Reviewing the approach to Resource Management in BC.

Roberts Creek and the Sunshine Coast have a long history of conflict with regards to resource use on our land base and in our marine environment.

The current “Professional Reliance” regulatory approach involves the Provincial Government setting the resource management objectives, and professionals, hired by the project proponents, deciding on how those objectives are going to be met. My experience has been that, at best, this situation leads to a lack of public trust in the process. At worst, the stories can begin with the fox and end up in the henhouse.

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The Province is currently seeking feedback about this regulatory approach, and the opportunity is open until January 19th. This is a good chance for citizens to give direct feedback and suggestions to the appropriate decision makers. More context and the survey itself are available here.

There is a website section where “Stakeholders” have their input to the Review posted.  The submissions of the Forest Practices Board, Dr. Briony Penn, and the Association of BC Forest Professionals, among others, make for interesting reading.

West Coast Environmental Law has also produced a backgrounder on the topic.  First Nations and professional organizations are being engaged, and a reporting out is slated for Spring 2018. 

“Chapman Lake is Dead?!?!?”

     I was surprised and disappointed to hear Chair Milne’s comment above in relation to the SCRD’s Chapman Lake Drawdown Project at the December 21st SCRD Infrastructure Services Committee meeting. These comments may or may not have been reported in the press or elsewhere by now.

I was surprised because the people of Sechelt have been vocal in their desire for more source options, and yet their elected representatives seem intent on closing off the door to the option that has current Board support and has progressed the farthest. The Chapman Drawdown project has undergone significant consultation, environmental and engineering work, and has for the last 10 months been awaiting a provincial decision with regards to a public process around the re-designation of an area within the Park or a boundary amendment.

The comment also surprised me because, while the SCRD is moving towards a study of further storage options in the 2018 budget cycle, there are some very practical location, First Nations consultation, land ownership, water licensing and engineering pieces that could take years to realize, and any one of which could present an insurmountable barrier. There is a clear rationale for the order that initiatives were laid out out in the Comprehensive Regional Water Plan, tied in with the eventual need to build more water treatment capacity.

I was also surprised because at the Board table in September 2015, then Director Milne voted in favour of the Drawdown project, indeed seconding the motion to move it forwards. As there has been no recent Board debate on the issue I am unclear on why his mind has changed and what his concerns are. Are his concerns philosophical about the impacting land within a newly formed Provincial Park? Are they ecological, (because those are much broader than just the Park issue)? Are they financial? Are they related to staff capacity? Is it the amount of storage to be gained with the project? Are the related to a personal hypotheses about the provincial decision making process? Until there is a public debate at the appropriate table, the rationale for this proposed policy shift is unclear and should be further discussed.

If I lived in Sechelt I would be asking some pointed questions of my SCRD representatives about what their specific plans are. If those plans involved 1,000,000 cubic meter “engineered lakes” above the town and hospital, and next to the landfill, I would ask some more questions. If they involved flooding a valley, I would be asking other questions. Do their plans involve as-yet-unproven aquifers? Building backcountry pipelines 30 plus kilometers long? How does the conservation side fit in?

     I mentioned that I was not just surprised but disappointed as well. This is because if I am not sure what Sechelt’s SCRD representatives’ rationale or intent is, then the public is not sure. Disappointed because it would seem that Director Milne accepted Gibsons’ nomination for Board Chair with this governance approach in mind, since until now there has been no specific debate or votes during his tenure at the Board table on the Chapman Lake topic prior to his comments. Within minutes of being elected, the Chair spoke of the decisions of the board being made transparently in public, and the role of the chair being one of process rather than politics. This does not feel like that.

Until now, in the interest of reasoned factual discourse, integrated watershed governance conversations, and respect for the individuals involved, I have been hesitant to make the following point. Despite a very high level of broad public engagement around the water, the views and actions of a small handful of passionate, informed and well-connected individuals have had an undue influence on decisions around our water supply on the Sunshine Coast. Because of heroic historical and current efforts to protect the quality of our water supply from weak provincial watershed legislation, our community has a lot of “skin in the game”. However, it is not in the public interest to have what I estimate to be over a million taxpayer dollars worth of staff, engineering and environmental reports, surveys, outreach, meetings and staff time, and the conclusions that are drawn from that work, to be subverted by the few.

I am not talking about the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association. A smaller group have caught the ear of a number of local politicians over the years, and have used a variety of techniques to impede any quantity related infrastructure changes at Chapman Lake. The eventual need for these enhancements was clearly anticipated in the 1997 Park Management Plan, even prior to our heightened awareness of the impacts of Climate Change. It is also my belief that their actions, though motivated by a conservation ethic, will lead to more significant ecological impacts on our peninsula down the road.

