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Changes recommended for Mt. Elphinstone watershed logging

Adjustments to 'the extent of harvesting' allowed by BC Timber Sales in the Mount Elphinstone South watershed are recommended in a draft report released March 11, addressing a land expanse with eight stream courses in the Roberts Creek, Elphinstone and Gibsons areas.
Map of Mount Elphinstone South watershed

Adjustments to “the extent of harvesting” allowed in the Mount Elphinstone South watershed are recommended in a draft report released March 11.

The report, prepared for BC Timber Sales (BCTS), covers a land expanse between Chaster and Clough Creeks in the Roberts Creek, Elphinstone and Gibsons areas. It includes eight stream courses. The document, prepared by environmental consulting firm Polar Geoscience Ltd, says its calls for harvesting plan changes are “prudent within the context of climate change and the values present downstream."

The values examined included human safety, roads and other public infrastructure, private property developments and water use rights, as well as fish habitat. Polar Geoscience assessed risks posed to those by changes in surface and groundwater flows resulting from forest harvesting. Factors including peak and low water flows, aquifer recharge, sediment, watercourse channel destabilization and the addition of pollutants were analyzed. The report advocates that BCTS “incorporate a degree of conservatism beyond what previous assessments have identified”.

The report makes 19 recommendations. Those include adjusting the equivalent cut area and silviculture practices in cutblocks throughout the site reviewed, maintenance of natural drainage patterns in the impacted watershed, and to work with the province and local government to identify watercourse road crossings that are currently “undersized in light of climate change” so that those can be upgraded. It also recommends that terrain stability assessments guide planning for harvesting and road building in locations with slope gradients exceeding 50 per cent along with other improvements to road alignment and erosion control practices.

Online review session April 6

BCTS will be holding an online engagement meeting to review the report April 6.  The public can register to attend by emailing [email protected] by April 5. Respondents are asked to include “RSVP to Mt. Elphinstone Watershed Assessment meeting” in the subject line of their email.

The report was commissioned by BCTS in 2020 after individuals and Coast local governments expressed concerns about the local impacts of logging activities on community infrastructure and residential areas. It is intended to provide BCTS with watershed-level guidance on forest development planning to minimize hydrogeomorphic risks. 

More assessment on individual cutblocks to come

BCTS’s Joe Smith Creek cutblock, which it has slated for harvesting auction in July, is included in the review area. Concerns about environmental, groundwater drainage and slope stability issues that logging at that site could create have been identified by area residents and local forest conservation group Elphinstone Logging Focus. In addition, questions about impacts on the supply and quality of water in wells used for drinking water downstream from the cutblock have been raised.

Areas near the Reed Road forest (DL1313) are also examined in the report. In an effort to protect local drinking water aquifers, biodiversity and to manage stormwater flows, the Sunshine Coast Regional District notified the province in July 2022 that it intended to apply for tenure over that BCTS cutblock.

Assessments of watershed risks of individual blocks will be addressed in the next phase of the project, according to the BCTS cover document included with the release of the report.

“There will be other public review periods to seek feedback on specific block level interests.  Harvesting and road building will be a part of these future public review periods,” the Ministry of Forests stated in an email to Coast Reporter