Debris trap prevents damage

The cash-starved Fraser River Debris Trap – once again under threat of closure – saves $8 million a year in downstream damage, a new study indicates.

That’s more than 12 times the $750,000 annual cost of the facility near Hope, which keeps branches and logs from floating down river and causing havoc or becoming navigation hazards.

The trap typically captures 50,000 cubic metres of material a year, but sometimes screens out twice that – or the equivalent of 2,400 logging truck loads.

The study says decomissioning it would create big expenses – including repairs to boats, damage to docks, piers and bridges, and municipal cleanup of more debris on local beaches.

Pat Cruikshank, who chairs the trap’s operating committee, says the cost-benefit analysis clearly shows it’s an invaluable safeguard protecting people and vessels on the river and in Georgia Strait.

“It also protects shoreline infrastructure and avoids habitat damage in the Fraser River estuary,” Cruikshank said. “It is now time to put in place financial certainty for this critical facility.”

It’s been on life support since federal agencies and forest industry partners pulled out two years ago.

The trap got a special $205,000 injection last year from the GVRD to keep it afloat, but the region’s politicians have vowed it’s the last time they’ll bail it out, saying Ottawa and Victoria should step up instead.

The provincial government has agreed to fund one third of the cost, but operations may have to be suspended early this year without other partners signing on.

“It is now time for focused collaborative leadership to take the long view and sustain this facility,” said Fraser Basin Council executive director David Marshall.

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