SEHAB ROUNDTABLE CONTRIBUTION – NORTH CENTRAL VANCOUVER ISLAND REPRESENTATIVE – JACK MINARD
4916 Island Highway N.
Office (250) 703-2871
Home - 250.338.4934
Cell – 250.897.4670
COMMUNITY ADVISOR – DAVE DAVIES
O – 250.339.0431
I have had very little contact with constituency groups over the past few months. People who I have talked with however repeat the same four issues SEHAB has identified as priorities:
1) Lack of Resources, regulation and policy to properly protect fish and fish habitat
2) Lack of stock assessment to properly inform harvesting or the WSP
3) A lack of assessment, monitoring or enforcement with particularly “low-risk” activities but also with land use decisions and subsequent losses of habitat. (i.e. The Millard/Piercy estuary now has a condo development on it and there is no opportunity for the estuary to function properly anymore)
4) Confusion and very different benchmarks of protection with the RAR and the perception that the “development friendly” QEP’s are getting the work…
Georgia Basin Vancouver Island Living Rivers Fund has provided funding for the continuation of the Plan through meetings, media contacts and this newsletter. As well, GBLR has funded the MVIHES Water Limited project. Water Limited is delving into what we know, and what we don't know, about our water in the Oceanside area and the Regional District. People may have seen articles in the PQ News plus several information ads - both displaying the Water Limited logo.
The severe drought of 2003 that saw the burning of both BC interior forests and nearby subdivisons was a wake-up call for those responsible for fire safety all over the province. Recommendations were that communities should determine areas of greatest risk. Of particular concern locally, are the areas around the Englishman River Estates subdivision and the Middlegate subdivision. A program to remove "fuel" from the forests along the river was initiated in the summer of 2006. However in the event of a serious fire, more than 900 people could be trapped because there is only one exit- Englishman River Road . One solution
that is being pondered is connecting The Englishman River and Middlegate subdivisions with Allsbrook Road via the gravel road through the Regional Park . One big problem exists though - there would have to be a crossing of Morison Creek. One has to wonder why issues like this are not resolved before any development takes place. More to come on this item.
A fish survey in June started off a bio-inventory of the Englishman River estuary. Led by fisheries biologist, Dave Clough, volunteers netted, counted and identified the creatures that inhabit the shoreline and the intertidal channels of the estuary. Habitat restoration and preservation play an important role in watershed health. For the fish, we are finding that more and more, ocean survival is a factor as well. So with that in mind, our estuary project will include the shoreline and near marine environment. Already the eelgrass beds have been mapped and assessed and an exciting new project (watch for it) will involve mapping the spawning areas of forage fish - those important little fish that our salmon and other larger fish feed on that have, until now, been largely ignored. Our many partners include Vancouver Foundation, Georgia Basin Vancouver Island Living Rivers Fund, Mountain Equipment Coop, Environment Canada's EcoAction, City of Parksville , Regional District of Nanaimo, The Nature Trust of B.C., Ministry of Environment, Shell Environmental Fund, Pacific Salmon Foundation, SeaChange Marine Conservation Society, Parksville-Qualicum Beach Community Foundation, Fisheries & Oceans, Arrowsmith Naturalists, Streamkeepers.
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2008 12:27:21 -0800
Subject: RE: ACCAC follow-up
If a resolution were to refer to the failure of the RAR to adequately
protect the environment I would want evidence to that effect I will pass on
to you a letter from Doug Swift stating his views. I hope to get Ronna Rae
to the new electoral area services meeting next month to address this issue.
I think it would be a good idea to send such a resolution to UBCM we have a
few months to prepare it. I would be looking to put together some good
supporting evidence to be able to speak to it in a knowledgeable way. I did
check the link that you sent to me from the West coast environmental law
group on the RAR but was on old article that speculated on its probable
failure. Let us continue to work on this resolution
From Doug Swift
One major change since the initial and subsequent signing of the MoU is the reduction in resources in DFO and I believe in MoE as well. In April 2003 the HCMP program sunsetted and we lost our Habitat Auxiliaries and I think Alison Mewett's position in the CSRD was changed as well. In addition there have been four full time habitat management staff retire from DFO on Vancouver Island since that time which have not been replaced. Overall, including the Habitat Auxiliaries, we have lost about 1/2 our strength since 2003 leaving 9 staff to cover VI, the mainland inlets and Sunshine Coast. To compensate we each have taken on much larger areas, for example I cover the Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino and parts of Gold River/Tahsis. I am brining this up as if we do sign the MoU with the CSRD and MoE I do not know how much support can be provided given the present workloads. Overall the RAR appears to be working in the Comox Valley. I have attended meetings with my colleagues in other parts of Vancouver Island who have told me of the problems that they have encountered, often it seems due to the QEP's themselves and at times the local government. Here in the Comox Valley we have some very capable and diligent QEP's and the local governments have accepted that the RAR is here and is the way business is being carried out. I do not know if the developers/landowners appreciate the RAR though, especially the individual property owner who want to make some changes to their house or whatever which may be within 30 m of a stream. They see the RAR as an extra and perhaps unnecessary cost. The RAR does provide some consistency as far as how the width of the setbacks or SPEA are established but I do not think it has reduced our workload, in fact in some ways it has increased it. There are some changes as a result of the RAR. For example, on the smaller streams, in fact all but the largest streams, the setbacks /SPEA under the RAR are generally coming in at 10-13 m in width. Under the land development guidelines the setbacks would normally be 15-30m. If the science is sound in the RAR methodology then maybe