Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition

Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition
Source to Tap - protecting it for future generations

Protecting our Water

CVWWC - presents the latest public education newspaper insert ,
Follow this link for coal watch and click on the image
to read the latest news about threats
to your drinking water in the Comox Valley

C.V. Drinking Water Reference Guide- NEW EDITION now available

Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition is proud to present

the newly revised edition of the

Comox Valley Drinking Water Reference Guide
now found at this link
please read abstract below

2011 CV Drinking Water Reference Guide- by Sonya Marie Jenssen - Abstract


Understanding the source to tap routing of one’s drinking water is a complex task. This guide intends to simplify a multi-faceted process without losing the complexity involved in the protection, treatment, maintenance, and monitoring of drinking water supply systems.

The management of a drinking water system touches all government jurisdictions, the municipal, provincial, and federal each with some level of responsibility for water quality and quantity. An extensive legislative framework and subsequent practice is in place to ensure that Canadians receive safe drinking water; even so, concerns continue to arise over the governance and management of water quantity and quality. Specific areas of concerns include climate change impacts, the use of chlorine, water quality on First Nation’s reserves, emergency preparedness, and water conservation measures.

This guide is designed to move readers through the source to tap path that drinking water travels everyday to households. Examples will be taken from Comox Valley water suppliers to highlight the working nature of legislation pertaining to water sources, along with the treatment, maintenance, and monitoring of our drinking water.

Ultimately, this guide hopes to inspire and inform the reader about the complexities involved in providing safe, clean drinking water to your taps at home and work. The next time you drink a glass of water take a moment to reflect upon the matrix of ecological and human ingenuity necessary in ensuring that each and every glass of water does indeed sustain your life.

“Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water”.

~Albert Szent-Gyorgyi 1893-1986, Hungarian Biochemist, 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine

Sonya Marie Jenssen, M.A.

Water Policy and Research Specialist

Your Water Your Future

PLEASE FORWARD TO YOUR LISTS The Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition will be hosting a two-day public forum on Saturday, May 29, and Sunday, May 30, 2010. At 9 am on Saturday, May 29, 2010, there will be two bus tours leaving Bowen Park, one to the City of Nanaimo Water facilities and another into a watershed. Each tour will operate twice so all attendees will be able to go on both. It is estimated that the city tour will take two hours and the watershed tour will take three hours. Lunch will be provided following each tour. At 9 am on Sunday, May 30, 2010, at Beban Park the day will begin with some amazing speakers: Maude Barlow, Rafe Mair, Corky Evans, and Arthur Caldicott. The day will also include four workshops by four great teachers: Andrew Gage an environmental lawyer with West Coast Environmental law Legal Options for Source Protection; Ingmar Lee community activist The Industrial Logging of Nanaimo’s Drinking Watershed; Trevor Wicks Looking at the Source: A Well protected Drinking Water Supply; Robin Mathews Privatization: Local, National, and International Theft The intent is to allow everyone to attend all workshops by limiting the sessions to fixed times. A full lunch will be provided on this day as well. Registration will be necessary to allow the organizers to hire buses for the water supply tours, as well as to adequately prepare for the meals. Registration details will be posted on the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition website at the end of April. You can pre-register now by emailing These events will be free for all attendees. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Coal Mine Coming - Open house Wed Oct 28

Compliance Coal Corporation plans to have a new coal mine up and running in the Comox Valley within 18 months. They think the public is in favour of this mine,butComox Valley Water Watch Coalition has a lot of unanswered questions about this mine.
In brief, the mine would be an underground mine starting above Fanny Bay and reaching to Baynes sound , producing about 2 million tons a year of coal with 700,000 tons of waste.
We must know how much water the mine will use, where they will ge the water, what they will be doing with the polluted water from washing the coal, and what the mine's impact on water, wells and aquifers will be.
The mine is having their 1st public open house the Weds. October 28th at the Fanny Bay Hall from 4p.m.- 9p.m.
They will be asking what they need to cover in their environmental assessment. If you put your questionon the record, they will have to answer them.
Coal's responsibility for greenhouse gases and global warming are not part of the environmental asssessment , but that doesn't mean those questions should not be raised.
BC has a carbon tax on heating fuel for your house, but we sell lots of coal to add to global warming.
This has impacts for the whole of Vancouver Island not just Fanny Bay !
Please attend this open house and show the coompany you care !
4-9 p.m. Weds. Oct. 28
Fanny Bay Hall
For more information on this project go to

