Logging in the Community Watershed

Once again, there is significant timber harvesting taking place in the community’s Chapman Watershed, just upstream of our water intake. While there are a number of different land designations in the valley, including Provincial Park, Community Forest, and “Crown” Lands, it is Private Managed Forest Land tenure that raises the most concern with regards to regulatory oversight.

The Private Managed Forest Act that governs logging on private lands contains “Management Objectives” rather than standards, and the Objective with regards to water quality is “to protect human drinking water both during and after harvest”.  However, even when “industry standards for protecting water quality have not been met” as outlined here in this 2015 report to the Managed Forest Council (the regulating body) it is not considered to be a contravention of the regulations. http://mfcouncil.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Chapman-Creek-Assessment_web.pdf

In order for any legislative oversight to be enacted, SCRD staff must prove a deleterious effect on the water at the treatment plant as a result of the logging in question. Clearly, at this point the horse is out of the barn, and standing in your creek.

I have had recent discussions with our MLA about the need to strengthen this act. The Union of BC Municipalities had brought forward numerous resolutions on the topic, including another one this year.

PMFL Chapman Water Intake Image

With regards to the suggestion to purchase the land, such negotiations between Local Governments and private land owners take place “In Camera” (confidentially). There are a number of reasons for this section of the Local Government Act, not the least of which is the potential impact on the selling price, and the fiscal interests of the taxpayer.

In 2016, the landowner initiated a process to halt SCRD Staff access to the Water Treatment Plant’s intake pipe, which for legacy reasons sits on private property. This would have prevented Water Staff from maintaining this essential piece of infrastructure, and from testing the water quality at the pipe’s intake. To ensure the community’s access to its historical water supply, the SCRD Board initiated a successful legal process to expropriate land for an access corridor, a process that requires compensation to the landowner.

More on the topic of Watershed Governance and Land Use issues about 2/3rds of the way down this page.

SCRD Staff continue to closely monitor water quality and are in communication with Vancouver Coastal Health Staff. 

 

 

 

Water…not just a Sunshine Coast issue.

“World Water Day” is this Thursday, March 22nd although I have to admit, for this SCRD Director, lately every day seems like water day! Despite concerns from those who oppose the Chapman Drawdown project either because it is in a Provincial Park, or because current policy is that it will only provide water when we need it, not when we want it, the Board recently voted to continue with the project as part of the Comprehensive Regional Water Plan. 

This week a CBC article with regards to Vancouver’s water future caught my attention.  While there are differences beyond the obvious one of scale (for example, our water supply is less snowpack sensitive) the themes are strikingly similar.  Vancouver appears to be moving in the direction of water metering. They are emphasizing  conservation-oriented a Drought Management Plan. They need to find more supply options. Climate change is impacting their supply more than population growth, as is the case here.

I would encourage you to read the entire article, but the observation below stood out:

“When it comes to expanding supplies, there are a few options. The simplest is to draw reservoirs down to a lower water level than they currently are by adding an intake pipe closer to the bottom.”

As a Board member who came to the same conclusion in 2015, and continues to take the position that we should have access to the deeper reaches of our historical community water supply when needed (despite it being recently wrapped in a protective Provincial Park) the statement seemed refreshingly clear. Vancouver’s Drawdown project on Coquitlam Lake, planned for 2030, has an estimated cost of $800 million.

The full article is available here:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/vancouver-water-shortage-climate-snowpack-conservation-1.4562900

Siphon Photo

In the meantime, those who have opposed to any further changes to Chapman Lake would do well to consider the ecological implications of the alternatives, along with whether a siphon, with its mandated daily helicopter visits, operational risks and vulnerable infrastructure is what we want downstream salmon and humans to be reliant upon in either the short or medium terms. The SCRD is expecting to hear from the Province with regards to the Chapman Drawdown Project shortly.

Here is an update on the status of that project and the SCRD’s 3 other supply-related initiatives.

 

 

I thought that the Provincial Park was supposed to…

“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.

Legislature Photo

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. )

Tetrahedron Park Zoning

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. ” 


 

Park Amendments:

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

Sign Pic B

“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.)

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.

Housing Hands image

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