Bourque III, environmentalists in earnest

Sandra Bourque and Otto Langer and viewscape

This is third of three Sandra Bourque answers to questions prompted by Sandra’s help with the “Child of the Fraser River and the sea” article on this blog. On request, Sandra Bourque and her husband Otto Langer also dug up some photos for illustration.

Jim, you asked me to fill out a comment in my message about Otto, “We won the day [to protect Shady Island], and the environmental partnership of Otto and me began in earnest.” Here goes!

Collectively in the same manner, we worked on issues such as these:

  • Getting primary sewage treatment for Annacis and pushing for secondary or better sewage treatment
  • Protecting Sturgeon’s Bank from fill and development on what was then private land outside the dyke and eventually gaining protection for it in legislation
  • Stopping a development on Robert’s Bank
  • Recycling
  • Pre-treatment for industrial effluents
  • Containment and treatment of effluent from Richmond landfill (first citizen charges laid by Wil Paulik under Otto’s guidance)
  • Stopping a housing development in Ladner Marsh
  • With Fraser Coalition members from the GVRD, stopping wholesale dumping of concrete and other wastes along dykes and ditches.

These things that Otto and I worked on together and with others in the community were quite separate from all the things Otto did to protect the river and it’s marshes in his employment with Fisheries. Some examples of the latter in Richmond:

  • Pioneer bench compensation marshes along dykes on the Middle Arm near No. 2 Rd  and behind River Rock Casino, in the North Arm on Mitchell Island, on Annacis Island, and in the three marsh areas at Garry Point
  • Conversion of the Angus Lands dump along the North Arm into a park and valuable wetland
  • Protection of sloughs draining into the river, stopping wholesale treatment of ditches with toxic pesticides in the 1970s, and the spraying of sterilants at the airport
  • Constant work to have city councils and crews recognize the necessity of maintaining the 10 % of what is left of the once vast wetlands that supported the river’s wildlife and fisheries

Otto was instrumental in creating awareness by mapping all the lost streams of Vancouver and by creating a green, yellow, red mapping of Lower Mainland shorelines to simplify for citizens, staff and developers what was untouchable, what wasn’t and under what circumstances development could occur.

Finally I would be remiss in not mentioning the GVRD’s role in seeking to understand what was worthwhile in our area and promote it. In the early 1970s, they hosted a large public consultation process called The Livable Region. Otto and I attended, him as a rep of Fisheries, me as a rep for the West End Community Council and when we moved to Richmond for RAPA. This was a breeding ground for evolving lower Mainland environmentalism. Over two years, several committees considered different aspects of livability. Ours was the Environmental Review and Policy Committee composed of everything from professionals—biologists, engineers, psychologists—to interested citizens from around the Lower Mainland. It formed for many of us a statement of principles upon which to base our future actions as citizens.  And it was the start of a network of connections we would work with for the future. We still have several copies buried in our garage!


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