I will continue to advocate for conservation and diverse source development, for the short, medium and long terms. I will strive for a steady, informed and transparent governance approach. When asked about the coast’s water resiliency in the face of climate change, I have always answered positively because I am confident we can continue to make the cultural adaptations that it will require. I am less confident today.

Among other aspects of governance, there are 5 expectations of Board members. They are to do your homework and inform yourself , debate publicly at the table, thoughtfully consider other Board members’ viewpoints, vote, and accept the decision of the Board. I will continue to hold my colleagues to that standard.

My views on water are further described at length further down this news blog page.

Wilson Creek “Cutblock E 28”

Land tenure decisions by the Province in the early 2000’s have played out with regards to the recent tendering of Block E28 within the Sunshine Coast Community Forest tenure within shishalh territory. This controversial cutblock, called by some the Chanterelle Forest, has been on the books for a while as the SCCF rotates their harvesting activities between 3 areas on the coast.

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District of Sechelt Council members are well aware that they are shareholders in a forestry entity that harvests all of its wood in the SCRD’s Rural Areas. Block E28 is within an area that the citizens of Roberts Creek have targeted for enhanced ecological protection through our Official Community Plan (the source of these images). Our community is painfully aware of where an OCP sits in terms of forest legislation. I know that the Mayor has been in touch with the province around the cut block .

The Wilson Creek watershed has had a long history of what is, in my view, overharvesting through the years by a variety of tenure holders, many of them private. There are several watershed studies, refutation papers, responses to those refutations, and further reports available for further public research online. There is a strong argument that the tenure that was given to the SCCF included controversial areas to keep the discussion and potential conflict local, while maintaining provincial harvest levels. The SCCF stands to lose their tenure should they not meet provincially set quotas.

It should be noted that the SCCF has committed to not logging for the next 20 years in their holdings above the intakes to the Chapman and Grey regional water systems, and has demonstrated other stewardship initiatives around our community water supply that have not been evidenced by other operators.

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While I don’t always agree with the Sechelt Council’s Granting decisions, if the dividends from the entity end up building covered bus shelters in front of hospitals, residential school memorials, holding wood expositions and creating trails in our community (as opposed to into an off-coast shareholder’s pocket) then we all benefit.

Recently, SCCF Staff and Chair met with the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan Committee to inform them of their plans, and to hear concerns. The meeting was constructive and moved us down the path of mutual understanding. I thank both organizations for their work in this area.

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I look forward to working with the District of Sechelt council, and possibly SCFF Board members with regards to opportunities for further respectful public engagement, sustainable practices, inclusive granting processes, and any other approaches to help the Community Forest with its mission of “Creating a legacy for our citizens by being exceptional stewards of our forest while balancing environmental, economic and social aspirations of the community”

In the meantime, I’m strongly encouraging those who are working in the woods, and those who choose to exercise their democratic rights to express their opinion, to do so in a manner that is safe for all, minimizes ecological impact to the extent possible within their various mandates, and recognizes that we are members of the same community.

 

 

People, Homes, Community and Opportunity

The impacts of a housing market driven by intense speculative demand are growing more and more evident in Roberts Creek and on the Sunshine Coast as a whole. In fact, housing has surpassed water in my unscientific tally of topics discussed during Saturday morning Gumboot office hours.

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Later this month, SCRD Staff will be conducting joint Public Information Meetings with regards to two separate but related Board initiatives.

The first is a review of Rural Area Official Community Plans, and proposed amendments to those plans to support Land Use for Affordable Housing.

The second has been around Short Term Rentals, and the potential consideration of Bylaw changes to regulate their use.

Both initiatives are moving through public processes involving committee discussions, advisory group referrals, questionnaires, best practice research,  and staff reports.

Ahead is a chance to learn more, understand what is and isn’t within the legislative scope of the Regional District, and to share your perspective.  Staff will then bring recommendation reports to the SCRD’s Planning and Community Development Committee for consideration, and then to the Board.

Our Roberts Creek event takes place on Tuesday, November 28th, from 3 to 6PM at Roberts Creek Hall. There are similar meetings that you are welcome to attend at Gibsons Community Centre on Nov 23, and Pender Harbour on Nov 22nd, should the 28th not work for you,

The format will take the shape of  short presentations repeated at 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30, (although the Gibsons event has slightly different hours, see link below), and include time for one-on-one discussion with staff and other attendees, along with a mechanism for specific input.

