Sunshine Coast Water First Society
Daniel Bouman, Chair
1025-D North Road
Gibsons, BC V0N 1V7
February 18, 2001
Re: Drinking Water Protection Plan Discussion Document
The Sunshine Coast Water First Society is a registered organization that promotes the conservation of drinking water resources through public education, community advocacy and research initiatives. Over the last ten years our members have conducted extensive research into the history of the Chapman/Gray Watershed Reserves which are the main sources of drinking water supply for the 30,000 residents of the Sunshine Coast Regional District.
This research has focused on four areas:
1. The history of disturbance, both natural and industrial.
2. The history of scientific evaluations that have been brought to bear on the watersheds at various times.
3. The history of law, policy, implementation and statutory conflict as they relate to the management of the watersheds.
4. The cumulative effect of timber management on the capacity of the watersheds to provide safe, reliable drinking water for the dependent population of the Sunshine Coast.
What follows is a very brief summary of the results of those studies.
The lands within the Chapman Watershed are naturally and obviously prone to mass movement while the terrain of Gray Watershed is relatively stable. There are examples of naturally occurring landslides in the Chapman drainage but none in the Gray drainage. Well over 500 logging related landslides have been documented in these watersheds since 1967. All slides in the Gray Watershed are logging/road building initiated. Only the high elevation catchment basin of Chapman Creek and a small area of Grey Creek remain undisturbed by landslides and logging as these areas are now protected within the Tetrahedron Provincial Park.
A series of land stability inventories and scientific evaluations undertaken in the early 70s were used in the preparation of one of the province's first Integrated Resource Management Studies (MoF Experimental Project 732). This study produced maps accurately identifying all the unstable terrain in the Chapman drainage as well as a scientifically sound plan for restoration of already damaged lands. More recent terrain stability mapping in the Chapman drainage, completed under the auspices of the Chapman/Gray Integrated Water Management Plan process (1993) have only confirmed the earlier work. The salient fact of this history is that the inherent risks of logging and road building in the Chapman Watershed were very well documented and clearly understood by the Ministry of Forests and members of many other agencies by 1974.
Virtually every government of this province since 1969 and every Minister of the Ministry of Forests has at one time or another offered assurances to the people of the Sunshine Coast that logging would not be allowed to impact water quality in the community watersheds. In 1975 Chapman Creek was even re-designated as a Watershed Reserve under Section 12 of the Land Act. Gray Creek was re-designated in 1986. Those Watershed Reserve designations are still current today as can be demonstrated with a tenure inquiry through the BC Lands. The terms of this designation have never been enforced and the results are unequivocal.
Our research into the history of activities in the sensitive areas of the watersheds clearly shows that the Ministry of Forests pushed forward logging plans despite the objections of officials in the Health Department, Water Resources Branch, Water Investigations Branch and later, Water Management Branch. During the years between 1976 and 1989 logging roads and sidehills in the Chapman and Gray Watersheds were collapsing into the main channels on a regular basis creating severe water quality problems for the Sunshine Coast Regional District. Despite this desperate situation officials with legally mandated responsibilities for water quality were never able to influence the course of logging in the community "watershed reserves".
The actions that were ultimately effective in stopping the destruction in the watersheds were the suits filed against the MoF by the Sunshine Coast Regional District in 1989 and 1992. These cases are currently held in abeyance but there has been no logging since they were initiated. It is worth noting that in its statements of defense the MoF contends that it has no legal obligations to water users or water license holders either publicly or privately held.
The impacts to the capacity of the Community Watersheds to provide safe drinking water have been severe and will be long lasting. Approximately 6 million dollars have been spent on restoration and remedial projects since 1989. As well the SCRD has invested a similar amount in facilities to deal with typically sudden flushes of turbid sediment laden waters. Water pH is currently very acidic and more investments in water filtration technology are also necessary. Certainly the watersheds are showing the benefits of ten years of no logging, but full recovery will require at least 150 years. Ultimately the local taxpayer will bear the burden of restoring the watershed and coping with its degraded condition.
Conclusion and Recommendations
1. Change the structure of management authority. It is unconscionable to allow the Ministry of Forests to function as the lead agency in designated community watersheds.
2. Localize management authority. Purveyors of water need sufficient authority over land use to carry out their responsibilities to the public.
3. Designate Community Watersheds as Watershed Reserves. Settle the land use conflict in Community Watersheds in favor of communities.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to address these very critical issues.
Daniel Bouman, Chair,
Sunshine Coast Water First Society
Does the DWPA address the issues raised in the submission of the Sunshine Coast Water Society of February 18, 2001?
Recent events: Last spring, prior to the provincial election campaign, Forests Minister Gordon Wilson announced in a "town hall" meeting that the government recognized the concerns of the people of the Sunshine Coast regarding the Chapman/Gray Community Watersheds, and was prepared to allow for a devolution of management authority over these watersheds, to the regional level of government.
In July of this year, Interfor's 2001-2005 Forest Development Plan for this area (FL# A19220) was given approval. This plan contains a new category "A" approval for logging within the Community Watershed Reserve. This is the first logging approval since the court case of 1992 (Sunshine Coast Regional District vs. Her Majesty the Queen in right of the Province of British Columbia).
The stage is now set for conflict as the Ministry of Forests and Interfor have asserted their right to log while citizens and regional government are preparing to pursue their rights to clean and affordable water. Has the DWPA clarified this situation? The short answer is No it has not. None of the recommendations offered in our original submission have been implemented. The basic conflict between agencies with responsibilities for the provision of water (SCRD) and those with authority over landuse (MoF/Interfor) are unresolved. That the DWPA avoids the issue of authority over source areas of potable water supply indicates that this legislation has not succeeded in protecting the citizen's interest in water. Instead, the Act reflects the view of the former Minister of MELP, Ian Waddell, that conflict over management authority in watersheds is "another chapter in the war in the woods".
There are references in the DWPA to "plans", "referrals" to other agencies, "consultations" etc. The press release of April 5, 2001, describes the DWPA as "improving the regulation of water systems and the protection of water sources". None of these measures are new and none have worked in the past. On this issue of protection of water source areas the Act is vague and consequently weak. Over the last decade, approximately 6 million dollars has been spent on restoration of the Chapman/Gray Community Watershed. Sunshine Coast residents have also invested a similar amount in treatment facilities and will soon spend an additional 6 million on water filtration, all of which is a direct consequence of logging activity. Obviously, it is time to abandon the management system that didn't work and move toward one that will. We believe that the public expects legislation that clearly establishes the right of communities to safe drinking water. The DWPA does not protect sources of potable water. We stand by our original recommendations. Thank you for your attention to these critical issues.