Area D director Kelly Backs wants logging of BC Timber Sales (BCTS) cutblocks TA0521 near Joe Smith Creek delayed pending further review.
Detailing three areas of concerns related to forest harvesting in the upper slope areas near Roberts Creek, he filed a motion to that effect for Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board consideration. The item is slated to be on the April 6 board meeting agenda.
It calls for the SCRD to request BCTS withdraw the blocks from current operating plans until concerns over potential impacts of logging on downstream properties, water users and infrastructure have been addressed. It requests BCTS complete hydrogeological studies to assess potential impacts on area well and surface water supplies. In addition it would have the SCRD ask the province to legally designate TA0521 as a spatial Old Growth Management Area for recruitment purposes which Backs cited as recommended by the BC Old Growth Technical Advisory Panel.
Backs told Coast Reporter in a March 27 interview “We just can’t keep cutting trees. I understand that we need to have lumber. We need to build with wood and it is a renewable resource, but for the future and the safety of the people that live on the Sunshine Coast, we need a buffer between these kinds of industrial activities and our population. These particular blocks come right down to our roads, right down to existing houses.
“One of the major concerns for me is the disruption of the ground water for the well users. There are approximately three dozen licensed ground or surface water users within that area. If this [logging] activity were to disrupt the water supply for even one of those users, what is going to happen? Is the SCRD going to start supplying them water, because that is going to cost lots of money. It doesn’t matter if its 30 households or 3,000 households, these people have a right to clean, safe water.”
In his view, BCTS auction of logging rights for the cutblocks, slated to happen as early as July, needs to wait until the area’s timber supply review and the third phase of the Mount Elphinstone South Watershed Assessment are completed. Online public engagement sessions regarding the supply review are scheduled for March 29.
Watershed assessment report review
Backs also noted that the area to the west of the Chaster Creek watershed, including Joe Smith Creek, will not be addressed in detail until the watershed study’s third phase. The first two phases of the watershed assessment will be the subject of an April 6 session. Residents have until April 5 to request a Zoom meeting invitation by emailing BCTS.SunshineCoast@gov.bc.ca using the subject line “RSVP to Mt Elphinstone Watershed Assessment meeting”.
The recently released report on the initial phases of the watershed assessment was reviewed at local meetings held between March 22 and 24. The Gibsons council, the Elphinstone Community Association, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association and the Sunshine Coast Regional District board were provided with a “walk through” of the work conducted and recommendations. BCTS forester Pierre Aubin along with Lars Uunila and Robbie Johnson representing Polar Goescience, the consulting firm that authored the report, delivered the overviews which were followed by an opportunity for questions and comments.
At the SCRD event, Area E director Donna McMahon stated her major concern with the report was a lack of response to what she called rapidly environmental changing conditions.
“When it comes to Mount Elphinstone, BCTS is a relative latecomer to the out-of-control party that’s trashing the house. However that’s not an excuse for making a bad situation worse," she said.
“Many parties are authorized to make land use decisions that affect our watershed, and not one of them is responsible for the results. Who paid for the 2020 washout of Lower Road? Taxpayers and the individual homeowners whose property was damaged. If BC Timber Sales is wrong in their risk assessment, will they be on the hook to fix resulting damages? No. We will,” McMahon said.
In an email following the presentation to the SCRD, McMahon commented “We could spend a lot of time nitpicking the findings of the report; the real issue is the level of risk and the fact that the decision-maker on how much risk is 'too much' is BC Timber Sales, who are not liable for the consequences to those of us below their cutblocks."