Sarah Thomas of the Watershed Forest Alliance holds up Christmas cards that forum attendees were invited to send to Island Timberlands

Sarah Thomas of the Watershed Forest Alliance holds up Christmas cards that forum attendees were invited to send to Island Timberlands

Watershed action urgent: Fraser

Former Shawnigan Lake director delivered his message to a packed room.

“The time to act is now” was the message delivered by outgoing Shawnigan Lake director Bruce Fraser on protecting the Alberni Valley’s watershed.

Bruce delivered that message to a packed Search and Rescue Hall that included local residents, Island Timberlands representatives and city officials during a watershed forum organized by the Watershed-Forest Alliance and Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser.

Bruce Fraser said that the concerns he’s heard voiced in the Alberni Valley about watershed protection are similar to the worries people are having all around the province, as well as the issues he dealt with in Shawnigan Lake.

“Shawnigan is feeling that human footprint, everything from climate change to gravel beds,” said Bruce, comparing the situation there to the Alberni Valley’s, both in terms of industry encroaching on the watershed and the provincial government’s seeming lack of initiative in terms of dealing with any problems that may arise.

“Our senior governments have basically retreated from the fields in so many cases, leaving us with a damaged environment and too little control to do anything about it,” said Bruce, adding that public support was key to getting a say in watershed planning.

However, Bruce said that Port Alberni is in a better place to take action with its watershed than was Shawnigan Lake, which is an unincorporated electoral area with no municipal council.

“We had to create local civic infrastructure [in Shawnigan Lake] to try to gain some authority to be involved in watershed planning,” he said. “Here you already have a council and you are a municipality, you don’t have to reinvent that.”

Having the civic authority in place means that “city council will have to step up to continue to put pressure on the various interests” in the area, said Bruce.

The recently passed Water Sustainability Act will be key to gaining control of the watershed.

“It has a clause in it that enables local governments to become involved in some of the responsibilities for watershed planning.”

While the details aren’t yet hammered out and regulations won’t be written until 2015, Bruce said that this is the ideal time for Port Alberni to position itself to be a part of the dialogue.

“City council should be having a dialogue with government about their role under the Water Sustainability Act and they should do so as soon as possible.”

That’s the sort of action Scott Fraser is hoping for from Port Alberni’s new city council, some of whom were in attendance at the forum.

Scott said he was frustrated by the lack of action he’s seen from the province. He cited correspondence between Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Steve Thomson and environmental experts that stated that areas currently being logged in the China Creek watershed by Island Timberlands should not be logged as something that should have spurred the province into action, rather than being ignored.

“I need support from local government, from the regional district, from the city of Port Alberni,” Scott said, adding that on his own, he doesn’t have enough clout.

“We still have a chance to have some control over what happens in our region. The local government has that responsibility and I think we’re going to see this local government take that seriously.”

Until local governments pressure the provincial government into taking action, there’s not much that can be done.

“Private land is private land, you can do pretty much what you want with it,” said Scott.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

twitter.com/AlberniNews

Just Posted

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

A mantle of smoke overhangs the city of Port Alberni, indicating a thermal inversion of the sort that commonly traps harmful smoke particulate in winter. (MIKE YOUDS PHOTO)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District one step closer to burning bylaws

ACRD staff make amendments after public engagement

Aidan See played for the North Island Silvertips during the 2019-2020 season. (PHOTO COURTESY RON HAYES)
VIJHL: Port Alberni Bombers add hometown talent to roster

Junior B hockey club signs Aidan See, Blake Power and Grayson Erickson

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A Lotto 6/49 ticket purchased in Parksville for the June 19, 2021 draw is a $3M winner. (Submitted photo)
Winning Lotto 6/49 ticket worth $3M purchased on Vancouver Island

Lottery prize winners have 52 weeks to claim jackpot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read