COLUMN: Questions about logging in Nelson’s water supply

Councillor Valerie Warmington reports on harvesting plans for Selous Creek

This Monday, Oct. 23, Kalesinikoff Lumber will be presenting their plan for logging in the Selous Creek area at city council’s committee of the whole meeting starting at 1 p.m. at City Hall (310 Ward St.). Selous Creek, a secondary water source for the City of Nelson, is slated for selective tree harvesting in response to insect activity (Douglas fir beetle).

One of the questions I have relates to how, or whether, forestry companies ensure that the removal of trees doesn’t impact water absorption and retention within soils.

Another question relates to what precautions will be taken to ensure that logging does not stimulate soil erosion in the area. This is critical as erosion could lead to siltation in the creek, which could have huge impact on the treatment the Interior Health Authority requires Nelson to provide for its drinking water.

Currently, Nelson’s water supply has such a low level of particulate that expensive filtration is not required (chlorination and UV treatment suffice to provide an excellent drinking water quality).

The interpretations of the relevant sections of the Forestry Act that I’ve heard suggest that, should logging cause sufficient siltation to require filtration, Nelson taxpayers would be responsible for coming up with the several million dollars it could cost.

Climate change is altering precipitation cycles in ways that are already putting pressure on municipal water supplies. Simultaneously, pressures to log in watersheds for commercial purposes are rising as alternative economical-to-harvest stands are becoming scarce.

Even in areas legislatively protected from logging such as in provincial parks, pressures to harvest trees are increasing for the purposes of wildfire fuel mitigation and insect control.

Although these are essential activities, it is critical that water quality and supply are not compromised in the process. B.C.’s new Sustainable Water Act is said to offer protections to the quantity and quality of the province’s water supply. However, although quantity and quality of water are sensitive to the removal of trees, the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) session I recently attended on water sustainability offered little information on how the Water Sustainability Act intersects with the Forestry Act.

Nor at the UBCM forestry session did anyone talk about potential changes to business-as-usual resulting from the new Water Sustainability Act.

One forestry official told me that the Water Sustainability Act has no impact on current forestry operations. I found this concerning. Although predictive studies on individual water systems for logging purposes offer some assurance that logging won’t disrupt local hydrological health in the short term, long-term monitoring of the local and larger-scale hydrological impacts of logging essential to ensuring long-term water sustainability are lacking.

This situation is further complicated by outdated hydrological data resulting from the systematic removal of provincial stream hydrometric stations. The gauges providing information on water levels in watersheds serving the City of Nelson were removed in 2015.

In the meantime, forestry operations continue as in the past. While these operations may be in accordance with provincial requirements, the question remains: are these requirements as rigorous and encompassing of larger-than-local hydrological cycles as need be?

Relevant documents and an opportunity to provide comments and questions in advance of logging in Selous Creek can be accessed at www.kalesnikoff.com.

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