Kus-kus-sum site in the foreground  |  Rick Wards photo courtesy of Project Watershed

BREAKING: Kus-kus-sum purchase funds complete, thanks to province

Nov 27, 2020 | Environment, Latest Feature

By George Le Masurier

Thanks to additional $650,000 grant from the BC Government announced today, the Kus-kus-sum project now has the funds to complete its purchase of the old Fields Sawmill property and begin restoration work.

“In fact, our final payment to Interfor … is now in the mail,” Tim Ennis, Project Watershed’s senior project manager told Decafnation today.

Today’s new funding complements the province’s 2019 commitment of $1 million to the Project Watershed Society’s plan to return the abandoned site into its original saltmarsh with side-channels and riparian habitats.

Ennis praised the BC government for its support of what he said is one of the most important salmon habitat restoration projects on the BC coast.

“This recent investment unlocks our ability to move forward with the transformation of an industrial site in the heart of one of B.C.’s most important estuaries back to natural saltmarsh and other habitats,” Ennis said in a news release today. “The benefits of this project will be felt for generations to come.”

But he also emphasized that today’s good news just completes the acquisition phase of the project.

Photo by Bonner Photography

“While we have now succeeded in raising the funds to secure title to the land … we need to keep our foot on the pedal with our fundraising efforts,” he said. “The costs of restoration of the land is another large component of the overall project cost.”

With the title of the land secured, Project Watershed can now refocus on raising funds for restoration. “Without the title, we didn’t really have a project,” he said.

 

PROJECT COMING TOGETHER

Last week, the K’omoks First Nations, Project Watershed and the City of Courtenay jointly approved a revised memorandum of understanding for co-managing the property. An official agreement will follow next year.

There are a number of details yet to be completed regarding the actual transfer of title from Interfor to KFN and the City. Ennis said each of the parties involved is working hard on those now.

“The MOU is an important part of that. I am hopeful that these will be concluded before the winter holiday season and that title transfer will happen in 2020,” he told Decafnation today. “But these details are very important and it is equally important to get them right.”

Ennis praised community support for the project and the “professionalism and vision” of the project team.

He also said Kus-kus-sum captured the attention of the province because “this project is in the right place at the right time and is being done for the right reasons.”

 

RECONCILIATION PROJECT

The project site is named Kus-kus-sum in recognition of the historic First Nation ancestral burial site once located in the area.

“Restoring the cultural and historically significant site of Kus-kus-sum is a vision K’omoks First Nation shares with Project Watershed and the City of Courtenay, and we appreciate the B.C. government for providing the additional bridge funding to aid in this restoration,” K’omoks First Nation Chief Nicole Rempel said.

Katrine Conroy, the BC Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said the province is “committed to reconciliation” with KFN.

“Purchasing this site will support the restoration of an environmentally and culturally significant estuary to benefit the entire Courtenay-Comox community,” she said.

Ennis said Project Watershed will now look to the federal government for support.

“We are hopeful that the government of Canada will look at this success, and in consideration of their jurisdictional responsibilities to wild salmon, migratory birds, First Nations reconciliation, and international biodiversity conventions, be inspired to come to the table as partners with the local community, the K’omoks Nation, the City of Courtenay, Project Watershed and others,” he said. “Strong local community support for this project has been, and will continue to be a key ingredient in our recipe for success.”

 

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