“I thought that the Provincial Park was supposed to protect the water for us, not from us”
Comment from a Roberts Creek Advisory Committee and Agricultural Advisory Committee Member
The excerpts below are intended to give some more historical context to our recent and ongoing water discussions on the Sunshine Coast. Links to full source materials are provided, and I encourage readers to access those documents and draw their own conclusions.
The passages have been selected to make some contextual points that have been largely missing from the current debate. They do not pretend to paint a full picture. However, they do form part of the public legislative record and it is disingenuous not to bring them forwards. This is particularly true with regards to multiple references to water supply “enhancements” in the Tetrahedron Park Management Plan, and the community concerns at the time that led to those references.
Selected Provincial Legislature (Hansard) Proceedings:
Searchable at https://www.leg.bc.ca/advanced-search
(Italics indicate ML editorial comments, and the text colour is for emphasis)
June 6, 1995
G. Wilson, (Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA at the time):
When the government made the announcement of the Tetrahedron, on the Sunshine Coast, they were careful — largely, I think and I hope, listening to commentary that I was providing them from within the community — not to announce a class A park. Because the highest value within the Tetrahedron is the water. It is the protection of a watershed that not only provides for the enhancement of that region and all of the areas within its drainage basin, but is going to be — at least in the long term — the only economic source of domestic potable water for the people of the Sunshine Coast. (of course, the Park designation later became “Class A”)
G Wilson (later same session): …First, because there have been previous forest interests there, there is a real perception that a move towards the establishment of a class A park was designed primarily to prohibit forest activity in that area (for good reason)
Second, there’s a real concern that if a class A park classification is put in place, regional district interests with respect to water — and in particular the construction of water management projects — will be greatly inhibited because of what may be deemed to be unacceptable activity within a park. What we’re doing is creating in this area the concept that those lakes are protected in their natural state as part of a protected-areas strategy for recreational users to use, whereas the vast majority of the population is saying that that’s not what they expect to do. They say they are setting aside those lakes because they are the primary source of water for everybody who lives on the Sunshine Coast, and they therefore want to limit recreational activity. Whatever the future classification of that land would be, they want to make it easy in future to construct water management projects that might greatly increase the head of water behind those projects. That’s the second issue: if you go to a class A park classification, what is it going to do in terms of that management?(while terms like “vast majority” are subjective and potentially inflammatory, they are indicative of significant community concern at the time)
Hon. E. Cull (Government Environment Minister of the day): The member for Powell River-Sunshine Coast and I had an opportunity to discuss the watershed issue around the Tetrahedron protected area a couple of weeks ago, and I want to assure the member again that when we do the master plan for the parks, the requirements of water for the community — the watershed issues — will be one of the priority issues to be addressed. It was made very clear to all when we made the announcement that the protection of water quality was one of the most important issues in this particular protected area that all decisions made with respect to the plan for the park in the future had to support the provision of water to the local communities.
The Ministry of Environment will be involved. Our parks people will lead the process of the master plan, but we will have staff from the water management branch involved in the planning process. There will be the ability under this park designation to deal with exactly the kinds of issues the member raises. We would expect the planning process to address the needs of watershed management and to ensure that whatever planning is done to the park respects first and foremost the need in future to provide high-quality water sources for the communities in the area.
G Wilson: It seems to me that there has to be another designation within the protected-areas strategy that defines a municipal watershed or protected area for the purpose of a municipal watershed or water management or something that isn’t a class A park. A class A park sends out an entirely wrong signal to those people who look at it on a map, read about it, see it or find it promoted in some way. The difficulty we have with that is that in very short order, given the population increase on the Sunshine Coast, which I don’t think we can stop….
We can’t play King Canute here and pretend that we can sit on the beach and prevent the tide from coming in. We may have to construct some form of water reservoir, which will greatly alter those lakes. We’re likely to hear, from the very people who were saying that they didn’t want logging: “No, you can’t alter its natural form; this is a class A provincial park.” Yet the primary interest in that whole protection is to maintain our water supply. What we need to hear from the minister is that nothing, through the designation of class A provincial park, will prevent the regional district and/or its agents from expanding that water supply system, when necessary, to supply municipal water.
E. Cull We will be addressing that through the master planning process. I guess what I’m saying is that “a park is a park is a park” is not the case with all class A parks. The master plans can determine to what extent recreational activities of various kinds are allowed throughout the park, whether they are restricted and whether other uses, which might be unique to the area, are permitted under a park use permit. I would expect that in the course of the master planning process for this particular area, watershed use will be the priority use that will have to be protected, and any recreational use will have to be compatible with that use. (See Park Master Plan excerpts below)
June 7, 1995:
G. Wilson: I think that one of the concerns we have…. Let me use an area that the minister is well conversant with, and that’s the Tetrahedron question. Where the primary concern is for water, the principal demand is to make sure that watersheds are protected, and not just for the intrinsic value that an unspoiled watershed has, which is one concern — and that’s one of the things that I think we can certainly see within the Ministry of Forests, and the Clayoquot is an example of that. The second concern, which is equally important, is that waterworks are going to have to be constructed in the future that may very well change the nature of the designations by turning lakes as they are naturally occurring within a drainage basin into reservoirs, which will then be used for long-term water supply. My concern is that within the provisions of this bill there does not seem to be coordination at this level anymore and, based on what we’ve got in here, between what local government is advocating, what the Ministry of Environment has to regulate through provisions of the Water Act and what we are looking at in terms of the regional manager’s discretionary powers — it would seem almost — with respect to designation provisions.
