Hi Doug Donaldson/Claire Trevana/John Horgan
I have just read the Cowichan Valley Citizen article about the Robson Bight rubbing stones for orcas and concerns with logging in the area, specifically Schmidt Creek: https://www.cowichanvalleycitizen.com/news/protesters-say-clearcuts-will-destroy-orca-rubbing-beaches-on-north-island/?utm_source=Watershed+Watch+Email+List&utm_campaign=6f3ff62bb6-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_06_12_10_44&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_405944b1b5-6f3ff62bb6-166907249&mc_cid=6f3ff62bb6&mc_eid=5777c92bcd.
I spend up to 50 days a year in Vancouver Island’s back country, and have done so for the past 25 years. Very few people do what I do.
In the Tsitika River area, which is beside Schmidt, what I see is lots of clearcutting on steep slopes, between it and the Eve River on the Tsitika Main. Schmidt is between the two.
My experience is that forests hold moisture, whether rain or snow. When the forest is gone, and in such rocky territory, rain moves off in a flood that hits river courses hard, but also dwindles to next to nothing in a few days. Canyon rivers all over the Island go through this flood/no-water cycle.
Both through increasingly dry summers, and floods, of winters of heavy precipitation events, river courses take it hard. The Tsitika, for example, between the two bridges below the highway, is water trickling through big boulders between floods. Much of this length is open and hot in summer.
I have walked down to the Catherine Creek entrance from both directions, Catherine and Tsitika. I can tell you that between pools, in summer, the river doesn’t exist. Catherine can be devoid of water, with boulders the size of your car as you stand on its bridge and look downstream to a dry gulch devoid of logs. Floods just push logs through, destroying habitat, rather than scouring out around rootballs and creating fish habitat.
Increasingly in summer, rivers are too hot, have low oxygen and poor quality fish habitat for much of their lengths. Floods on the other hand wipe out redds, or bury eggs, and blow fry out of high gradient rivers.
I have been going back to some side streams – where all the coho come from – for decades. And what I see, is that logging, even with its 100M boundary, simply destroys these important bodies of water, more so than rivers they flow into, and are even more easily destroyed, with gravel, but particularly lack of water.
As coho spend a year in side streams, ones that dry out completely mean the extinction of the coho run, in one summer. It is that simple and that unforgiving.
So, how about putting more care into protecting the fish, and the orca stones? The area has some real rough country. I passed over an avalanche one May when transiting between the Eve/Tsitika watersheds. Some of the peaks are almost vertical in this area.
The other result from logging, is that the gravel washes out when roots no longer hold it in place. It can take 100 years to flow through a river that has flat land in its course to the ocean. Most Van Isle rivers fall into this class. And I am watching millions of tons of gravel move down rivers. 20 miles can take 100 years, and the gravel destroys habitat as is gets blown on freshets, particularly the insect nymphs that comprise the food source for fish: stoneflies, caddis, Mayflies and so on, which need rocks with algae to grow on, not small gravel and silt.
Please help the Robson Bight area. It is one of our gems and needs your help.
I have read the comments by government people in the article, and can tell you that they have no idea what happens to Island rivers in real time. Their assurances mean nothing. If they want to come with me someday, they would gain a new understanding of what rivers actually go through.