VIDEO: Ymir residents decry planned watershed logging

Talks with BC Timber Sales are ongoing as concerns about water raised

It’s about a kilometre from his house.

These days few people have intimate knowledge of their watershed, but Ymir resident Jason Leus can drive to the collection pond that provides water for his entire 400-person community in about four minutes.

The pond — which is significantly smaller than an average 25-metre swimming pool — is located on a burbling stream called Quartz Creek on the other side of the Highway 6. It features a dam and a small intake system that feeds their nearby treatment facility, which was built in 2008.

“We have no reservoir of any kind, we only have this pond,” Leus told the Star on Monday morning, during a tour of the area.

“Our entire watershed and water system relies on being in the shade so we don’t lose water to evaporation and we don’t get algae build-up from the sun. If we lose the canopy, we lose that.”

And that’s what could happen if proposed logging goes ahead in the steep, heavily forested area. Near the end of April, B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) communicated their intention to develop three cut-blocks — the Ymir collection pond is located in one of them — via a “courtesy letter” to the region’s elected representative Hans Cunningham.

Cunningham represents Area G of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK), which is made up of Hall Siding, Ymir, Ross Spur, Airport Road, Erie, Porto Rico, Nelway and Salmo North. He met with the BCTS representatives at the RDCK office.

But the company wasn’t met with a favourable response. Cunningham summarized his thoughts thusly: “This would be an absolute disaster for our water.”

Now Leus, along with the five-person Ymir Community Watershed Action Team (YCWAT), is gathering petition signatures and holding public meetings to make the community’s concerns known. So far they’ve mobilized nearly half the population, with their first meeting drawing 168 people with only two days’ notice.

Representatives from BCTS and Ymir residents addressed the community last night after the Star’s publishing deadline. A story on the meeting will be published in the Friday issue.

Passions are running high, according to Leus.

“The stakes are as high as they get. Water is essential to our existence, and we are so close to crisis as it is in hot, dry summers. We have a supply issue already. If anything else is done to endanger our source of fresh water, we could be in very big trouble.”

And it won’t take much to mess things up, according to Cunningham.

“Quartz Creek isn’t fed by smaller streams. Basically it’s like a great big giant sponge that oozes water. It’s in a deep, sharp basin that has many tiny rivulets that run into it. As they build the logging road, they’re going to cut right through where all these seeps start,” Cunningham said.

“They said they can build culverts wherever there’s a stream, but that’s the problem: there aren’t many big enough.”

And increased turbidity could be a problem if there’s run-off from the logging and road-building.

“Right now the quality of the water, if you look at it, there’s a deep blue and you can see right through to the bottom of the pond. This is high water season, so most streams are chocolate or brown. But we’re so clear we only have to change filters a few times a year,” Cunningham said.

“If we get turbidity we might have to change the filters once or twice a week, at $300 a filter, so the cost would be tremendous and we don’t want that either.”

Cunningham will be presenting a resolution to the RDCK board during their upcoming meeting that expresses his concerns and opposition to the project.

“It’s basically going to say, ‘keep the hell out of our watershed.’”

But Leus wants to keep things civil with BCTS.

“Our relationship so far has been going pretty well. They’ve been cordial and informative, over the phone and by email, and I’d like the relationship to continue in this way so it facilitates us having a co-operative relationship,” Leus said.

“Ymir residents are pro-responsible logging. It’s really important because a lot us rely directly or indirectly on the logging industry.

“So this isn’t an anti-logging story, it’s ‘please don’t log in our watershed when it could negatively impact us.’”

BCTS has communicated to Leus that they are ready to have a conversation.

“As soon as they were informed of our concerns with lack of supply during hot, dry seasons and the sensitivity of the volume of our collection pond, they have said they are open to options. I’m not sure what that means, but hopefully we’ll figure out more with these meetings.”

He feels that if things go wrong, they could be in a full-blown crisis.

“We rely on this water to live. We can’t afford to lose this.”

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Ymir’s water treatment facility was constructed in 2008. Photo: Will Johnson

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