Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta

with 6 comments

Mouth of the Fraser aerial 2007_0710_105838AA

“This week, share a photograph that signifies transitions and change to you.”

This is an aerial shot from a plane leaving Vancouver on its way to Toronto in July 2007. I had to do quite a bit of work to edit the original – removing the mist that bedevils aerial photos, and correcting the colour, as well as adjusting the frame. Note that I have left the horizon tilted. I usually straighten that but in this case the plane is climbing steeply and turning eastwards. The plane leaving Vancouver took off over the Strait of Georgia, westwards, into the prevailing wind then turned towards the east.

The delta of the Fraser River is under threat from industrialisation. It is some of the most fertile soil in British Columbia, and one of the few places where vegetables can be grown. The river is still one of the most important ecosystems in the province with the remaining salmon runs threatened both by urban sprawl and climate change. Add to that the determination of the port to expand its activities – especially for the export of fossil fuels – and the storage of containers, which mostly come into the port loaded but have very much less utility for our exports, and we face a huge challenge.

I was very surprised to read in the original challenge “the current growing louder and faster before it spilled into the sea” which is exactly the opposite of what happens in this river delta – and almost certainly every other. The river’s current is much faster inland, where it rushes through the Fraser Canyon. The restriction of Hell’s Gate was one of the greatest challenges facing the Europeans when they started to exploit this part of the world. In building the Canadian National Railway they succeeded in blocking the river with their explosives, and the indigenous people carried the salmon upstream in baskets to help ensure the continuation of the species. The river turns westward at Hope and, as the valley widens, slows and begins to meander. The amount of silt that the water can carry drops as it slows, building the gravel beds that the gold prospectors pounced on, and the rich soils of what became farmland. In its natural state as the valley bottom opens up and flattens out the river would constantly move north and south seeking the sea between the mud banks and silt layers. We have of course put a stop to that with dykes and embankments to prevent flooding – that is actually the natural state – and constant dredging of the shipping channel to keep it open and, contentiously, to allow for larger ships.

This “photograph that signifies transitions and change to you” is one that I have used a lot on this blog as part of the campaign that challenges the present plans to expand the port and build a new, huge bridge at the leftmost edge of this picture, where the soil of the river banks is 2,000m or more of silts and sands, prone to liquefaction in the case of earthquakes (another imminent threat in this region) let alone the damage to Pacific flyway, the eelgrass beds, the habitat of many sensitive life forms and, of course, Burns Bog. You can read more about these issues in both this blog and at Fraser Voices.

And, by the way, the name of the municipality in most of this picture is Delta.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2017 at 10:36 am

6 Responses

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  1. Stephen, I’m in awe in every way. Your photo essays are typically perspicacious, but this is truly breathtaking.

    kewljim

    June 28, 2017 at 12:53 pm

  2. Wonderful Stephen!!!

    almeidadepaulo

    June 28, 2017 at 3:15 pm

  3. […] Stephen Rees’s blog Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta […]

  4. I believe it was actually the construction of the CN right of way, not the CP one, that caused the rockslide at Hell’s Gate. Canadian Pacific had already taken the “easy” side of the canyon and so CN was left with the more challenging job.

    Nowadays both railways have an agreement to share their tracks so that eastbound trains can run on one side of the canyon and westbound on the other – a much more efficient arrangement than both companies trying to thread trains past each other on just their own mostly single-lined tracks.

    Sean Nelson

    June 29, 2017 at 7:19 pm

  5. You are right “In the 1880s the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) built a transcontinental railroad that passed along the bank at Hells Gate, and in 1911 the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) began constructing a second track. In 1914 a large rockslide triggered by CNR construction fell into the river at Hells Gate, obstructing the passage of Pacific salmon needing to swim upstream to spawn.” Wikipedia Text above changed

    Stephen Rees

    June 29, 2017 at 7:40 pm

  6. […] tubes and adding another, to carry a railway, is a cheaper and more effective solution, and poses much less threat to the ecologically sensitive Fraser […]


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