravel sections on the river are useful for aggregate companies but in that section up there, "It is useless and nobody really wants it nor does there seem to be anyone who wants to take responsibility for it because there is no money in it," he told me. The fine silt on the lower Fraser is more sought after and apparently destined for the expansion at the Robert's Bank terminal. (see picture.)

"In fact, what they want to do is turn Mitchell Island into a centralized container storage facility," he told me.

That there are those who'd like to re-purpose the island into shipping container only facility is of no surprise. I can't help but wonder if they'll be able to keep the Condo King and other like him out of it as I am sure there is another faction out there that would love to turn that brownfield site into yet another exclusive condo-community. I suspect the environmental cleanup costs incurred to clean up the industrialized land of Mitchell Island far too costly for condominiums, and containers would win out.

In his daily sounds of the Sandheads, which are at the mouth of the south arm of the Fraser, that during last year's freshet, the silt readings from day to day would change as much as two meters and he'd be out there every day sending data for the river pilots. (Unlike the rest of the Fraser, this part of it from the Sandheads up to the Surrey Ports just west of the Port Mann Bridge is dreged regularly for the big container ships. It is the rest of it that gets "neglected".)

(For further reading about the pilots who navigate the south arm of the Fraser for the big ships, check out this article by Alan Haig-Brown in Professional Mariner April/May 2007).

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