I would strongly encourage you to follow the link below where you will find more information on the meetings, background documents on both of the topics that will help you maximize the effectiveness of your input. Hope to see you there.

http://www.scrd.ca/planning-meetings

 

PS. Because the Roberts Creek OCP already contained some policies with regards to Affordable Housing, staff have produced a chart to help clarify the proposed additions and deletions:

StaffTechnicalSummaryChartofProposedRobertsCreekOCP_afHousingChanges

 

Stage 4… Again?!?

How can we in 2017 be in the same straits that we were back in 2015 (or 2012, 2009, 2003)? While the timing is different (6 or so weeks later in the season), and some of the baseline variables have shifted a bit (varied consumption patterns, more creek flow for fish, meter savings) the broad pattern is the same.

The fact remains that after a long hot summer we have not had the typical Fall rains that replenish our reserves in the top 3 meters of Chapman Lake. Weather predictions do not include significant rainfall ahead and the forecasts themselves have been acknowledged to be less accurate this year due to climate change. As a result SCRD Staff have declared Stage 4, banning all outdoor water use and have deployed and tested a syphon system to access the further reaches of the lake. Of note is that rainfall at sea level does not necessarily mean it is raining in the high reaches of the watershed.

While we adapt to and consider this familiar scenario, it begs the question “What has the SCRD been up to these past couple of years?” Believe me, after making a very difficult decision around water supply in 2015 I am very frustrated to be in a situation (temporary syphon deployment) that would not have been necessary if the Chapman Access Channel Deepening Project had been completed during this long dry summer building season.

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Some of the ecosystem research done for the drawdown project

Here is a partial list of what SCRD Board and Staff have been moving on with regards to the Chapman Lake Access project:

-First Nations consultation

-Approving Project Financing

-Engaging an Engineering firm

-Commissioning an Environmental Project Assessment

-Commissioning Creek Flow Assessment as per new Water Sustainability Act

-Renewing Permit for Emergency Syphon Deployment

-Correspondence and Meetings with BC Parks, FLNRO (Water Branch), and shishálh Staff

-Discussions with our local MLA

-Meeting last week with Provincial Environment Minister (who oversees BC Parks)

This work is in concurrent with overseeing water meter installation, leak detection, groundwater source study, and maintaining and renewing our existing water infrastructure.

There has been an understandable, if frustrating, lack of provincial inertia due to the change in government.  As it stands now, we are awaiting a BC Parks Process to “pursue either a park boundary modification or a re-designation of the park area before a decision on the permit amendment application can be made” as per a letter sent to the Board from the Ministry in March of this year.

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Meanwhile, there is a similar project above Campbell River, which includes enhancing that area’s water supply with a tunnel and a potential 14 meter lake drawdown in a Class A Provincial Park. It continues apace in conjunction with a very large BC Hydro project.

 

In 2013, 30 or so boundary amendments/area re-designations were made to Provincial Parks were made by cabinet, many for industrial projects, pipelines, transmission wires, and resource roads. I would like to think that drinking water, fire protection, health, salmon and food growing are priorities of this new government along with the protection of ecologically sensitive areas, particularly since this eventuality was anticipated in the 1997 Tetrahedron Park Management Plan.

As in 2015, I am convinced that the medium-term source development approach with the smallest ecological footprint continues to be the addition of up to 1 million cubic meters of capacity (an additional 5 meters of potential lake drawdown) “only be utilized during periods of drought”.   This is for a community that uses between 10-25 million litres of treated regional water per day.  Clearly this approach needs to be combined with Conservation and Demand Management initiatives. Keep in mind that we drink less than 3% of the water that comes from our treatment plant.

Long term adaptation (note the careful avoidance of the term “solutions”) will revolve around source location, treatment facilities, transmission costs, land use decisions, conservation rates and climate change impacts. It will need to be considered in light of the fiscal impacts of Solid Waste, Transit, Parks, Bike Lanes and other SCRD function costs as we work to build a resilient Sunshine Coast.

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Time to turn off the outdoor faucets and bookmark the weather forecast

Looking for some of the Reports mentioned above?  Try here   As always (except Thanksgiving) do swing by the Gumboot on a Saturday morning to talk about this or anything else on your mind.

Farther down this page you will find much more writing on this topic. It should be noted that these are my personal views, and not necessarily those of the SCRD Board as a whole.

 

 

Another summer weekend in the Creek!