June 10, 1997
G. Wilson: I mean, in my own community, I think it caused a great shock when the Tetrahedron was turned into a provincial park, which was not the recommendation or the consensus of the community. Nevertheless, that was the decision taken politically, and I think it did cause a great deal of concern. It’s a watershed which is a municipal watershed, and watershed construction and works need to be done there. However, that’s another issue… (Here I should reinforce again that these are the observations of the local MLA at the time, and are provided for context. It is my personal view that the Park has been, and will continue to be a valuable and hard-won community asset. At the same time, it is not appropriate to willfully ignore certain provisions of the Park Management Plan that reflect community concern at the time of designation. )
Selected excerpts from Tetrahedron Park Management Plan (1997):
Full document here
Chapman and Gray Creek watersheds are the only water supplies offering sufficient water quality, quantity and timing of flows for a regionally scaled water supply along the Sunshine Coast. (Plan Highlights, Page ii)
The roles of Tetrahedron Provincial Park are to maintain and enhance the area’s water quality and community watersheds for Sunshine Coast residents and preserve its wilderness characteristics by offering limited backcountry recreation opportunities (Page 3)
The provincial government is committed to working with the SCRD for the management of these watersheds, as community water supply sources are integral components in the development of an overall park plan (Page 2)
..to ensure there is an appropriate mechanism for authorizing existing and future watershed enhancement and infrastructure development that may be required by SCRD for future population growth on the Sunshine Coast. (Page 12) (This never happened…BC Parks staff resource constraints noted)
Government, upon park designation, made a commitment to allow for continued management and enhancement of the Chapman/Gray Creek watersheds as future community water supply sources for the Sunshine Coast residents. However, the Park Act does not allow for improvements to existing watershed infrastructure in the park, and new methods of land designation must be reviewed in order to permit this type of non-conforming use within Tetrahedron Provincial Park. (Page 12) (This is what the SCRD has been seeking)
A number of designation options will be prepared and a decision will be sought that will enable BC Parks to authorize the SCRD to enhance and manage the Chapman/Gray Creek watersheds within the park for future population needs. A public consultation process to review any options proposed by government that may affect the existing park status will be implemented. (Page ii) (Again, since the initial Board vote with regards to the Chapman Drawdown Project in 2015 and the completion of a number of items requested from 2 different Ministries, the SCRD has been waiting for over 12 months for this public consultation process)
…review the current designation of Tetrahedron Provincial Park with respect to the SCRD’s need to enhance its water system infrastructure/water use of the Chapman/Gray Creek watersheds within the park for future community water supply. A public consultation process to review any options proposed by government that may affect the existing park designation will be implemented. (Page 14)
Tetrahedron Park Management Plan “Vision Statement”
A Vision Statement for Tetrahedron Provincial Park has been developed for the future and sets the tone for how the park may differ from what it is today. Being clear about the long-term vision helps to guide what should be done in the short-term. The Vision Statement is an important guide for reacting to changing demands for recreation or incorporating new approaches to conservation management. The development of priorities for new management initiatives will be directed by this statement: “The management plan for Tetrahedron Provincial Park will ensure a high level of water quality and quantity for the residents of the Sunshine Coast, while preserving the integrity of the park’s natural, cultural and diverse ecosystems, maintaining its educational and spiritual values, and providing limited backcountry recreational experiences. ”
As referenced further down this page, if one is inclined to believe that an Redesignation of of an area within in a Provincial Park or a Boundary Amendment is unprecedented, unheard of, or unattainable, there have been at least 67 Park Boundary Amendments since 2004, many to do with community water supply. They are listed in this provincial report: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/PBAProcess/pdfs/provincial-protected-area-boundary-adjustments-2004-2016.pdf?v=1517965736527
“Future planners, engineers, politicians and citizens alike will be called upon to demonstrate both vision and pragmatism and be able to frame the issue of achieving water-resiliency in communities against the backdrop of an unpredictable water cycle. This in turn demands the honing of a further skill, that of working together towards consensus, commitment and collaboration.”
Eric Bonham, Partnership for Water Sustainability in BC
(…nothing about confrontation, campaigns, or the politics of entrenchment. I will continue to advocate for a more integrated approach to watershed governance.)