Drinking Water Sacrificed in BC's Forests

by Delores Broten

The BC Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA) has released three more reports in its long-standing campaign to raise the alarm about incursions into community drinking watersheds, and the removal of those watersheds from protected status. Through archival research, the BCTWA has uncovered maps and documents that reveal decades of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand, ignoring the legal protection of watersheds as provincial Land Act Watershed Reserves to the benefit

of logging companies.

BCTWA's 2006 book, From Wisdom to Tyranny, detailed the scandalous fate of BC's protected drinking watersheds.

In May, The Community Forest Trojan Horse discussed a highly controversial attempt to insert a Community Forest License into the Sunshine Coast Regional District's primary and secondary water supplies, the Chapman Creek and Gray Creek Watershed Reserves. At the heart of that issue is a long-fought local struggle to protect these watersheds, including a 1998 regional referendum in which an overwhelming majority voted against logging and mining in them.

Two reports in July and December 2008 concern real estate and commercial recreational developments in Rossland's city watershed, Topping Creek, including details of how BC'sChief Forester began sidelining these Reserves in the 1960s.

In November, BCTWA co-ordinator Will Koop wrote to BC Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell, protesting the issuance of a 99-year Community Forest License to the Creston Valley Forest Corporation since the license lies "within the boundaries of four community watersheds and Watershed Reserves." Koop reminded the Minister of his government's Reserves legacy: "These Reserves, numbered at over 300 in the early 1980s, were to legislatively protect community drinking watersheds from all dispositions…"

The Alliance has told the Forest Stewardship Council BC Regional Process that it welcomes the community forest tenure as "an important, necessary, and legitimate process – on one condition: Stay out of community drinking watersheds." It also notes that Metro Vancouver (1999) and Greater Victoria (1994) now enjoy reprotected drinking watersheds.

In its letter to the Forests Minister, the BCTWA continues to claim that, during the 1990s Commission on Resources and the Environment land use processes in the Kootenays, knowledge of the reserves was hidden from the public:

"We discovered that provincial government planners who sat at the Land Use planning tables, who were legally bound to bring all information forward…[failed] to inform the public about the Watershed Reserves. What we infer from this neglect, intentional or otherwise, [is] that it rendered the Land Use Plans and related management planning illegal, from the perspective of lands bounded by these Reserves."

To date, the provincial government has rejected the BCTWA's repeated calls for a legal or judicial inquiry into the fate of many provincial Watershed Reserves.

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For more information and to read the numerous reports prepared by BC Tap Water Alliance, with documentation, visit www.bctwa.org

[Watershed Sentinel, Jan/Feb 2009]

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