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RDCK to press province on water protection and planning

Resolution will be taken to upcoming Union of BC Municipalities conference
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The Regional District of Central Kootenay is pushing the province for community planning that considers the cumulative impacts of logging and other development, especially as they impact water. Photo: Veronica Dudarev/ Unsplash

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has more than 1,000 water systems — more than any regional government in the province, says RDCK board chair Aimee Watson.

But although the RDCK owns 19 of those systems, it has very little authority over the health of watershed ecosystems.

“So what you have is communities that are at the mercy of whatever is occurring on Crown land,” Watson said, and most often that means logging.

Timber operations can damage or destroy individual residents’ water systems, and they can cause landslides or flooding. Large new housing developments are also an issue. They tend to tap into water sources without first checking to see if there is enough.

“There is nobody overviewing this kind of thing, how it will all work together,” Watson says. “And then you throw in climate change.”

The RDCK wants the province to enact legislation that would require developers and timber companies, in collaboration with communities, to prepare detailed community watershed management plans before any development or logging is approved. The legislation would require a detailed look at the cumulative impacts of various kinds of development.

The RDCK board has written this request into a resolution they will take to the annual conference of the Union of B.C Municipalities that runs Sept. 18 to 22 in Vancouver.

If the resolution passes, this will authorize the UBCM to lobby the government for legislation.

Increasing temperatures, drought conditions, and rising rural populations can mean that some areas could run out of drinking water without anyone having the data to predict it or the authority to do anything about it.

The RDCK has been collecting stream flow and water quality data for several years as part of its Watershed Governance Initiative, but there is no province-led planning process in which this data might be shared and used.

“We’re running into more drought conditions, and the ability to understand how to better plan for that is way too siloed.”

Timber companies, the public, and various government departments don’t plan together, or collect data together, for mutual benefit. There is no serious assessment of cumulative impacts of different land uses.

Watson said some timber companies do engage with the public and others don’t, and it tends to depend on the personality of the supervising forester.

But companies are not required to engage in community planning.

“It’s not only water use, though, it’s the safety component,” Watson says. “It’s the landslides, the floods, the geological aspects, those are the ones I tend to focus on a little more, even though water’s running out. Those are the ones where you cannot base (the decisions) on someone’s personality.”

READ MORE:

RDCK entangled in watershed logging controversies

Logging in watersheds among stressors for declining Pacific salmon, experts say

New report outlines how to protect Nelson’s water sources

B.C. floats $100M to protect provincial watersheds

Logging on private land, watersheds fuels controversy

• Teck Coal fined $16M for water quality permit violations in Elk Valley

Preserve first, log second, says West Kootenay rural watershed report

bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com
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Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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