The tree trunk has been completely removed from the river. Photo courtesy Rupert Wong/Current Environmental

Tubing hazard removed from popular Comox Valley swimming hole

Courtenay takes action to remove fallen cottonwood from the Puntledge River

Another dangerous tree trunk has been removed from the Puntledge River.

A large black cottonwood tree had fallen into the river earlier this year, downstream from Condensory Bridge, posing a safety hazard to leisure tubers.

City of Courtenay Parks superintendent Mike Kearns assessed the situation, then contacted Rupert Wong at Current Environmental for further analysis.

“Rupert acts as our contractor for environmental work, so he was sort of our go-between, between us and the DFO (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), to ensure that we could do the work,” said Kearns.

RELATED: Summer tubing ban on Cowichan River lifted

“It looked like this one fell in the wintertime, and it has been accumulating debris as well, as these things often do,” explained Wong. “With an increase in warm weather and the associated increase in tubers, it was decided that the tree needed to be abated.”

He assembled a team of arborists, including professional woodsman Dustin Porter, his brother Gerran and Simon and Robin Poirier from Sasquatch Tree Service.

The operation, which consisted of cutting up the trunk into smaller pieces and removing the wood from the river, took the better part of Friday and Saturday.

“On the first day, the crew began carving off manageable pieces of the two-metre thick trunk and yarding out of the active channel using a winch and blocks,” explained Wong. “On the second day, the crew managed to work their way up to the massive partially submerged root that was in direct line with the thalweg. By 3 p.m. the hazard was totally abated.”

Wong said he witnessed first-hand the danger the tree trunk posed.

“Six tubers had near misses with the tree root while the crew worked quickly to eliminate the hazard,” he said. “One woman actually flipped and one of our guys had to pull her out. So the danger was pretty clear. The main thrust of the river draws people right to it.”

A similar multi-agency operation was performed last summer, upstream from where this tree was located.

“Last year’s was a channel spanner, which went right across the river, so it was different, but the risk [was similar],” said Wong.

Last year’s operation involved cutting up and redistributing the smaller pieces into the water. Wong said due to the river flow, they felt it was important to physically remove the remnants this time around.

“We didn’t really want to leave the debris in the river,” said Wong. “Immediately downstream it gets really shallow and we figured this time, anything we released into the river would just hang up… and we didn’t want to create more hazards by removing this one.”

RELATED: B.C. ordered to pay family of tubing accident victim $150K

Kearns said that while the City does not condone tubing in the Puntledge, he felt the preemptive action of removing that hazard was the proper route to take.

“It’s [Puntledge River] not really the City’s jurisdiction — it’s the DFO — but just knowing how dangerous this was, we decided to take action on this,” he said. “We don’t want to get into clearing out every tree in the future, but this one was starting to cause some real legitimate concerns, and with the timing of this, with the warm weather… knowing it was there, it was better to have addressed the situation than to keep our fingers crossed that no one gets hurt.”

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Comox Valley

 

This black cottonwood that had fallen into the Puntledge River earlier this year was a danger to tubers. Photo courtesy Rupert Wong/Current Environmental

Tubers float past the tree trunk during the removal process. The natural flow of the river would draw tubers perilously close to the fallen tree. Photo courtesy Rupert Wong/Current Environmental

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