LETTER: Dec. 20 storm proves Port Alberni’s watershed needs protection

I received an email from my workplace in Nanaimo that said: “DO NOT USE WATER”…

To the Editor,

It’s time the City of Port Alberni expand its boundaries to include our entire municipal watershed and put bylaws in place to end all logging therein. Vancouver and Victoria bought and protected their watersheds decades ago. We can’t afford to buy ours so we must control it. The Dec. 20 storm reminded me again why it is so imperative.

Ask any Alberni Valley resident and they’ll tell you a contributing factor to all those downed trees and power lines was the clear cuts behind them. It’s another manifestation of our antiquated forest policy.

But the most dramatic impact was to Nanaimo’s $72-million water filtration plant installed in 2013 after years of turbidity problems in their watershed. (Comox Valley is building a $110 million plant for the same reason.)

I received an email from my workplace in Nanaimo that said: “DO NOT USE WATER”. The plant was “unable to sustain water production”.

Here I thought fresh water was produced by evaporation and rainfall, not machines. In Nanaimo and Comox we’ve allowed all the natural filtration ‘machines’ to be cut down so we pay to filter it instead.

Port Alberni is still lucky, when China Creek gets muddy we can switch to Bainbridge Lake to avoid a boil water advisory. How long is that luck going to last? When will Island Health say no, build a filtration plant? What will our bill be, $50 million plus operations?

Yes, it goes against the Private Managed Forest Lands Act. Cities are forbidden from enacting bylaws that would limit forest activity on private lands. Yes, we may have to challenge the act at our cost.

But what’s the choice? Free filtration in perpetuity or millions of dollars and hope naively the storms don’t come back and knock out the power to the machines “producing” our water?

Chris Alemany,

Port Alberni

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