this is not a problem but it has taken one of the negotiating tools that we once had away from us. In the past we could relax a setback say from 30m to 20-25m in return for some additional stormwater management features. This would help the developer to pay for these features through reduced setbacks, which would still be quite a bit wider than under the RAR. The way it is now there is nothing to negotiate with when the PEA's are coming in less than 15m in width. The other issue is enforcement. The RAR relies on the Fisheries Act and/or local bylaws to enforce the RAR. It has always been difficult to deal with small scale impacts to riparian areas under the Fisheries Act. It is difficult to get an expert witness testify to such incidents, the court does not want to hear minor cases and the Department of Justice normally would not approve them. So who does enforce the measures recommended by the QEP in the RAR report? If it is a sediment related issue DFO can issue and Inspector Direction which compels the owner to take certain measures to prevent sediment from entering fish bearing
waters. But it has to be a significant risk before we can issue the direction so it is not a catch all for every problem. If the owner/developer does significant damage to the SPEA we may be able to charge, but if the impact is just a few trees, likely not. If the RAR report recommends that the owner plant certain areas in the setback (SPEA) who enforces this if it is not done. I see a real role for the local government in the enforcement the RAR under local bylaws or DP's. I note that there are some proposed changes in the Fisheries Act being presented. Although I do not have any details one of the changes is to make regulations for lower risk activities as they pertain to habitat. This may increase DFO's ability to deal with the type of issues that I have been discussing once these changes work their way through parliament.
Proposed addition to the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy
Preamble: A Valley-wide approach to conservation requires all governing jurisdictions to adapt a common method of collecting and displaying conservation habitats (i.e. through maps). Since the environment is subject to change over time, such maps require review and updating. To avoid duplication and confusion as to quality and currency of maps, a central collection and referral agency is required. In the past, this work has been undertaken, in part, by the voluntary sector, namely, by Project Watershed based on its ability to attract private foundation funding.
Purpose: To identify and adaquately resource a single-source environmental mapping organization (such as Project Watershed to:
(A) Organize and maintain a public repository for Sensitive Habitat information maintaining both a Desktop GIS and Internet-based Sensitive Habitat & Inventory Mapping (SHIM) GIS;
(B) Act as technical experts in the area of watershed inventory and GIS mapping and be responsible for day by day management of the repository;
(C) Be responsive to requests for updates to the SHIM GIS and mapping inventory of other important conservation features (following a common referral protocol);
(D) Maintain an inventory of sophisticated mapping equipment and a supply of suitably trained technicians to do mapping work for both private and public groups requiring additional environmental mapping on a cost plus administrative fee basis;
(E) Maintain membership in the Community Mapping network as a way to share resources among other communities and stay current with new advancements
such as new "open source" mapping software (Mapguide, "Enterprise" edition) as well as other sources of advancement that allow for interconnections with other information technologies and mapping networks and ubiquitous services such as "Google Earth";
(F) Provide web-based training to Comox Valley residents, environmental groups, stream and wetland keepers and others who wish to develop their own mapping capability using web-based GIS tools;
(G) Act as a resource to local governments and NGOs in the Comox Valley on environmental mapping issues;
(H) Act as public educators and advocates for the concept that community environmental stewardship is people working together and acting upon their collective sense of responsibility to take care of local land, air and water environments.
To Doug swift
As you know, a blowdown occurred in Headquarters creek adjacent to our hatchery in the spring of 2007 after TimberWest had logged the area. Damage included trees in the river and a broken hatchery waterline. An onsite meeting between yourself on behalf of DFO, TimberWest representatives and Tsloum River Restoration Society soon after resulted in your directive to TimberWest that they clean up the mess : removing trees from the river, fixing some large woody debris to the bank and topping some trees that you thought were in danger of a future blowdown and which could destabilize the bank further.
None of the work was carried out.
Another onsite meeting between ourselves and TimberWest representatives was held on Oct.18. It was obvious then that it was too late in the year, that the water level was too high for instream work. TimberWest agreed to submit another proposal to yourself. Their explanation as to why the work had not been done was that the foreman responsible had died and noone at TImberWest realized this was on his agenda.
In fairness to TimberWest, they also had a strike and we did not pick up their error in time to remind them before water levels werer too high. I would like to point out that we appreciate the timely, direct and professional manner with which you personally have dealt with us. We are aware that a cooperative relationship between us is to all our advantages, including the fish. We also realize that groups such as ourselves can complement your mandate in
a number of areas. This seems to be especially important in light of DFO cutbacks in both funding and people.
Having said all that, we still have questions:
1. Has TimberWest submitted a second propoposal, have you approved it and what is the time frame?
2. Are there any consequences for a private landowner (in this case TimberWest) not carrying out a DFO directive in a timely manner?
3. What is DFO's enforcement policy in this type of situation?
I would like to point out that more trees fell across the river in the storm last week. One has to wonder if it would have happened if the directed work had been done.
Roundtable-Central VI-Feb 2008
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SEHAB ROUNDTABLE CONTRIBUTION – NORTH CENTRAL VANCOUVER ISLAND REPRESENTATIVE – JACK MINARD