What a vibrant and culturally rich place we live. This weekend was a good example…

Bikes in the Creek

Summer parking challenges aren’t just for cars any more!

Creative in the Creek kicked things off at the Gumboot Cafe on Thursday evening. Mandala Painting all weekend. Daniel Kingsbury Basketball Tournament at the School. What seemed like a multi-stage Henderson Beach Music Fest on Saturday. Slow Sunday market and tunes, shows at the Legion and Gumboot…phew…time to slow down on the beach with a good book from our fabulous little Library.

Bus Stop

Surely the most happenin’ Bus Stop on the Sunshine Coast.

I’m sure that I’ve missed some goings on along the way here. A special shout out to the organizers of these events, as they don’t come together without a lot of time and effort from some of the special people who make our Creek what it is. Looking to pitch in? Drop Creek Days Volunteer Coordinator Briar Teal a line at briarteal@gmail.com if you can help out on Saturday August 12th.

 

Canada turns 15000…

Hands up to Nancy and John Denham, their facilitation team, First Nations Witnesses and the approximately 60 community members who attended the Blanket Exercise and Reconciliation Circle on June 24th.

Under the watchful eye of Dean Schutz’ beautiful mural of pre-contact Roberts Creek, participants were challenged more fully understand and process the historical impacts of colonialism. At a time when we are celebrating the birthday of our country, it was a valuable opportunity to build the recognition, respect and relationship that are part of the path towards reconciling our homes on unceeded territory.  Those wishing to stay abreast of  further work in this area can contact Nancy Denham at 740-6400.

Roberts Creek Blanket Exercise

shíshálh Nation Councillor Keith Julius shares a constructive message of resilience, hope and community with attendees

On July 4th, the Nation will be opening an exciting new exhibit at the Tems Swiya Museum next to Raven’s Cry Theater.  The exhibit shares the learnings from a recently discovered 4000 year old burial site of a shishálh chief and his family, and is mirrored by a similar exhibit at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa.

Sat June 24 Blanket Circle Poster

Shoreline Development

Roberts Creekers of all ages strongly value the ecological and social benefits of foreshore, as evidenced by the Green Shores process the community undertook several years ago. This resulted in enhanced ocean setback provisions for Area D in zoning Bylaw 310. Having said that, the shoreline is a challenging blend of federal, provincial and local jurisdiction and sometimes involves eroded historical property survey lines as well as “natural boundaries” that reflect the dynamic nature of this interface area.

The impacts of Climate Change will figure heavily here in terms of sea level rise and storm severity. SCRD Development Permits (required along the shore) take into account Provincial guidelines with regard to these issues, and need to be signed off by a professional.

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The link below will access this and other related resources from the Stewardship Centre of BC

In addition to fulfilling legislative requirements, waterfront owners developing their property would also do well to measure their plans against those of their neighbours and discuss them to ensure that they reflect local aesthetic and environmental norms, as well as meeting the needs of the broader community who enjoy a good walk along the beach at any tide.

There is growing evidence to suggest that human efforts to hold back the tide bear reconsideration as to their long-term effectiveness.

The link below leads to some excellent resources from the Stewardship Centre of BC with regards to shoreline development practices that effectively protect property in an ecologically sensitive manner.

http://stewardshipcentrebc.ca/Green_shores/resources/

 

Sustainable Director Diversity

On Thursday, March 9th, the following Recommendation of the SCRD Corporate and Administrative Services Committee will come before the Board:

That staff report on potential processes for a Directors’ compensation review, including but not limited to Working Groups, qualified individuals, or Citizen’s Committees.

 And that the process timeline allow implementation of any changes for the new Board elected in 2018

I will be voting in favour of the report.

It is too easy to interpret this issue as being based in self-interest. Because anything that comes of this motion would apply only to future Boards and the voice of the electorate will be heard in the interim, I would hope to minimize some of that.

There are so many in our community who serve selflessly in the ways in which they are able. The intent of this initiative would be to foster public discussion around this issue, and for the Board to consider updating aspects of its Renumeration Bylaw, so that the possibility of serving one’s community in this way is open to all, regardless of social circumstances. If elected, they should be able to resource the time that energy that our communities deserve and indeed require in these rapidly changing times.

Recent events south of the border emphasize the need to be reflective about what we value in public governance.

If we choose to be governed at a local level only by those who can currently afford it, then let’s be open and transparent about that. Many cultures have social constructs around whom they choose to govern. However, I feel like I’m on fairly safe ground in Roberts Creek when I emphasize the benefits of diversity, both socially and as an ecological principal that us humans would do well to emulate.

