Partnering for fish-friendly flows in the Lower Fraser watershed


Anyone who has trudged through a grant application late into the night knows the effort it takes to translate an entire project into a memorable, convincing case for funding. Boxes must be checked, budgets must be drawn up… and, crucially, partners must be notified and used to their full capacity.

Connecting the right organizations to each other at the right time can create a strong start for a project. This was the case for the District of Kent and Resilient Waters, a project of MakeWay, ahead of the District securing funds from the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, a $27 million provincial stimulus fund being co-delivered by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Watersheds BC. The work? To replace aging flood control infrastructure at the Lower Agassiz. This project demonstrates proactive solutions to restoring fish-friendly flows by replacing existing flood control infrastructure (such as flood gates, pump stations, and dikes) with structures that allow for improved fish passage to crucial salmon habitats. This approach benefits not only salmon but also reduces flood risk for vulnerable communities and landowners.

Agassiz Slough, Photo Credit Dave Charbula

Lower Agassiz Slough worksite, Photo Credit Dave Charbula


Supported by funding from the BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (SRIF) and working in partnership with Watershed Watch Salmon Society’s Connected Waters Program, Resilient Waters’ work ranges from facilitating and coordinating meetings to crystallize shared values and objectives, fundraising support, providing technical and design guidance, fish and habitat monitoring, all the way to leading collaborative restoration and research projects.

In 2019-2020, Resilient Waters identified opportunities for projects to restore ecosystems along the Lower Fraser watershed, particularly in reducing risk associated with aging flood infrastructure and reconnecting crucial salmon habitat. Working primarily with First Nations and Local Governments, as well as NGOs, academics, and other levels of government, Resilient Waters shortlisted 25 projects which were in a position to make a big impact on watershed security in a short timeframe. Among those listed was the Lower Agassiz Slough fish-friendly infrastructure project, already in the design phase with the District of Kent.

The District of Kent had also independently identified the Lower Agassiz Slough as a priority project, as it was an aging culvert with an outdated “flap-gate” style opening, which did not allow fish passage the majority of the year.  As the culvert was reaching the end of its useful life, the District was interested in pursuing a modernized floodgate design that would allow free passage for aquatic life to upstream habitat.  Although this would result in additional costs, the District was hopeful they could seek partnerships and grant funding based on their conceptual designs to create a scaled-up project with additional benefits for multiple stakeholders.

Lower Agassiz Slough Aerial, Google Earth

Lower Agassiz Slough from above; it represents valuable fish passage for the Fraser River. Google Earth.

Every partnership is unique. In the case of working with the District of Kent, Resilient Waters acted as a catalyzer and cheerleader in the early stages of securing grant funding. When the District was selected to receive HWI funding, Resilient Waters provided additional capacity support to scope the project, provide another set of eyes for technical guidance, and contribute to the case for HWI funding.

Now, Resilient Waters is continuing to support projects and partners like the District of Kent in a variety of ways. Their cross-sector collaborative approach supports capacity at all stages of a project, including the early stages of identifying and leveraging watershed security funding, is evident in the Lower Agassiz project. This planning and preparation work was a crucial step in connecting to funding opportunities like HWI that value collaborative work.