Environmental groups are warning that a proposed bridge development over the Fraser River near Chilliwack could irreversibly harm critical white sturgeon spawning habitats.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF), is asking provincial and federal governments for a full environmental review of the proposed construction of two bridges to Carey and Herrling islands.
"The construction of the bridges ... has the potential to eliminate critical spawning habitats of this species that could clearly affect the recruitment of fish to this population," said Alan Martin, director of strategic initiatives with the BCWF.
"We're not just talking one species, we are talking about a community of fish species that are critically important both ecologically and economically — and culturally to First Nations as well."
BCWF pleads for intervention
The BCWF is one of a number of environmental groups that have written to provincial and federal ministers, outlining their concerns and pleading for an immediate intervention. White sturgeon are classified as"imperilled" in B.C.
"The BCWF ask that you hold off approving any authorizations until a full agency and public review is made of these applications, including comprehensive inventories and assessments of actual and potential damage," wrote BCWF president Harvey Andrusak in an Oct. 4 letter.
A Crown land application for the construction of "bridge infrastructure" across the Fraser River to access private agricultural lands was made by Klaassen Farms Ltd.
The BCWF's letter alleges the company has already caused environmental damage to the islands.
Interview requests to Klaassen Farms head office in Chilliwack went unanswered.
Ministry is reviewing applications
In a statement to CBC, the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said it's aware of the concerns raised by environmental groups.
"Ministry staff is currently reviewing the Land Act and Water Sustainability Act applications. This includes a review of the potential impacts to fish and fish habitat, hydrology and sediment transport and could include a site visit," read the statement.
"All applications will also be referred for comments to local governments (i.e., the Fraser Valley Regional District and the City of Chilliwack) and First Nations with an interest in the area."