Standing room only Fanny Bay Hall

Standing room only in Fanny Bay

Fanny Bay Hall jammed with residents anxious to discuss proposed coal mine operation Marcel Tetrault Comox Valley Echo Tuesday, December 01, 2009 So many people are interested in the coalmine proposed for Fanny Bay that residents had to be turned away from a meeting last week due to fire regulations. The Comox Valley Coal Watch Coalition coalesced at that meeting, as close to 200 people packed the Fanny Bay Community Hall to learn about the project and ask questions about its impact. "We were extraordinarily pleased with the turnout," said Delores Broten, a member of the coal watch coalition's media committee. "That turnout shows the level of concern there is in the community. To turn people away is an organizer's dream." The Compliance Energy coal mine proposed for Fanny Bay, currently in the environmental assessment process, would extract about two million tonnes of coal per year for the next 20 years. The purpose of the coalition, said media committee member Delores Broten, is to figure out which questions should be asked during the environmental assessment process, advocate for clear and timely responses to those questions and to inform the public of the answers. "We don't know enough," said Broten. "You have to ask the questions in exactly the right way, and it is unfortunately up to us to ask them. It is totally terrifying, because we're just citizens. We're not the right people to be doing this, but there isn't anyone else. "You've got to put it on the agenda, that's the issue. And it's up to us to put it on the agenda, because we don't know if anyone else would put it on." Those who attended the Thursday evening meeting raised a host of concerns and questions. They ranged from the impact of coal extraction on surface water and underground aquifers to its impact on property values and the tourism and shellfish industries. They also asked about coal dust being blown from waste piles and stockpiles as well as from the 70 to 100 trucks that would be required to transport the coal to port every day. Compliance had considered using trains for transport to port, but a letter from company CEO John Tapics to the environmental assessment office rules that option out. Coal would instead by transported by truck via the Inland Island Highway to transport ships at either Port Alberni, Middle Point in Campbell River or Duke Point in Nanaimo. Another concern was the sulphur content of the coal. Broten said that, due to pollution laws, coal cannot be sold that is more than 1.5 per cent sulphur. Sulphur is a cause of acid rain. Bill Hamilton, now 84 years old, was employed decades ago at the former Tsable River mine site in Union Bay that worked the same coalfield Compliance is considering. Hamilton said he was told in 1958 that the mine was closing because the coal couldn't be sold due to its high sulphur content. "There's lots of coal," said Hamilton. "They had six-foot seams in that mine. "We had ships from China and Japan coming in here taking the coal, you know, 10,000 tonnes. It looked good and then all of a sudden they found out there was too much sulphur for the smelters." In fact, Hamilton said the coal from the Fanny Bay mine was so high in ash that it was used as a component in cement and, at one time, a coal briquette plant was set up at the minesite. "They tried everything," said Hamilton. "The people here tried burning them in their woodstoves and the soot was just unbelievable. "They experimented and did all sorts of things. It's too bad, but it was one of those things." Compliance Joint Venture's Raven coal project website can be found at, while the Comox Valley Coal Watch Coalition's website can be found at Let’s talk coal mining” at the Fanny Bay Community Hall, 7793 Island Highway, on Tuesday November 24th at 7:15 PM The Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition has been asked by Compliance Coal, proponents of a major new coal mine for the Comox Valley, to participate in its Community Advisory Group. The request included a list of the company's conditions of participation. CVWWC has replied with its own conditions before the drinking water watchdog will attend more meetings held by the coal mine wannabe. The Coalition is insisting that it must be free to speak to the communities, government or the media without asking permission from the mine’s Community Advisory Group. The Coalition also insists that their attendance at meetings to get information should not be interpreted as working towards approval of the mine. “We must be able to report to the public on what we find out about coal mines,” says the Coalition. “Our unanswered questions about water are pretty simple,” said Delores Broten, speaking for the steering committee of the Coalition. “Where is the water to wash the coal coming from? How much water is used in the process per tonne of coal? and ,What is going to be done with the polluted water?” Since there is no groundwater legislation in BC, the Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition wants to know what Compliance is going to do to protect the drinking water of Ships Point and Fanny Bay. The first stage of this mine, the Raven stage, is going to extend for 7660 acres (3100 hectares) underground. What does that mean for all the water? The public can read all the information the CVWWC gathers, as well as the letters-to-the-editor which are not published in the papers, at . Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition is sponsoring a public community meeting for information and discussion, “Let’s talk coal mining” at the Fanny Bay Community Hall, 7793 Island Highway, on Tuesday November 24th at 7:15 PM. For More Information: Or phone: 250-335-0747 or Delores Broten, 250-339-6117

