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2nd November 2023
...continued from PART 1

Claims made at town hall disputed by project partners

While “respecting Indigenous rights” is listed on its website as one of the Land Keepers Society’s interests, the town hall presentations did not talk about why the restoration project is important for Quw’utsun Mustimuhw.

Other presentations at the town hall included claims that the restoration project will cause flooding and harm to wildlife, both of which have been disputed by a representative of the Nature Trust of BC.

At the town hall, Nigel Dinsdale said the Dinsdale farmland was sold to Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Trust of BC under the stipulation that it would remain a farm forever. But Tom Reid, the West Coast Conservation Land Management program manager, told The Breach there was no stipulation when the farmland was purchased by the Nature Trust of BC and Ducks Unlimited Canada in 1990.

“We have completed a legal review of this property acquisition and there are no clauses in the purchase and sale agreements with the Dinsdale family that state that the land was to be farmed in perpetuity.”

The Land Keepers Society did not respond to a request for comment.

At the town hall, McLeod claimed that flooding was a “real problem” because the restoration project would flood nearby properties. However, Reid says that comprehensive environmental studies of the area showed the project would have the opposite effect.

“The development of this project included in-depth and extensive engineering and hydraulic reviews of flood conditions and scenarios utilizing up-to-date modelling, historic records and field observations.”

“The project was reviewed and approved by the Deputy Inspector of Dikes under the Dike Maintenance Act…The project was also presented to the Cowichan Flood Management Working Group,” Reid said. The environmental studies, assessments, and consultations found that the project will improve the estuary’s resilience to flooding caused by sea level rise.

Andrew Rushmere, the program director for the Farm Resilience Mentorship Program at Farmers for Climate Solutions, did not want to comment on the estuary specifically but said that misinformation can make life more difficult for farmers. Rushmere is local to the Cowichan Valley and was an organic farmer for 15 years.

“Conspiracy theories, misinformation and disinformation can very quickly exacerbate existing polarization on issues like climate change. Our current information landscape is a major factor in making my job of supporting farmers to build resilience in the face of climate change more difficult,” Rushmere said in an interview with The Breach.

Estuary restoration project is underway

Despite some pushback from the community and misinformation about the reasons for the project, the first phase of restoring the estuary in the Koksilah Marsh is officially complete.

Workers were able to remove 500 pounds of garbage from the marsh and open tidal exchanges, improving the habitat for the salmonid fish that utilize the estuary transition for feeding. The next phase will see the removal of the dike at the Dinsdale Farm property which is set to be complete by the summer of 2024.

For Drouillard, the Cowichan Estuary Restoration Project provides a glimmer of hope amidst the biodiversity crisis.

“There’s very little left of my territory here that is in its natural state…So I hope that this is the beginning of things turning back to the way they were. I only wish we could do more.”