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Elphinstone Chronicles: Let’s make a racket for our watershed

Analysing response to BCTS’s 200-page Mount Elphinstone Watershed assessment, and what’s next
Chaster House under siege from flood waters of Chaster Creek during the devastating mid-November 2021, atmospheric river.

We’re in Stage One water restrictions. If you’re not concerned yet, I’m about to put a bee in your bonnet, because our watershed is about to be logged. If you think we’re having problems with drought, flooding, salmon runs and water sources now, logging the face of Elphinstone could knock everything we’ve seen so far right out of the park. 

Here is what happened: Polar Geosciences Ltd. released a comprehensive assessment of the Mount Elphinstone Watershed, completed for BC Timber Sales (BCTS) on March 7. Our local Elphinstone Community Association (ECA), along with the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA) published a response to this BCTS hydrology report last week that got me plenty concerned. 

Their response says the final conclusions don’t exactly line up with the content of BCTS’s 200-page report. Nor do the conclusions line up with the real-life experience of our community. The response from the ECA and SCCA points out that certain creeks are missing, wells are misplaced, the risk levels of our waterways are woefully underrated, and assumptions about our aquifer are made. The assessment suggests logging won’t affect downstream communities, but then all I can picture is Chaster House in Bonniebrook. Yikes. Elphinstone Logging Focus had their own concerns, and the Coast Reporter covered their response to the BCTS assessment last month. 

The BCTS assessment is dense reading material, but with extensive mapping, and interesting bits throughout. I am super grateful they commissioned this study because lots of valuable information has come out of it. Was it important? Yes. Was it dry? Duh. Maybe not surprising, the conclusions drawn from that information seem eager to justify BCTS’s mandate to profit off a pretty sensitive patch of forest. 

Gibsons Council members asked BCTS why they are proceeding to log atop this source of drinking water, and BCTS staff simply explained, “It’s because that’s our land use designation.” They stated, “If you want us to stop logging in the watershed, you need to change the land use.” Years ago it was designated to be logged, therefore, it will be logged. They’re just Bobby Brown blasting “My Prerogative” as they clear cut mature forests off Mount Elphinstone, affecting the entire aquifer recharge area and our downstream communities. I grew up in a RivTow family of the ‘80s; This isn’t an anti-logging industry narrative. There is a great deal of Crown land we could log. Why harvest timber directly above the first community in Canada, in 2022, to declare a state of emergency due to impacts of drought on water supply? 

Okay, get to the good stuff, how do we fix this? In her own commentary on the BCTS Hydrology Report, Area E Director Donna McMahon says, “It’s the province that has the power to make that happen, as well as to make sweeping changes to forestry policies and practices that have been needed for a long time.” So we have to make a racket at the provincial level. The ECA/SCCA response letter calls for, “First Nations, all levels of government, community, and industry, including BCTS, to work together to develop a Water Sustainability Plan.” Getting our priorities straight with all involved parties is important, but it sounds like the biggest challenge is changing the land use designation in our provincial legislation so Mount Elphinstone and our water supply are protected in the long term. Let’s get concerned enough that we actually make it happen. 

Comments and feedback for Area E welcome at 

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