Province eyes new process for Howe Sound planning

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
January 31, 2014 01:00 AM

While no senior government funding has been committed for a comprehensive Howe Sound management plan, the province is looking at trying a new approach to get the process rolling, Future of Howe Sound Society (FHSS) executive director Ruth Simons said Tuesday.

"They're scoping it out to see if they could tailor it for Howe Sound," Simons said.

Called a "cumulative effects assessment framework," Simons described it as "a new process that leads up to planning," and involves communities identifying key values.

The idea came out of the Howe Sound Community Forum held Jan. 14 at the Britannia Beach Community Centre, which drew 79 participants, including a large delegation from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), 10 representatives of the Squamish Nation, MP John Weston, and MLAs Nicholas Simons and Jordan Sturdy.

Reaction to the provincial initiative was mixed, Ruth Simons said, with some participants saying they were skeptical about what the exercise could accomplish.

"I think the jury's still out," she said.

Since the new process is supposed to streamline planning, Simons said, "I'm going to be positive about it. Planning has a tendency to be really lengthy and really expensive."

Simons said she was expecting more information from provincial staff and was looking at Feb. 21 to arrange a webinar with forum members, while a "vision and values session" would be held in late April.

"All of these are steps in the direction of developing an overall plan," she said.

A land-use and marine plan, she added, would not limit development options for jurisdictions, but would provide a framework for the region that would enable each area to evaluate proposals against agreed-upon values.

"Right now there's nothing. But we're not trying to take away anybody's options."

Simons said the SCRD delegation, consisting of directors and senior administration, "really showed up and made good comments" at the forum.

Meanwhile, on the morning of the forum, the tugboat Elf sank in the Mamquam Blind Channels at Squamish, spilling about 1,500 litres of diesel and 300 litres of lube oil into the waterway.

The Coast Guard used absorbent pads and booms to collect the recoverable oil, and the cleanup effort was scheduled to be completed on Jan. 20, Squamish Nation administrator for Squamish Valley Operations, Paul Wick, said in a notice to Band members.

"The Stawamus shorelines and beach have been cleaned up and are safe," Wick said in the notice.

Two days after the spill, the Coast Guard raised the 74-foot (22-metre) wooden tug from the channel, but the boat sank again while being towed to the Lower Mainland. The wreck is now sitting on the seabed off Point Atkinson, at a depth of about 120 metres. Due to the depth, the Coast Guard said there were no plans to salvage it.

Simons called the Coast Guard's handling of the accident "very worrisome."

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