The signing of a first of it’s kind agreement took place this weekend, between Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation and the B.C. government, that formally recognized Shxw’ōwhámél’s role in overseeing containment barriers on the Fraser River.
Thanks to the Fraser River Debris Trap Co-Management Agreement — which was signed by both governing bodies on Saturday (June 17) — the Fraser River Debris Trap is now being co-managed by both the Province and Shxw’ōwhámél.
“The Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation is happy to move forward side by side with the B.C. government to protect our environment for years to come,” said Irene Smith, responsible for emergency management, infrastructure and water for the Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation.
The agreement gives Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation “a role in the stewardship of the operation of the trap,” which is located in Shxw’ōwhámél’s territory. Through this collaboration, door to employment, and economic development opportunities, will be opened for the First Nation and its members.
Under the agreement, the prime contractor and operator is Ventures-Dent LLP, which is a partnership between Shxw’ōwhámél Ventures, a construction company owned by the Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation, and Jim Dent Construction, based in Hope.
“It is really moving to be able to be here in person for the signing with Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation, with their leadership and community,” said Bowinn Ma, the Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness (MOEMCR). “It was really moving to be able to be here in person for the signing with Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation, with their leadership and community,” Ma said. “It’s clear that this day means a lot to all of the staff, the leadership, and the community. It is safe to say that when the debris trap first came into being back in 1979, that the operation of that debris trap through the years didn’t give the community a lot of reason to celebrate.
“Today, Shxw’ōwhámél First Nation leadership can be very proud on what they’ve accomplished through so much hard work. We don’t pretend the hard work is over. Often time, agreements like this take a lot of work to get to. And then it sets out the start of more work afterwards. But that spirit of working together is really shining through here. So, it’s a good day.”
The signing ceremony, which took place at the Shxw’ōwhámél Cultural Centre, was witnessed by members of Shxw’owhamel and their guests. Ma, and Shxw’owhamel’s Si:yá:m, both recognized the importance of this collaboration as being a “step forward in advancing reconcilliation with First Nations.”
In operation for over 40 years now, the Fraser River Debris Trap reduces the volume of woody material flowing into the lower reaches of the Fraser River and Salish Sea. Without the debris trap, this material would pose a danger to human safety, navigation and downstream infrastructure. The debris trap also keeps B.C. clean by intercepting other waste, such as plastics, propane tanks, abandoned boats and other floating debris.
It is estimated that the trap prevents millions of dollars in damages each year related to the cleanup, repair and maintenance of boats, docks, bridges, riverfront infrastructure and wetlands habitat.
In fact, according to the Province, as much as 100,000 cubic metres of wood debris – about 2,000 logging truck loads – is collected annually. This is done mostly during the high-water period of the spring runoff and during periods of excessive rainfall. After the atmospheric river events of November 2021, additional debris collected included recreational vehicles and large portions of residential sundecks.
Currently, both governing bodies are exploring potential uses for the collected wood debris. This includes converting it to bioenergy, selling it as salveable timber, and even building a longhouse. The non-wood debris is recycled.