CVRD Water Open House June 11, 2009

C.V. Water Watch is asking you to attend:
The Comox Valley Regional District's WATER FORUM
Thursday, June 11th from 3:30 to 7 p.m. Florence Filberg Center

In attendance
– City of Courtenay, City of Comox, CVRD, B.C. Hydro, Ministry of Environment, VIHA, DFO, Timberwest, Comox Valley Water Watch, Courtenay Fish & Game Club, School District 71 students.
Find out about:

Water sources
Water Efficiency
Water Consumption
Regional Water Strategy
Water Wise Program
Water Finances
Quality and treatment of water
Drinking Water Protection

Come out and get involved. Your Drinking Water needs your interest and participation.

Ask questions about
Can your drinking water sources meet the needs of future growth?
What is the 4-3-2-1?
Does your Water source meet the new 4-3-2-1 regulations set out by VIHA?
Are smaller communities going to have to meet the new 4-3-2-1 now, then tie into a regional water system and pay again later?
When do our rural communities tie into a Regional Water source?
What is the Regional Water source? Is it protected?
Are any of our drinking watersheds protected?
Are the Timber companies planning to subdivide land around Comox Lake ?, the drinking water suply for 38,000 people.
Is there really a private power operation application on the Cruickshank River, the largest tributary to Comox Lake? How will this affect the water supply? Are there going to be special regulations for IPP’s (Independent Power Projects) on watercourses which feed drinking water supplies?
What is a deep water intake? Why are we waiting to install one till 2019?
What type of pipes deliver water to your home? Are they asbestos?
Is there money being allocated for replacing these old and hazardous pipes all over the Region?
Are Water meters the answer? When will they be installed? How much will this cost?
If you are on a limited income, how will you be able to afford all of the new infrastructure costs coming your way? Who will pay these high prices for infrastructure needs?
Do you approve when local governments grant permission for a development, then indemnify themselves in the event the community runs out of Water?
Do you think proven water supplies need to be in place before developments are permitted?
What kinds of bylaws are in place to support water conservation? What more do we need to do to support local governments to enact bylaws to better conserve water?
Who do you call, when you see exsessive sprinkling by one of the municipalities on public land ?
Why can’t I re-use my grey water, or can I?
Can I treat my rain water system and use it for drinking water?
What are the water needs of our growing agricultural community to be able to produce our food supply?
We hope that you have read this list of questions and it has prompted you to ask even more. Ask how you can participate in the Regional Water plan. How can you REALLY get the citizens voice out there and heard when it comes to your Drinking Water ?

Hope to see you there. We will be bringing our 3D-watershed map!

Comox Valley Water Watch Steering Committee
Delores Broten
Kathleen Kinasewich
Linda Safford
Dawn Christen

Ground Water Wells -Aquifers

C.V. Water Watch - speaker Series

Manager of Nanaimo Regional Water Services to Speak on Cooperative Approach to Drinking Water and Watershed Protection.

On Thursday, April 2, Mike Donnelly, Manager of Water Services for the Regional Water District of Nanaimo, will speak on a new program in his district called Action for Water that is providing improved management and increased security of ground and surface water resources. The talk will be given at the Florence Filberg Seniors Lounge beginning at 7 pm. Hosted by the Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition, the event is open to the public and admission is by donation.

The Action for Water program was created over the last year to help address issues associated with impacts on the region’s water resources and to improve our approach to land use that would then assist in reducing further degradation," he says. "This was done with the help and guidance of a committee representing a variety of region-wide interests including Electoral Areas residents BC Ministry of Environment, the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Islands Trust, local well drillers, forestry interests and conservation groups

"Population growth in the (Nanaimo) region along with existing land uses continues to put pressure on ground and surface water sources which impacts our watersheds and drinking water. These impacts have already led to negative changes in many watersheds and reduced and or contaminated ground water sources in a number of areas throughout the region," notes Donnelly

According to Kathleen Kinasewich, who heads the Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition, "It’s important to hear success stories from other regional districts, especially here on the Island. I think folks here will be greatly encouraged to learn more about Nanaimo’s program, and how residents, government and other interested parties came together to take action on water protection."

