NEAT Report 1975

Northcoast Environmental Analysis Team

In 1974 ten potential terminal sites were analyzed regarding their engineering and economic aspects.  In 1974 the Swan Wooster study reviewed ten sites and chose Ridley Island, Kitson Island and Port Simpson as the three best candidates for terminals in terms of engineering and economic aspects.  Then these three sites were analyzed in terms of their environmental acceptability.  The five volume Northcoast Environmental Assessment Team (NEAT 1975) report gave the opinion that Kitson Island was unacceptable as a terminal location because it would require a causeway to be built across Flora Bank.  Highlights excerpted below.

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page 45: “On the basis of the NEAT overview work and the work of the previous researchers, Kitson island appeared certain to be environmentally unacceptable”

page 38 of the NEAT report volume one : “The Kitson Island/Flora Bank area is probably the most valuable portion of the Inner Estuary for salmon rearing.”

Pg. 65-66 Volume 4
3.3.2 Estuarine/Marine Environments
“Flora Bank is unique among the sites studied. It is composed of sand in the higher portions and sandy silt on the associated submerged portions of DeHorsey and Agnew Banks. Extensive eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds are known to exist on Flora Bank (Higgins and Schouwenberg, 1973).

The present study found sparse beds of the related Phyllospadix scouleri in the protected sandy coves of inner Prince Rupert Harbour, but the Flora Bank beds are likely most important in the area. Subtidal and benthic samples showed a very low diversity assemblage on both DeHorsey and Agnew Banks, dominated by dense populations of the small bivalve Transenella tantilla; data are presented in Annex C4 (see Table 5). The low diversity results from a hostile environment characterized by substrate movements and salinity fluctuations. Transenella is apparently sufficiently robust to survive these stresses and exploit the detritus-rich inner estuary. The substrate itself results in quite different types of fauna than are found in other subtidal environments in the study region.

This is the area in which Higgins and Shouwenberg (1973) found the highest numbers of juvenile salmon during an intensive investigation between May and July 1972. The Ridley Island shore, in contrast, produced relatively fewer captures. Higgins and Shouwenberg relate this distribution to the availability of amphipods, which they found only in the vicinity of Flora Bank. Kaczynski et al (1973) have shown that for pink and chum salmon (Onchorhynchus gorbuscha and o. keta) in Puget Sound an onshore stage of development can be described in which both species feed mainly on epibenthic harpacticoid copepods and gammarid amphipods. Goodman and Vroom (1972) have reported similar findings. Preliminary results reported by Higgins and Shouwenberg (1973) indicate that sockeye, coho and chinook salmon consume amphipods and insect remains in the Flora Bank area. Chinook and sockeye also take copepods.

It is difficult to relate the presence of juvenile salmon in this area to the food available, partly because standard sampling methods do not catch epibenthic animals efficiently, and partly because it is not proven that the location of juvenile salmon is governed by food alone. The sampling in this study shows that amphipods are available in other areas, both intertidally and sub- tidally.

The major interest in the biota of Flora Bank is in reference to the multi-million dollar salmon and steelhead fisheries. Juvenile salmon and steelhead apparently depend on this area for two functions: acclimation to salt water, during which they must become accustomed to progressively higher salinities over a period of several days; and feeding on plankton and benthos, which must permit fast enough growth to minimize mortality from predation.”

Economic Value of the Fishing Industry (volume 1)
“It is very difficult to project the future economic value of the natural resources of this area based on present economic worth. “
“Furthermore, there are other values associated with these resources, related to their food value in a world which is now becoming short of food, or their intrinsic value for just knowing they are there.”

Page 12 Volume 4
“the estuary in the Skeena may not be fully utilized in most years, but under certain weather or Skeena discharge conditions, salmon production may depend entirely on areas such as Flora Bank for certain physical conditions. The diversity of habitat available for all phases of the life history is a major factor in salmon survival under adverse conditions.”

Pg. 36 volume 4
Figure 17 FRESHWATER CONCENTRATION IN CHATHAM SOUND NORMAL CONDITIONS (this diagram shows the important 15% contour limited to Flora and shouldering Agnew Banks for north turning smolts)
“Of particular interest is the 15 percent freshwater contour. It is evident in the region of Flora Bank and Kitson Island during normal flow conditions and expands up the west coast of Digby Island during the high flows of the freshet. This transition area is probably of particular significance for young salmon: environments with salinity similar to that of the blood of salmon (isomotic) permit faster growths since less energy is spent on regulating internal water and salt levels than in either freshwater or sea water.”

Volume 4 pg. 59
“Eelgrass is of particular significance for salmon and the marine fishes. Herring spawn deposited on eelgrass has a greater survival rate than that deposited on other substrates (Outram, 1957). Juvenile salmon find protective cover and abundant forage in the eelgrass beds. The eelgrass contributes large quantities of exceptionally rich material to the detritus food chain (bacteria – amphipods – salmon).”

“The relative importance of Fucus sp., Laminaria spp., zostera and Phyllospadix populations in modifying intertidal habitats must be related to the physical conditions in any location, including the height in the intertidal zone, substrate character, and exposure to sun and surf. By modifying the effects of one or more of these parameters, the plant growth provides stability and food for a faunal assemblage much richer than possible without revegetation.”
“Of all four groups, zostera probably plays the most important role in habitat modification by consolidating sand and mud into a stable substrate through extensive rhizome growth.”