New Star Blogs

Stones in the river: A story of gravel beds, salmon, suburbs


Grav­el isn’t sexy, but it’s impor­tant, con­stant­ly in demand, and a valu­able com­mod­i­ty. As the city advances, as new sub­urbs take over brush, field and for­est, the first thing that goes down is a lay­er of grav­el: roadbeds, foun­da­tions, sew­ers and water­lines.

As the Fras­er Riv­er bends around Hope and leaves the moun­tains behind, its slow­ing cur­rents deposit the glacial grav­el it has car­ried with a rush out of the province’s inte­ri­or. So close to water — and thus cheap trans­porta­tion — the low­er Fraser’s grav­el deposits are today sought by the grow­ing sub­urbs up and down the coast. If you’re liv­ing on such a grav­el deposit, you’re liv­ing on a mine of sorts. Not a gold mine, but there’s just as much of a rush. Ask the Sto:lo, the peo­ple who live along the stretch of the Low­er Fras­er Riv­er between Hope and Mis­sion, a com­mu­ni­ty con­tem­plat­ing change and con­ti­nu­ity in the face of these pres­sures Or if you could, ask the salmon that rely on this part of the river’s grav­el beds to spawn each spring,

In Stur­geon Reach: Shift­ing Cur­rents at the Heart of the Fras­er, Ter­ry Glavin and Ben Parfitt unpack some of the issues swirling around the river’s grav­el banks. They talk to Sto:lo and oth­ers who see an oppor­tu­ni­ty for their com­mu­ni­ty to gain a mea­sure of eco­nom­ic sta­bil­i­ty. Hydrol­o­gists explain the grav­el build-up, and assess the flood risks asso­ci­at­ed with min­ing the grav­el banks, or not. Salmon, one of the totemic species of the coast, pro­vide a cho­rus in this dra­ma.

Glavin is an award-win­ning writer who has writ­ten exten­sive­ly in books and news­pa­per and mag­a­zine arti­cles about the Fras­er, the Sto:lo, and salmon. His A Ghost In the Water is set in the same stretch of riv­er. Co-author Ben Parfitt has also writ­ten exten­sive­ly about resources and the envi­ron­ment. He is the author of For­est Fol­lies: Adven­tures and Mis­ad­ven­tures in the Great Cana­di­an For­est and co-author, with Michael M’Gonigle, of Forestopia: A Prac­ti­cal Guide to the New For­est Econ­o­my.

Craig Orr thought the sto­ry of Stur­geon Reach’s grav­el need­ed to get out. As a life­long envi­ron­men­tal­ist and direc­tor of the Water­shed Watch Salmon Soci­ety, he saw the poten­tial impact of grav­el min­ing not just on the Sto:lo com­mu­ni­ty and the spawn­ing grounds north of Mis­sion, but also on the Low­er Main­land and the region as a whole. It was Craig and Water­shed Watch who helped find the seed mon­ey to get the writ­ers and pho­tog­ra­phers going.

Stur­geon Reach also marks an impor­tant pas­sage — the last Trans­mon­tanus that Ter­ry Glavin had a hand in as series edi­tor. Since Trans­mon­tanus No. 1 in 1994, A Ghost In the Water — which he also wrote — Glavin and the Trans­mon­tanus series have vast­ly enriched the writ­ing and the think­ing about our part of the world, known for the moment as British Colum­bia. This was rec­og­nized in 2009, when Glavin received the Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Lit­er­ary Excel­lence.

With such recent books as Come From the Shad­ows and Wait­ing for the Macaws, Glavin’s ambit now encom­pass­es the globe from Afghanistan to the Amir Riv­er, and his live­ly blog is an indis­pens­able source of news and views. His books about British Colum­bia, A Death Feast in Dim­la­hamid and This Ragged Place, are both avail­able from New Star. We thank Ter­ry Glavin for his almost-two-decade con­tri­bu­tion to the Trans­mon­tanus series, and to the lit­er­a­ture of BC.