Donnelly currently oversees the operation of seven water systems and six sanitary sewer collection systems in his district ranging from small to medium sized operations with a total service population of approximately 15,000 people. In addition to the service provision aspect of Donnelly’s work, he is now responsible for the implementation of the Regional District’s newly established Drinking Water Protection service.

In addition to his 15 years of involvement in the management of public water systems, Donnelly has also managed the Region’s Liquid Waste and Solid Waste functions and was manager of Regional Transit for a number of years. He holds a Technical Diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

For more information on CVWWC and the presentation, contact:

or call 250-335-0747. Kathleen Kinasewich

Drinking Water Protection Plan

Drinking Water Protection Plan Needed

Novemeber 18, 2008

The Water Watch Coalition is asking you to support the development of a Drinking Water Protection Plan. If you value safe drinking water in the Comox Valley your letters of support are needed right now!
The Provincial Health officer has recommended the development of a Drinking Water Protection Plan (DWPP) for the Comox Valley Regional Water Supply. Under BC's Drinking Water Protection Act the plan would become an "Order" once it was approved by Mary Polak, Minster of Healthy Living and Sport (HL&S). A Drinking Water Protection Plan is simply an order from the Ministry of HL&S for our area to start working together on a plan to better protect our drinking water supply. This DWPP would enable our region to start working together in a transparent and inclusive planning process and would allow all stakeholders and consumers of drinking water in the Comox Valley to contribute to the plan. –i.e. we will make the plan.
A key advantage to an order for this plan is that once the plan is completed it would go to cabinet and what cabinet approves will become regulation and will then be implemented. Please note that this order would not dictate the contents of the plan, but simply ensure that the plan be completed by the community. Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition is asking citizens to write Minister Polak to say you support the development of a Drinking Water Protection Plan for the Comox Valley Regional Water Supply. Tell her the safety and security of our water supply is extremely important and that the Drinking Water Protection Plan will help achieve those objectives.
This is an urgent request to act right NOW. One paragraph saying you support the DWPP is all that is needed. Even if your house is not served by the Regional Water Supply you are affected when you drink water in town, at a friend’s, or at a public event.
Hard copy letters are much more effective but you can also contact the Minister by phone, fax or email.
Send your letter to:
Minister Mary Polak
PO Box 9067
Victoria BCV8W 9E9
Phone: 250 387-3504
Fax: 250 387-3420
E-mail the Minister

In addition to writing the Minister please send a copy of your letter to Water Watch Coalition at:

Campbell River's tap water places fourth

For the second time in as many years, a B.C. municipality won a U.S. award for having the second tastiest tap water among entries from Canada and the U.S. The tap waters of three B.C. towns were among the top five winners. Clearbrook took a silver medal, followed by Elkford, which took bronze, and Campbell River, placing fourth. The awards came after weekend tastings at the annual Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting, which judged more than 100 waters from 23 U.S. states and 11 countries in various categories. "Obviously they've got a good well," Abbotsford mayor George Ferguson said Tuesday of the tap water of Clearbrook, which amalgamated with Abbotsford more than a decade ago. Dean McKerracher, mayor of Elkford, said he was pleased that his town's tap water -- drawn from a well -- took third place. "I'm very pleased and glad staff took the initiative to send it in," he said Tuesday. He said the nearby town of Sparwood won third place last year in the best tap water category, so Elkford decided to challenge the neighbouring town's claim on having the best-tasting tap water in the Elk Valley, located in the southeast corner of B.C. in the East Kootenay area of the Rocky Mountains. The winner of the tastiest tap water, for the third time in four years, was the town of Montpelier, Ohio. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a former gold medal winner, ranked fifth among 29 tap waters entered from 13 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. The tasting competition takes place each year at the Winter Festival of the Waters in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, which bills itself as home of the first warm-water spa in the U.S., discovered by former U.S. president George Washington. "Congratulations to all the good water out there in B.C.," water-tasting event producer Jill Klein Rone said Tuesday. "You have good water." She said the tastings were conducted by 14 judges, including journalists from the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun newspapers. Winners were chosen using a maximum 44-point rating in six categories: appearance (up to five points), odour (five points), flavour (up to 10 points), mouth feel (five points), after-taste (five points) and overall impression (up to 14 points). "It's like a wine testing," Rone explained of judging. "Some waters are coming from a pristine source. But others, like the water district of southern California, aren't pristine, so they're cleaning it up and delivering a good product." Contact:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Drinking Water Reference Guide Release - Friday April 18th!

