Brentwood Bay, Saanich Inlet

Brentwood Bay, Saanich Inlet

by | Jun 11, 2022

Brentwood Bay is a community within the municipality of Central Saanich on the eastern shore of Saanich Inlet, about 11 miles (18 km) north-northwest of the city of Victoria and 6 miles (10 km) south-southwest of Sidney, British Columbia. Brentwood Bay was named in 1925 for the town of Brentwood, in Essex England, the hometown of Robert M. Horne-Payne who was the president of the British Columbia Electric Company. The town was originally named Sluggett for John Sluggett, a pioneer from Devonshire England who settled here in 1876. Central Saanich is one of the 13 municipalities that make up the Greater Victoria area on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. Saanich Inlet is the estuary of Goldstream River and is a temperate marine fjord that lies between the Saanich Peninsula and the Malahat highlands of southern Vancouver Island. The inlet is about 16 miles (25 km) long and has a maximum depth of 741 feet (226 m). Similar to many fjords with limited circulation, the water near the bottom is anoxic for most of the year and hydrogen sulfide is often detected. Goldstream River drains a watershed of 98,842 acres (40,000 ha) and flows generally southeast from the Malahat highlands for 14 miles (22 km) and then north for 2.5 miles (4 km) to the head of Saanich Inlet. The mountainous terrain of Vancouver Island is composed almost entirely of rocks of the Wrangellia terrane that accreted to the North American continental margin in the Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous time. Wrangellia consists of Devonian age volcanic arc and sedimentary rocks with granitic intrusive rocks of Early Cretaceous age to Late Jurassic. The granitic intrusions occur in many areas on the island as small batholiths, dikes, and plutons such as the granitic rocks underlying the Malahat highlands and the Saanich Peninsula. The bedrock at Brentwood Bay is part of mid-Paleozoic volcanic arc rocks associated with the Sicker Group that include quartz diorite and quartzfeldspar that formed about 365 million years ago. Overlying the granitic rocks on the eastern coast of the island is a thick series of sedimentary rocks known as the Nanaimo Group that formed during the Cretaceous. The Nanaimo Group consists chiefly of conglomerates, sandstone, shale, and coal near the base. Comparatively, these rocks are much weaker than the plutonic rocks and more easily eroded as is evident in the low coastal plains and valleys on the southeastern coast.

The indigenous Coast Salish people have inhabited Vancouver Island for thousands of years. They established settlements based on the availability of resources such as food and building materials. Early Coast Salish people relied heavily on fishing and hunting mammals and spent the summer season at fish camps, and in the winter resided in permanent villages of plank houses. Northern tribes of Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian are described as matrilineal; however, kinship in the southern tribes of Wakashan and Coast Salish prevailed through both father and mother resulting in extensive relationships. The Coast Salish made contact with Europeans in the 1700s and lost great numbers to smallpox and other diseases. In the mid-19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company was chartered by the British government to colonize Vancouver Island. As the colony expanded the Hudson’s Bay Company started buying up lands for settlement from the Coast Salish, and for over four years Governor James Douglas made a series of fourteen land purchases by treaty. The Douglas Treaties covered approximately 230,399 acres (93,240 ha) of land around Victoria, Saanich, Sooke, Nanaimo, and Port Hardy, all on Vancouver Island that were exchanged for cash, clothing, and blankets. The terms of the treaties promised that they would be able to retain existing village lands and fields for their use, and also would be allowed to hunt and fish on the surrendered lands. The Saanich Peninsula and the area around Saanich Inlet are within the traditional territory of the Saanich First Nation people. For many generations, the Tseycum and Pauquachin bands of the North Saanich, and the Tsartlip and Tsawout bands of the South Saanich, and the Malahat who live on the west shore of Saanich Inlet have fished coho, Chinook, and chum salmon in Goldstream River, Saanich Inlet, and adjacent straits. Chum are the most abundant salmon species returning to Goldstream River and are a major food resource, harvested each year from mid or late October to early December. Until the 1950s, Saanich people obtained much of their food from the waters of Saanich Inlet by fishing for direct family subsistence or working as wage laborers in commercial fisheries. Once the fisheries became licensed and opened to commercial and recreational non-indigenous fishers, the Saanich First Nation community was no longer able to compete. As well as direct losses of salmon through overfishing, increased pollution of Saanich Inlet is a threat to Goldstream River salmon that are migrating through the inlet, and to the health of the Saanich people. Salmon, herring, and eelgrass have all significantly declined in conjunction with increased pollution of the marine ecosystem where these interdependent species once thrived.

Streetcar and interurban rail services were inaugurated in southwestern British Columbia between 1890 and 1891. In 1890, the National Electric Tramway and Lighting Company Limited launched streetcar service in Victoria but went into receivership during the ensuing global depression and was amalgamated in 1895 into the Consolidated Railway and Light Company. This newly founded company was forced into receivership after the Point Ellice streetcar accident in Victoria and was reorganized as the British Columbia Electric Railway Company Limited in April 1897. The company also operated electric trains in southwestern British Columbia, including an interurban rail line on Vancouver Island between Victoria and Deep Cove at the north end of the Saanich Peninsula which was one of three passenger railways to serve the peninsula. In 1897, Esquimalt Waterworks Company and British Columbia Electric Railway came to an agreement to generate electric power by using the water from high elevation water reservoirs on the Goldstream River. The electric power from Goldstream would provide power to Victoria and the interurban railway system. The water was run through Pelton waterwheels and then flowed into the Japan Gulch Reservoir for domestic water use. In 1912, a hydroelectric dam and power plant was completed by British Columbia Electric Railway Company, now known as BC Electric, on the Jordan River about 32 miles (51 km) west of Victoria and a high tension transmission line was built to connect to the city. The long trans­mission line between Jordan River and the substation in Victoria was vulnerable to damage and provisions were made for a secondary power source at Brentwood Bay where BC Electric built a steam-powered power plant as an auxiliary. The site was chosen because of its frontage along tidewater that permitted direct delivery of fuel oil by sea and gave the plant plenty of water for condensing purposes. This new plant was to be brought into opera­tion only when power from Jordan River was for any reason not available. But the storage capacity of the Jordan River dams was unable to meet the hydroelectric power demands of the urban area and the Brentwood Bay power plant became a full-time inte­gral part of power development on Vancouver Island. The Victoria-Deep Cove rail line was closed in 1924 due to low ridership, and the last interurban rail service was discontinued in 1958. In 1961, the provincial government took over BC Electric, with the railway becoming a division of Crown corporation BC Hydro. Brentwood Bay is now a residential community that provides a ferry link across Saanich Inlet to Mill Bay via the MV Klitsa and is also home to the famous Butchart Gardens. Read more here and here. Explore more of Brentwood Bay and Saanich Inlet here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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