A local environmental group wants the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) to get tough about protecting its community watersheds.
In a Jan. 30 letter, Ross Muirhead of Elphinstone Logging Focus urged the SCRD board to seek a court injunction to stop plans by B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) to allow logging of about 11 hectares within the McNeill Lake watershed.
The injunction, he said, should be sought on the grounds that the SCRD opposes industrial activity within its community watersheds and its essential role is to ensure the water it supplies to residents meets Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Muirhead commended the board for passing a resolution last month calling on BCTS to cancel its timber sale for the McNeill Lake area, but pointed out that BCTS had since “publicly reconfirmed that it intends to proceed with the timber sale,” regardless of the SCRD’s concerns.
“Under this threat, we urge the board to consider taking stronger action,” Muirhead said.
BCTS, the provincial government’s timber sales program run by the Ministry of Forests, told Coast Reporter after the SCRD resolution was passed that it will proceed with the timber sale this month, calling the area within the watershed “low risk.”
In his letter, Muirhead noted that a Ministry of Forests 1997 watershed assessment map identifies the McNeill Lake and Silversands watersheds as “watershed reserves.”
“A second part of the proposed injunction,” Muirhead wrote, “could ask the attorney general to investigate how the Ministry of Forests ‘hijacked’ the watershed reserves’ protected status and allowed timber sales within them, thereby threatening B.C. residents’ right to clean water.”
Frank Mauro, SCRD director for Pender Harbour/Egmont, said he expected the letter from Muirhead would come before the board at the Feb. 7 infrastructure services committee meeting.
“I don’t know if it’s feasible,” Mauro said of the request, adding that he did not want to prejudge the committee’s decision. “My interest is in looking after the water quality in Pender Harbour and to ensure our plans for treatment go ahead according to schedule. If something goes wrong, I don’t want us to be responsible.”
The SCRD is in the pre-construction stage for a new water treatment plant to serve about 1,000 households in Madeira Park and Francis Peninsula.