There’s no other watershed like it in the Kootenays.
According to retired public health inspector Phillip Jackson, the Quartz Creek watershed that serves the population of Ymir is an unusually pristine environment that produces some of the cleanest drinking water he’s ever seen.
So when he heard news that it was potentially going to be logged by B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS), his first thought was, “Oh no, that’s not a good idea.”
“I’m not against logging in watersheds per se, but this one is so unique and pristine I think it would be a shame to mess with that,” the Bonnington resident told the Star.
“I’m not sure what logging would do to the watershed, but it certainly won’t make the water any better and it’s bound to interfere.”
Jackson noted that the water tests he did during his career from 1985 to 2007 routinely showed that Ymir’s water supply didn’t have fecal coliform levels that other surface water systems had. He said it’s unusually small, steep and shaded — a combination that results in an unusually low level of contamination and bacteria.
“Ymir residents were rightfully proud of their water.”
That’s why Jackson is adding his voice to the growing opposition to the project, spearheaded by the Ymir Community Watershed Action Team (YCWAT) and supported by Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall. The group has met with BCTS representatives, started a petition and embarked on a letter-writing campaign — even vowing to block logging roads if it comes to that.
Then, last Thursday, the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) voted to support them as well. The region’s elected representative Hans Cunningham introduced a resolution to lobby against the project, and the board voted unanimously in favour.
The RDCK will now send a letter to both the minister and deputy minister of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) as well as to BCTS to request they “cease preparations to log in the Ymir watershed due to the impact this operation would have on on the sensitive volume and quality of the water used by the community.”
The same letter will be sent to the Interior Health Authority.
When news of Ymir’s work reached Nelson, the West Kootenay Ecosociety’s Montana Burgess was amazed to hear how quickly the community had mobilized.
“I think Ymir is a really great example of a West Kootenay community that comes together in crisis and in celebration,” she said.
“They’ve quickly organized and mobilized and reached out to the stakeholders, and I think that shows the real people power in the West Kootenay. And I think they’re going to win.
“Logging can be done responsibly and its been an important part of our culture, but logging in a watershed in such a destructive way is absolutely unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, though BCTS has not yet responded to the Star’s requests for comment, it did release a fact sheet on May 15 that outlines their plans for the Quartz Creek. It notes that as part of its 2020-2021 sales plan, they’ve hoping to construct 5.6 kilometres of road to log approximately 65 hectares of forest.
“BCTS will work with the Ymir Community Watershed Action Team during planning stages of development,” they wrote, noting there are 466 designated watersheds in B.C.
“As part of its planning process, BCTS is engaging stakeholders and documenting their concerns.”
If the project goes ahead, they plan to “carry out reforestation of all harvesting areas promptly after harvesting. BCTS reforests at densities ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 stems per hectare and typically have at least four species planted for diversity.”