Study aims to better understand Nanaimo’s Buttertubs Marsh

NANAIMO – Data gathering expected to take a year as part of multi-year project.

Stakeholders are undertaking a major study in the hopes of getting a better grasp of the intricacies of Buttertubs Marsh’s environment.

According to Bill Merilees, Friends of Buttertubs chairman, said the study, which is in its early stages, will examine the properties of the water in the marsh, including its hydrology – how it moves in relation to land. Such a study has never been conducted, he said.

“We’re going to roll out the penultimate draft of the management plan for the whole Buttertubs wetland and one of our major concerns … is that we just don’t understand the hydrology, which is where all the water comes into the marsh, what all the sources are, what levels are natural, all this type of stuff.

“We don’t know how much the temperatures, the whole hydrology, the whole dynamics of the wetlands. If we’re going to manage it, we have to know what they are first,” said Merilees.

The first step, said Merilees, is to put out automatic recorders, or data loggers, which measure such items as water temperature and oxygen content.

Merilees said the Friends of Buttertubs has contributed $5,000 for the effort and the Nanaimo Fish and Game Protective Association has donated $1,500. The money will be spent a number of ways, including setting up equipment.

“The idea is we’re hiring a company to initiate and place these recording instruments at strategic locations along the Millstone River and within the east and west marshes so we can get the baseline data that we use, that we can start modelling various scenarios for the management of the marsh,” said Merilees.

He estimated that the project will take two to three years, with one year dedicated to data gathering.

With the project complete, it will allow for management of Buttertubs wetlands on a solid knowledge-based foundation, he said.

“It’s like wanting to build a house. You got to do a survey to find out what your soils are like and so on and so forth,” said Merilees.

Other stakeholders include the City of Nanaimo, The Nature Trust of B.C. and Ducks Unlimited.