ELF launches campaign against McNeill Lake logging

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
January 18, 2013 01:00 AM

Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is raising concerns over a plan to log a portion of the McNeill Lake watershed south of Madeira Park, but B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) said the proposed harvest has been in its operating plan since 2008 and will not alter water quantity or flow in Haslam Creek.

On Jan. 15, ELF issued a news release saying BCTS was planning to "log an area of 42.4 hectares directly in the McNeill Lake community watershed," which provides the source of potable water for about 2,300 residents in the Madeira Park and Frances Peninsula areas.

"Logging in the McNeil Lake community watershed should be of great concern to the residents who rely on the water for their domestic consumption," ELF said in the release. "BCTS is setting the low price of the timber sale at $500,000. The long-term damages to the drinking water could exceed the gross revenue of the timber sale."

However, when contacted by Coast Reporter, BCTS said only 10.8 hectares will be logged in the community watershed under its harvesting plan, while two other cutblocks spanning about 22 hectares are situated outside the watershed.

"Wildlife tree retention areas covering 7.5 hectares are linked to the proposed 10.8-hectare harvest area -an amount well in excess of the legislated retention requirement of 10 per cent," BCTS said in a written response.

"The retention areas would buffer McNeill Lake and tributary streams from the proposed harvesting."

BCTS is currently advertising a timber sale in the Haslam Creek/McNeill Lake area, with Feb. 7 set as the closing date for tender submissions.

Consultations with Sechelt First Nation began last summer and were concluded last month, BCTS said in its response, adding that its forest stewardship plan was approved on April 1, 2012, following consultation with the public, First Nations and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).

"The areas where BCTS is proposing to harvest timber are considered low-risk," BCTS said. "They are located away from important local creeks, they have no inherent geotechnical instabilities, and roads can be safely constructed and managed to avoid any perceived risks."

BCTS also noted:

It commissioned community watershed assessments in 1997, revising them in 2004 and 2009. "The most recent assessment found that this watershed is in good hydrologic condition and the proposed timber harvesting levels carry negligible risk."

The Haslam Creek/McNeill Lake watershed comprises more than 1,600 hectares, with the 10.8 hectares proposed for harvesting in the community watershed representing less than one per cent of the total forested area.

A sediment hazard assessment addressing water quality identifies best management practices (BMPs) for road construction and harvesting that are specific to the geology of the area. The BMPs recommended in the assessment have been incorporated into the harvesting plan for the timber sale and "will ensure that the soil displacement and sediment migration hazard potential remains low."

"The magnitude of the proposed harvesting," BCTS also said, "falls well within the most conservative limits outlined by traditional watershed assessment recommendations."

Regarding the economic return, BCTS confirmed that the upset stumpage rate is $20.39 per cubic metre, but said it expects higher bids will be received.

Since the SCRD assumed ownership and operation of the South Pender Harbour water system in 2008, ELF is asking the SCRD to hold an emergency meeting in Pender Harbour to discuss the proposed logging in the watershed.

SCRD staff contacted Jan. 15 said they had just been made aware of BCTS's harvesting plans and were still in the information-gathering stage.

Contacted Jan. 16, ELF's Ross Muirhead said the SCRD's reaction proved that BCTS did not properly consult the public.

"Our main point is that there wasn't adequate consultation, from the SCRD down to the water users in the area," Muirhead said.

On the discrepancy between ELF's and BCTS's figures for the proposed size of the cut within the watershed, Muirhead said ELF based its number on the BCTS harvest plan.

"I have to conclude that what you were told by BCTS is questionable and contains spin," Muirhead said.

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