Richmond asks for help fighting invasive aquatic plant

Vancouver Sun, November 13, 2017; Jennifer Saltman - A letter to the provincial government will likely be the next step in Richmond’s efforts to eradicate an aquatic plant that has invaded a waterway in Steveston and threatens a nearby wetland.

The staff recommendation to send the letter requesting that the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations get involved immediately and allocate money to fighting the Brazilian elodea infestation was endorsed by all members of the general purposes committee last week, of which the mayor and all councillors are members.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is confident council will vote unanimously to send the letter at Tuesday’s meeting.

“There’s frustration by the city, there’s certainly frustration on the part of the strata unit holders in what’s called Mariner’s Village, which is where it is, and it’s important that it move ahead expeditiously,” Brodie said on Monday.

“It is a real problem and we just have to make sure it does not spread anywhere.”

According to a staff report, “elodea is a highly invasive aquatic plant that poses a significant risk to flooding infrastructure and the environment as it has the ability to plug drainage and inhibit native vegetation.”

City staff were first notified that there was Brazilian elodea in a Steveston pond in 2014. It likely came from the contents of an aquarium that someone dumped into the pond.

The water feature is on city property between the Mariner’s Village townhouse complex and the West Dyke. The pond, which is 500 metres long by about 25 metres wide, is part of the city’s drainage system in the area.

The situation was described at the committee meeting as “unprecedented” and elodea is known to exist in only one other place in B.C. — Glen Lake in Langford. The City of Richmond considers it a priority species.

The province is responsible for dealing with the infestation under the Early Detection Rapid Response Plan, which is meant to prevent establishment of new invasive species.

City staff have been working with the province on a management plan since 2015, and an unsuccessful remedial trial took place in 2016. Alternatives are more expensive and the province has not been able to commit to spending the necessary money. Herbicide use is restricted. 

Brodie said a specific price tag has not been attached to the project, but it’s expected to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Although city staff believe elodea in the pond is currently under control, there is a chance that it could spread to the adjacent Sturgeon Bank Wildlife Management Area, which may have pockets of freshwater that are at risk of infestation.

“You could have a situation where you could have this stuff spread over the dyke and over the sea water, and that would be a real problem, a bigger problem,” said Brodie.

Michael Krygier, strata president at Mariner’s village, told the general purposes committee last week that the strata council is willing to cooperate with any activities that it can to eliminate the infestation.

Krygier said on Monday that the complex’s residents have a number of concerns about the infestation, from the odours that emanate from the stagnant water to the possible spread to the other side of the dike.

“Finally it’s getting to the political stage where hopefully something is done,” Krygier said. “It’s a matter of dealing with three levels of bureaucracy.”

Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Species Council of B.C., said a second invasive aquatic plant called parrot feather is also a problem in Richmond. Like Brazilian elodea, it comes from aquariums.

Her organization has a program called Don’t Let It Loose, discouraging people from emptying their aquariums into ponds and other waterways.

“We don’t want people to dump their aquariums because this is exactly what happens,” she said, referring to Richmond’s problem.

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