SCRD calls for halt to planned logging in watershed

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
January 25, 2013 01:00 AM

The province says B.C. Timber Sales has reduced its proposed cut in the McNeill Lake watershed by 38 hectares to only 10.8 hectares, but the Sunshine Coast Regional District wants no logging in the watershed that provides drinking water to more than 1,000 residents.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is calling for B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) to immediately cancel its plans to allow logging within the McNeill Lake watershed.

The board is also asking Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson to address two long-standing issues - why BCTS consistently fails to notify the regional district of timber sales within the SCRD, and why the board's objection since 2000 to harvesting in community watersheds has been ignored.

"I want to voice extreme concern about the process with BCTS," Pender Harbour/Egmont director Frank Mauro said at the Jan. 17 SCRD planning and development committee meeting.

With McNeill Lake/Haslam Creek serving as a community watershed for more than one thousand homes, Mauro said he found it "distressing" that there was no consultation with the SCRD before the cutblocks went on sale.

"These non-consultative methods that they've employed make it extremely difficult, even for people who support a reasonable, productive forest industry, such as myself, to remain supportive," Mauro said.

Directors gave special urgency to their resolution, bypassing the normal board ratification process so that staff could take immediate action.

At the meeting, planning staff said they had found no background paperwork on the proposed timber sale, which had been publicized days earlier by the environmental group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF).

"It took us a little by surprise," planner Teresa Fortin said.

Thanking Ross Muirhead of ELF for alerting the SCRD to the timber sale, Mauro said it's time for BCTS to get serious about following a communications protocol.

"We can't keep posting a sentry on top of the hill to warn us what's going on," Mauro said.

BCTS, however, told Coast Reporter - for the second time in two weeks - that consultation with the SCRD had taken place before its forest stewardship plan was approved on April 1, 2012.

"The Sunshine Coast Regional District reviewed and provided comment on the proposed BCTS community watershed strategy," BCTS said in a written response on Jan. 22. "Follow-up meetings were also held where this particular strategy was discussed. In the case of McNeill Lake, BCTS is applying the necessary due diligence assessments to ensure that proposed harvesting plans are crafted with an abundance of caution and present a low risk to water quality."

In its response, BCTS said it "will be proceeding with the McNeill Lake timber sale," noting the auction date is Feb. 7.

"The area is within the timber harvesting land base and contributes to the allowable annual cut recently set by the chief forester for the Sunshine Coast timber supply area," BCTS said. "This timber sale is an important component of the BCTS coastal sales plan to deliver logs to the market in 2013."

The proposed cutting area for the timber sale spans 32.8 hectares, but BCTS said only three small cutblocks covering 10.8 hectares lie within the watershed.

Originally engineered in 2009, the timber sale area was redesigned in 2012, said BCTS, "and 38 hectares that were previously proposed for harvesting in the community watershed were removed from the plan."

Asked if BCTS was aware of the SCRD's current water treatment plant development in the area, BCTS said it was "aware of the poor water quality in McNeill Lake and understands why the regional district would want to build a water treatment plant."

McNeill Lake was heavily impacted in the 1970s when the outlet on the lake was dammed, BCTS said.

"This raised the water level in two smaller lakes to form the present lake. Natural and artificially created wetlands around the lake are major sources of unwanted organic compounds.The SCRD road to the intake on McNeill Lake is a significant source of sediment source and fecal contamination adjacent to the actual intake."

Compared to the management of these and other issues, BCTS said, "the proposed harvesting plans are considered to pose a negligible incremental risk" and are "well below the threshold of concern for community watersheds."

SCRD staff reported at the Jan. 17 meeting that one cutblock corner lies within 50 metres of McNeill Lake, but BCTS said the boundaries of the timber sale area were not set arbitrarily.

"They were located within the context of a soil hazard displacement and sensitivity assessment and a sediment hazard assessment. The sediment delivery potential and erosion potential were assessed as 'low' and the corresponding overall sedimentation hazard rating for this particular cutblock was assessed as 'low.'

"Other factors considered in this assessment include: climate precipitation, topography, depth to water restriction, surface soil texture, surface coarse fragments, subsoil texture and proximity of adjacent streams. The implementation of ground-based harvesting guidelines and wet weather shutdown guidelines are also prescribed to protect the area's soils."

Also at the Jan. 17 SCRD meeting, directors passed a second motion to be acted on immediately by staff, informing BCTS of concerns over a proposed timber sale in Halfmoon Bay near Homesite Creek, as the site is adjacent to the Suncoaster Trail and an SCRD water tank.

Homesite Creek, Halfmoon Bay director Garry Nohr pointed out, is a growing recreation area with recently built campsite amenities, and plans for a future expansion of the Suncoaster Trail are also in the works.

Directors invited Mark Anderson, Sunshine Coast district manager for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, to next month's planning and development committee meeting to respond to the SCRD's concerns over the two timber sales.


© Coast Reporter

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