Newsletter for April 2019
With spring comes planning for summer. So without further ado:
What’s the deal with water?
Our SCRD Director for Area E, Donna McMahon, has done a wonderful job describing our situation. Check that out here. So what does this all mean? We are looking at a potentially more dire situation than in 2015. Conservation is key. We are revising our drought management plan to reflect this situation. I know, it is very upsetting to hear that we are looking at another summer of water shortages. It is especially painful for those of us who are trying to grow food. Part of our considerations are trying to accommodate food growers more appropriately. Here is the good news: Solutions are in sight. Here is the bad news: We will likely not have any meaningful additions to our water supply until 2022. Large quantities of high-quality drinking water can’t be procured quickly. There are regulations, licenses, treatment, transportation, energy (to power pumps) and other factors that take time to put together. The expansion of our drinking water supply and re-investment into our water infrastructure should be an ongoing process, and nothing meaningful has happened for over 30 years and that has brought up to this point. Staff and Board are working diligently and with urgency to create solutions while keeping affordability in mind.
Just as a recap, here is what we’ve been up to:
1. Church Road
We have approved to go forward with our application for a well field on Church Road. This application can only be sent off after a full year of collecting data in our test well at that location. Once the application goes off to the Province, we hope everything will go smoothly and we will have approval to go ahead in late 2020. We will then have to build and connect two wells in the area, do the necessary testing and we hope that all that will be in place in time for summer of 2022.
We have received the preliminary desktop study to identify several sites for potential reservoirs. We have now approved further funding to get boots on the ground to evaluate the most promising locations. A reservoir will not come cheap, and it will have a considerable ecological and carbon footprint in the Chapman Valley. I personally will not approve the construction of a reservoir without putting in a more concerted effort into conservation. The best way to achieve that is through universal metering. Gibsons was able to reduce their water consumption by 50% through metering. There is a lot of potential in Sechelt to achieve similar results in my opinion.
3. Rainwater collection
The SCRD is offering $500 rebates to anyone wishing to install a water catchment system on their property. For conditions to apply to this program, check here.
4. Meter installation
This one is a bit of a thorn in my side, as I don’t see the rationale of pushing for a $16-30 million reservoir without universal water metering. Staff is working on funding options to install the remaining water meters in Sechelt after the citizens of Sechelt refused to approve extra borrowing to finance the installation. The cost is in the realm of $5 million. The potential gains in conservation are considerable (20%+), and when that referendum happened, I believe it was a situation similar to Brexit, where the people who voted were not given the complete picture. It is also inevitable that we will need meters, as any and all cooperation and funding from the provincial and federal government is likely to stipulate that we have implemented universal metering. To use a metaphor, we need to plug the fuel lines before we throw more fuel in the tank.
I am appealing to all of you to spread the word that we are in a water emergency. We need to do our utmost to conserve. Embrace the golden lawns. Fix leaky faucets/toilets. Install drip irrigation. Collect rainwater. Proudly show off your dusty cars. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. Go pee outside. Shower, don’t bathe. Contact a gardener and start xeriscaping your yard.
In April the whole board went to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Conference. This conference gives elected officials a chance to meet, connect and share their respective problems and solutions. It is also an opportunity for the provincial government to touch base with municipalities. As part of the advocacy process for the BC government, AVICC offers an opportunity for municipalities to propose resolutions that the rest of the elected officials present can vote on to bring it forward to UBCM, the body representing all of BC municipalities. Once adopted there, these resolutions are given to the provincial government to action on. I am happy and somewhat proud to have our resolution to declare a climate emergency passed with a large majority. Thanks to the great word-smithing of our Interim CAO Angie Legault and our Deputy Corporate Officer Sherry Reid, this resolution also got the “Gold Star” prize for best written resolution. I also got a tour of the historic movie theater in Powell River and we got to have some fun at the banquet and dance.
Howe Sound Community Forum
Squamish Nation Territory is generally defined by the watersheds that drain into Howe Sound. Roberts Creek does not drain into Howe Sound, but it is the boundary between the Shih’shalh and Squamish Nations. I and the whole board acknowledge the importance of our First Nations in our common future, so I jumped at the chance to participate in this forum. The Howe Sound Community Forum in its current iteration is very focussed on protecting sensitive habitats within the Sound and are working towards declaring Howe Sound into a UN Biosphere Reserve. Much has happened in the last 20 years to remediate some of the damage done to the ecological systems in Howe Sound, mainly stemming from mining and Howe Sound Pulp and Paper in Squamish. The meeting was held at Camp Fircom on Gambier Island, so it was nice to go see a new place and have a look at the wonderful facilities there.
May is going to be a big month. We have the coast-wide intergovernmental meeting coming May 16th. We will be honing in on our final strategic plan, which will set our priorities and give direction to staff and us in the years going forward. We will likely see some more short-term rental discussions, some more solid waste discussions, and the Grant-in-Aids will be announced. I thank the committee that helped me wade through a lot of large applications this year. We are also working away at finding a new CAO. I am very happy with the direction of our board at this point and I am confident that we will accomplish much in the next 3.5 years.
More at the beginning of June!
In case you have any questions or concerns, you can always reach me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This newsletter will also be published to my blog at https://andreastize.com