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'A creek not a ditch,' $11.5 million eyed for battered urban Coquitlam area creek after a 10-year-delay

Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam are working on a Maple Creek Integrated Watershed Management Plan to reduce flooding, improve water quality and protect salmon — volunteer streamkeepers wonder why it took so long

Maple Creek is a beautiful, little tributary of the Coquitlam River that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves.

Labeled a ‘ditch’ by some, trashed by mountain bikers and a dumping ground for litter, the creek running from Coquitlam through Port Coquitlam is also home to half a dozen salmon species, a heron rookery with several nests, as well as coyotes, bears, otters and beavers.

A walk through the creek’s leafy watershed north of Port Coquitlam’s downtown sees fencing knocked down, a jumble of tubes and pumps installed to reduce flooding as well as invasive species, such as Japanese Knotweed, and other signs of carelessness and human habitation alongside this urban stream.

Now after a 10-year delay, a plan is in the works aimed to improve water quality, reduce flooding and make the creek more “fish friendly.”

Jointly produced by Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, the $11.5-million plan for pump improvements, culvert upgrades, a rainwater management plan and creek monitoring, the Maple Creek Integrated Watershed Management Plan will finally give the creek the respect and the care it deserves, say Maple Creek streamkeepers.

They just wonder why it took so long.

“I’m happy they’re moving forward,” said Sandy Budd, a long-time member of the group. 

“I’m really really, disappointed that it has taken 12 years, [and] that it’s always the environment that’s put on the back burner when we’re in an environmental emergency and when it should have been put at the front of the line.”

The group, which has kept an eye on the creek for more than 30 years, filling it with salmon, adding spawning gravel and woody debris for fish passage, participated in the early days of consultation in 2011.

Then the project was shelved for a decade, due to staffing changes, according to the city of Port Coquitlam.

Now it’s back on the table with projects to be conducted over a mostly five to 10-year period, with some longer-term objectives, as well.

Among the top priorities — and one of the largest expenses — is a new higher capacity pump station. 

Estimated at $3.4 million, the pump would ensure Maple Creek doesn’t back up and flood the area south of Kingsway Avenue during high water while also permitting safe fish passage.

“This should be a high priority,” said Jeff Rudd, as he studied the complicated mass of tubes and pumps at the dike south of Bedford Street.

During high water, fish are usually running in the creek, and when the pump is working they are caught in the pump and blasted out back into the creek. Once the powerful pump blasted an adult salmon against a chain-link fence.

“The idea is to replace it with a fish-friendly pump,” Rudd said.

The city, meanwhile, says improvements, cost-shared with Coquitlam, with PoCo covering about $7 million of the costs, will be incorporated into the capital planning process.

“The Maple Creek Watershed is a valued asset to the region and the city is committed to implementing the recommendations in the plan to preserve watershed health while meeting community needs and facilitating growth,” said Melony Burton, manager of infrastructure planning, in an email to Tri-City News.

Plans for further improvement will only make the creek more viable, says Budd, who hopes the work takes place sooner rather than later and that stream keepers, with their knowledge of the creek, are consulted.

“We’re looking forward to all of the improvements,” she said, “For an urban stream, it’s a beautiful place.”