Ymir residents are taking their concerns about proposed logging in their watershed to Premier John Horgan.
In a letter released Thursday, the Ymir Community Watershed Society details what it refers to as “procedural unfairness” in its communications with BC Timber Sales (BCTS) regarding development plans in the Quartz Creek watershed.
BCTS has said it plans to log in the area of the watershed, which is Ymir’s only water source.
“It is very clear that our concerns are not being heard by local BC Timber Sales staff in Castlegar, and so we’re appealing to a higher level of government,” said society spokesperson Jason Leus.
The letter, which was also addressed to Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources and can be seen at the bottom of this story, alleges six ways BCTS has failed to address local concerns. They include:
• BCTS has not considered or committed to an alternate water source for the community if logging damages Quartz Creek. Leus said a short-term emergency plan drafted before Christmas only details day-to-day operations and doesn’t address secondary water supplies or forest fire contingencies.
• BCTS has continued to operate as though the development is inevitable.
“We’re talking about a process of engagement with the community of Ymir and a complete disregard for that process,” said Leus. “If at the beginning of the process we are told it’s not a case of if but when, it clearly illustrates that there is in fact no process.”
• BCTS is not using site-specific hydrometric data to assess Quartz Creek, and has also rejected the society’s proposal to apply for funding to pay for an independent assessment. Leus said BCTS used data from 14 other watersheds for its own assessment.
“The conclusion is that everything is going to be fine. But again, there’s no contingency plan and it is Ymir’s only source of potable and fire hydrant water. So without it, we have no Ymir.”
• BCTS has not communicated with the public and told the society it would be too costly to pay for assessment authors Alan Bates and Lars Uunila to answer written questions about their work.
• All the risk of the plan is entirely on Ymir, and that a BCTS employee suggested in the event logging affects water supply that “residents could adapt by reducing their individual water consumption.”
To illustrate how little water Ymir currently has, Leus, a volunteer firefighter, said the current supply could be entirely expended on a single residential house fire.
“We are dealing with the least possible amount of supply we can get by with currently. If our supply is damaged or reduced at all by quantity, we’re in dire straits.”
• Finally, that BCTS did not consider the 5,000-plus letters it received during a referral period from June to August 2017, and that only 60 were responded to.
Leus said a new BCTS plan changes the proposed road network, which requires another referral process. The deadline for feedback is Feb. 9.
The Star forwarded the letter to BCTS timber sales manager George Edney. In response, a spokesperson for the forestry ministry said in an email that BCTS has a meeting scheduled with the society and the Regional District of Central Kootenay on Feb. 12.
The email confirmed two assessments have already been done, and that a third focused on the potential for acid rock and mineralized drainage is underway, but did not specifically reply to the letter’s allegations.
Leus said he hopes the society’s letter puts Ymir’s battle on the provincial stage.
“There is a fundamental injustice at work here where the community of Ymir is forced to take all of the risk from this project while BCTS and the province of British Columbia is getting all the gain, all the reward. This is one of the most upsetting things about this thing.”