Historically, the role of Regional Director has been “part time”, but as the roles of Local Governments expand, as senior governments download or offload both costs and roles that they previously held, and as new challenges and new communication platforms emerge, so do time demands.  Previous Roberts Creek Directors have set a high standard in terms of their time commitment. Director “Sustainability” has been a topic at recent Local Government conferences,  during the SCRD Board’s recent mid-term Strategic Plan Review, and Provincially as laid out in a CBC article linked to below.

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Back to this week’s readings once the blog post is done.

Within the first 6 months on the job I had voted on about 13 Million dollars of water infrastructure projects. Constituents can be assured that there was nothing part-time about my approach to those considerations. Water is one of over 40 services or functions that the Regional District provides, each with its own distinct budget. This year’s Budget will be in the neighbourhood of 53 Million dollars. I would suggest that the cost of part time consideration of budget proposals could easily outweigh a change in how Directors are resourced.

Ironically, recent SCRD organizational change and efficiencies have been implemented that have included reduced meeting times and have generated cost and efficiency savings at the staff level may have also resulted in reduced income for Directors. The mechanics of remuneration are as worthy of consideration as the “bottom line”. Do we value long meetings (Director per-meeting pay doubles after 3hrs), or do we value being well-prepared for those meetings (no direct renumeration for agenda reading)? Do we value being accessible to the public to hear their concerns, or do we value time spent keeping the community informed (no renumeration specifically linked to these)? Do we value supporting grassroots community groups or committees in achieving their aims, or time spent engaging with outside agencies or senior government. Of course we value it all, and it is all part of the job description. In my view the renumeration Bylaw should reflect that.

I have shared my 2016 T4 slip with the press. This year it comes in at just under $20,000 in taxable income and a further $9000 in a non-taxable expense allowance.  There are other forms of compensation with regard to conferences, health and other benefits that will be transparently laid out in a staff report should a review process go forwards. There are also other costs.

Again, I would hope that this is not interpreted as a “woe-is-me” initiative . I am deeply honoured, humbled and appreciative of the opportunities presented in this job. I would hope to extend that possibility to all across the coast should choose to run and be successfully elected. The rewards of the role are many, particularly in a community as politically astute and generous of heart as Roberts Creek.

I would emphasize again the dozens of community organizations that benefit from the service of those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to give of time and other resources.  Indeed it is what makes the Coast go around. The intent here is to consider changes that would further democratize local governance. 

Here’s a recent CBC article on the topic:
www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/a-disturbing-trend-over-a-dozen-b-c-mayors-and-councillors-have-resigned-in-the-last-2-years-1.3938092

And an interesting 2015 Report from the City of Vancouver (clearly never a great direct comparison, but they often produce well-resourced, in-depth reports) http://council.vancouver.ca/20151210/documents/ptec3.pdf

Back to reading that agenda binder.

Chapman Lake Water Supply Expansion Update

On Thursday, February 16 the Infrastructure Services Committee will receive two reports in relation to the Chapman Lake Supply Expansion Project.

One is an Environmental Assessment Report from AECOM, the engineering firm overseeing the project. At the request of the Ministry, the Board approved $123, 425 for additional Environmental assessment as a follow-up to work done in 1999. The 180-page report  includes an overview of Current Conditions, a Project Description, projected Effects and Mitigation Plans, and numerous Appendices, photos and schematics.

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The report also includes an Environmental Flow Assessment of the lower reaches of Chapman Creek, as mandated by the new Water Sustainability Act. In it, FSCI Biological Consultants reiterated their 2015 findings that that the SCRD’s post-water intake streamflow target of 0.20 cubic meters per second “appears to provide abundant protection” and  “substantial quality rearing habitat” for Chapman Creek salmon (Page 5 of EFA letter, Page 165 of Report).   One area of concern is mentioned, directly upstream of the Hwy 101 Bridge, where the 1950 bridgeworks have resulted in seasonally shifting shallows. This will require monitoring and possibly mitigation.

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The reports have been submitted to BC Parks and the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations, as well as being  referred to the shishálh and Skwxwu7mesh First Nations, and the Board is awaiting their comments.

The Report, can be found in 2 parts towards the bottom of this page, along with an accompanying staff report: www.scrd.ca/chapman-lake-supply-expansion This SCRD page is a good one to bookmark if you want to keep track of the project.

Note that 5 or 6 blog posts further down this page I lay out my reasons for supporting this project in the context of a conservation-based approach to water management on the coast.