July 20, 2016
Howe Sound is one of the most southern fjords in Canada. It contains a number of estuaries that are important natural places as they provide goods and services that are economically and ecologically indispensable. Often called nurseries of the sea (USEPA, 1993), estuaries provide vital nesting and feeding habitats for many aquatic plants and animals. Estuaries also help to maintain healthy ocean environments. They filter out sediments and pollutants from rivers and streams before they flow into the oceans, providing cleaner waters for marine life.
In 2015, the David Suzuki Foundation produced a baseline and coarse-scale study “Sound Investment – Measuring the Return on Howe Sound’s Ecosystem Assets“. The study’s findings reveal that the Howe Sound watersheds provide an estimated annual value of $800 million to $4.7 billion in ecosystem services with the estuaries in Howe Sound having an annual return of $179,370 to $462,600. The study area’s natural systems provide residents with food, clean water, a stable climate, protection from natural disasters and a place to relax, recreate and reconnect with nature.
The remarkable recovery of the Howe Sound region is of great interest to scientists around the world, as little is known of the dynamics of marine recovery. At a time when climate change threatens our future and so much value is attributed to these estuaries, it begs the question of planners and our leaders why they would mess with our estuaries. Estuaries and wetlands have an important role to play in carbon sequestration and storage yet environmental assessments have yet to consider this as a value component.
The science exists, but our current environmental assessment processes do not support our commitments to greenhouse gas emission reduction. Until such time as our higher levels of government shift how it measures economic value, it will be up to local governments and citizen scientists to defend our valuable eco-systems to ensure they remain intact for future generations.
The dates of the Public Consultation period of the Environmental Assessment process for the Burnco Aggregate Project will be announced in July-August. More information will be available as it becomes available.