Newsletter for July 2019
Happy “Summer”, everyone! We’ve had a thankfully wetter July than expected, and our situation has gone from dire to cautiously optimistic that we won’t run out of water if we keep conserving. Here’s what’s new about:
As part of our efforts to encourage conservation, we have ramped up our communication about our water situation. Check our SCRD website for more updates. Here is the link to the latest water demand update and below is our weekly water use update.
Environmental Flow Needs
Since 2017 we are regulated by the provincial government to send 200 l/s down Chapman Creek to ensure that especially Salmon have a way to get up the stream when they come back. Salmon start returning in August. This 200l/s is based on a 2017 report by biologist David Bates, who recommended that flow rate. In that same report however, it alludes that 120 l/s with increased water pulses when, and only when the Salmon start returning could be workable. To be clear, that difference of 80 l/s is 6.9 million liters per day, or almost half of our community’s demand at Stage 3. If we dial things down to 120 l/s during June and July, we may be able to add as much as 20 days to our reservoir.
We have therefore asked staff to look into the possibility of modifying our environmental flow requirements with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources and Rural Development (FLNRD). This may be an option for us in the coming years and is likely our lowest hanging fruit in terms of return on investment to add capacity. This may also delay the need, or potentially reduce the size of any future reservoirs we may need to build.
But what about the rain?
Our July has been surprisingly wetter than we had anticipated, and that has eased our situation somewhat. A significant rain event like the one around July 8-10thcan refill Chapman Lake and reset our 90-day counter towards 0. It also contributes water to the watershed, and waters our plants, lessening our demand for some time after the event. That being said, not every rain event is significant enough to make a big difference. The biggest problem is that our long-term forecast is still for a hotter than normal summer (2-3 degrees above average), and our reservoirs only hold about 90 days of water. So we are staying at Stage 3, not knowing when or if we will see any more rain until mid-October. Our need to conserve water persists, but at this moment it looks unlikely we will have to go to Stage 4 until mid-August, at least, so that is good news. For a look at whether we’re having significant rainfall or not, have a look at the Tetrahedron weather station.
Do we want a new highway?
This month the Sunshine Coast Highway Society appeared as a delegation before the board asking for a letter of support in their mission to build a “new, state of the art, spectacular scenic highway from Langdale to Sechelt”. The board decided to support their cause. I want to clarify why I chose to vote against it, because from the numerous emails and conversations I’ve had around town, it is clear that I have either not expressed myself correctly, or that the news articles did not quite grasp what I was trying to say… For the record, I am not against a new highway. I merely objected against the current approach to address this issue for the following reasons:
1. The Sunshine Coast Highway Society used a petition with 6000+ signatures to support their argument that we need a new highway, when in fact the petitionmerely asked for a safer highway. I agree, there are some dangerous parts of this highway, and some areas, like Davis Bay, are jeopardized by rising sea levels and more extreme weather events, potentially severing our lifeline. Before we jump to the conclusion of needing a whole new highway, and more in keeping with what the petition actually said, there are many areas that can be improved with some modifications like left turn lanes and regrading, as well as putting in a bypass of Davis Bay.
2. The people of Roberts Creek have the most to lose and the least to gain from a new bypass. Yet we haven’t been properly consulted in this. The severing of wildlife corridors, the impact on streams, the paving over of hundreds of acres in Roberts Creek, the loss of easy access to our recreational areas and the change this highway would bring to our upper Roberts Creek Community has not been discussed. There are also positive aspects. The highway could provide a good fire break for upper Roberts Creek, and make transportation safer and faster. It would indubitably have impacts along the Coast on property values. Most would go up, some would go down. Affordability would likely go down further, while landowners stand to gain from this. All these impacts need to be considered before I feel that I can endorse this project.
3. If the provincial government chooses to spend $200+ million on a new highway, I believe that they will want to see plans that support a much larger population than the one we currently have on the Coast. We have yet to have the debate about how large a community we would like to have here. Do we want to look like North Vancouver or do we impose limits to our growth, like Whistler? This would be determined by a regional growth strategy, and that is a multi-year undertaking with much community and stakeholder consultation up and down the Coast. So I feel like we’re a fair distance off from even entertaining a new highway. In the meantime, I think improvements on our current highway and a bypass of Davis Bay are much more urgent and much more realistic, and the request for a new highway can detract from our more urgent needs.
I feel, as your representative, that I can’t support this initiative without a proper consultation on the positive and negative impacts of this proposal throughout all the affected communities. If the will of the community is to endorse this project, I will happily do that. In the meantime, the board has chosen to support this initiative, and I support its decision because I respect the people that are on the board, the democratic process, and I agree that us endorsing it may in fact put us a bit more on the radar of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure as an area that needs attention.
There are many more exciting things happening at the SCRD, but I have to curtail this newsletter to a manageable length. If your appetite isn’t satiated yet, I can always recommend Donna McMahon’s website, especially her SCRD updates. She has a great way with words and will give you a fulsome rundown on her views.
As we are taking August off, and there will be no board meetings, I will not be available the first Saturday of this month for the Gumboot Session. I am happy to make appointments for specific times, but I will be out of town August 9th to 21.
In case you have any questions or concerns, you can always email me.