Esquimalt Juan de Fuca MP Randall Garrison introduced a private member’s bill last week to restore federal environmental protection to the Colquitz and Sooke rivers and watersheds.
The Colquitz River system drains a watershed of some 49 sq. km. in Greater Victoria. It begins in Elk and Beaver Lake, but also includes Swan and Blenkinsop Lakes on its way to Portage Inlet. Together these lakes and the river provide significant recreational and natural habitat areas in the Capital region, Garrison said.
“The upper Sooke watershed is the source for drinking water for Greater Victoria, and the Colquitz watershed … is one of the most threatened watersheds on Vancouver Island,” Garrison said.
The bill would add both rivers to the schedule of the Navigation Protection Act, a list that was reduced to a handful of waterways in 2012 the Conservative government’s Bill C-45.
Garrison said the protection status would help volunteer groups that have been working to restore the integrity of the watersheds, including efforts to bring back salmon runs.
He praised the work on the Colquitz watershed by groups like Friends of Cuthbert Holmes Park, Peninsula Streams Society, Friends of Swan Creek Watershed, the Colquitz Watershed Stewardship Project, the South Vancouver Island Anglers Coalition and Habitat Acquisition Trust.
“Not only are these ecosystems valuable in themselves, they can also play an important role in our local economy,” Garrison said. “Restoring salmon runs can help contribute to tourism and sport fishing as well as help to ensure the survival of the Southern Resident Killer Whales by increasing their local food supply.”