The Sunshine Coast Community Forest (SCCF) unveiled the most comprehensive assessment to date of the Chapman and Gray Creek community watersheds at a public meeting in Sechelt on March 10.
And while president Glen Bonderud reiterated SCCF's pledge not to log within the community watersheds for the next 25 years, environmentalists who attended the meeting at the Seaside Centre raised a number of objections and concerns.
About three years in the making, the study was commissioned "to provide a strong scientific basis for SCCF management to make informed decisions" on future plans for the community watersheds.
"This is not a log plan," Bonderud said. "It's not cutblocks. It's just a watershed assessment, period."
The report looks at historic water flows, sediment sources and effects of past logging and road-building, and sets risk zones based on terrain stability and potential for landslides that could cause turbidity events at intakes.
The watershed supplies 90 per cent of residents and businesses in the regional water service area. Forty per cent of the watershed area for Chapman Creek, the primary supply, and 72 per cent of the Gray Creek watershed are included in the SCCF tenure.
During a question period, Hans Penner of Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) said the study area excluded "a major tributary to Gray Creek," which also "wasn't mentioned once" in the presentation, though he said it forms about one-third of the Gray Creek watershed as identified in Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) and provincial maps.
But the study's author, engineer Glynnis Horel, defended the omission.
"East Gray Creek is not part of the community water supply area," Horel said.
Disagreeing, Penner added: "My guess is that the direction we're going in here is in the near future we'll see logging plans in East Gray Creek."
SCCF operations manager Dave Lasser said there were no plans to log in the area at this time, "but if it is outside the designated community watershed area, I would say there is a potential for that."
Sunshine Coast Conservation Association chair Jason Herz asked whether the decision to log will eventually be made by the joint watershed management committee - consisting of the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) council and the SCRD board - or "a profit-based industry."
Lasser said the provincial government would ultimately make the decision.
"It's not me standing alone, Jason," Lasser said.
Herz asked if the SCCF would log in the watershed if the joint management committee opposed the move.
"I honestly don't know what options I have in there," Lasser said, drawing a few jeers when he added that he would "talk to" the SIB and SCRD about any future plans.
Among those who congratulated SCCF on the study, Mike Lowry asked what the impact would be on the timber harvesting land base.
Lasser said he knew when the study began that the impact would be negative.
"Now we have to sit down and figure out what those negative impacts are, how big they are and what it means going forward." Constraints on harvesting within the area are already significant, he said. "This study has had an increased negative impact on that."
The study can be found online at www.sccf.ca/forest-operations/planning. A draft version was presented to the joint watershed management committee in December.
Sechelt Community Projects, which operates SCCF, was incorporated as a B.C. company in March 2005 with District of Sechelt as sole shareholder.
© Coast Reporter