It’s going to take $150-million worth of watershed restoration to bring an important salmon resource back to a First Nation on Vancouver Island, said Huu-ay-aht Chief Councillor Robert J. Dennis Sr., and the nation has accepted the financial help of Steelhead LNG to advance the project.
The Sarita River Watershed is the heart of Huu-ay-aht and is the most important of the 35 streams and rivers in the nations’ traditional territory.
Before commercial fishing and logging severely degraded the Sarita River watershed, it served as a source of food, transportation, and cultural value to the Huu-ay-aht people. The Sarita River at one time was once a very productive salmon river.
Huu-ay-aht and Steelhead LNG have worked for some years now to establish an LNG facility at Sarita Bay, which is located about 10 kilometres north of Bamfield at the southern end of the Alberni Inlet on Vancouver Island. Kwispaa is the cultural name of the LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) project.
A pipeline would deliver natural gas to Kwispaa on the west side of Vancouver Island, where the materials will be cleaned and cooled, turning gas into a liquid. That liquid will be stored in tanks and then shipped overseas. Now, Huu-ay-aht and Steelhead are on this other project together.
Huu-ay-aht hired an environmental firm to develop a strategy for a Sarita and Pachena Watershed Renewal Program. The goal for the renewal program is to revitalize the Sarita and Pachena watershed ecosystems and, eventually, other watersheds within the h?ahuu?i (chiefly territories). This may take generations, reads a press statement.
But Dennis says the coming years will see a big effort.
“When we logged years ago, a lot of the side channels were affected and, with that, a lot of our salmon habitat was destroyed,” said Dennis. “Now if you go around touring our land you will see our own people out working on these streams, restoring and renewing that habitat so that our salmon come back, so that they have a place in our rivers.”