CVWWC has produced a condensed version (4 pages and user-friendly) of the original Comox Valley Drinking Water Reference Guide, which will be included as an insert with the April 18th edition of the CV Record. It is a keeper!

It will be a separate item from the "Go Green" supplement; a map of our region is on the front cover. We welcome feedback on it from everyone. Thanks for your on-going support.

It is also available on-line at:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

John Calvert speaking April 22nd!

The Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition, in co-sponsorship with the Council of Canadians and the Comox Valley Environmental Council, will host an informative program ., Tuesday, April 22, regarding the privatization of water and hydro. Featured will be John Calvert, Vancouver-based author of the recently published Liquid Gold Рa well researched expos̩ of the changes in store regarding water generation and supply here in our province. The talk will begin at 7 pm at the Florence Filberg Centre; admission is by donation.
According to the book review appearing on, "In an argument against energy privatization, this revealing account shows how British Columbia's successful public system is being supplanted, exposing taxpayers to the risks and uncertainties associated with the United States energy market. With British Columbia's energy system gradually integrating into the larger Northwest transmission grid—a grid largely controlled by U.S. energy corporations—this survey shows how the Canadian government has gone to extraordinary lengths to assist the growth of private energy investments in British Columbia and how such subsidization poses a danger to key contributors to the province's prosperity."
"The privatization of our run-of-the-river water power resources by the provincial government is happening under the radar screen," said Calvert. "It will result in ratepayers being forced to pay billions of dollars more for their energy in the coming decades. There has been no public discussion of the long-term implications on future prices, community impacts, the environment or the ability of citizens in BC to maintain control of their electricity system in the future… Citizens need to be aware that the province is giving away our energy and environmental rights, and if the silence continues they'll get away with it."

John Calvert is an associate professor at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches public policy. He has a PhD from the London School of Economics in political science and an MA from the University of Western Ontario. He is the author of three books on Canadian public policy and economic issues and currently sits on the executive board of BC Citizens for Public Power.

Beech Creek response from the BC Tap Water Alliance

Caring for, Monitoring, and Protecting
British Columbia’s Community Water
Supply Sources
P.O. Box #39154, 3695 West 10th Ave.,
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. V6R-1G0
Email –
Website –
April 3, 2008
Chair & Council Members
Private Managed Forest Land Council
301 – 3980 Shelbourne St.
Victoria, B.C. V8N-6J3
Comments and Critique of PMFLC’s March 13, 2008 Decision
re TimberWest Logging Violation in Beech Creek,
Comox Lake, Vancouver Island (File IN0703)

On May 21, 2007, I registered a complaint to the PMFLC wherein I provided photos and
description of an alleged violation of clearcut logging along the Beech Creek water course by
TimberWest (the complaint is registered, along with presentation information about Comox Lake,
in a section on the Tap Water Alliance’s website, under “Community Watershed Issues”). On April
1, 2008, some ten months later, I finally received information about my complaint, a copy of
executive director Stuart Macpherson’s cover letter of March 26, 2008, and attached documents.
Reading the summary of facts, I was disappointed and astonished to learn that the PMFLC
· has rescinded its September 27, 2007 Determination charging TimberWest with a $35,000
penalty for two violations under Section 18 of the Private Managed Forest Land Council
· and found on March 13, 2008 that “TimberWest could not have contravened the regulation”,
because it “exercised due diligence under Section 29 of the Private Managed Forest Land
As argued below, I find it hard to believe that such a blatant violation of clearcut logging stretching
200 meters along a riparian zone on Beech Creek in the Comox Lake drinking watershed could
simply be brushed off because the logging company, TimberWest, was considered by Council to be
an upstanding and conscientious steward over its timberlands.
The Facts
The following are the “facts” as stated from three 2007, PMFLC documents found on the PMFLC’s
website (
As documented in Stuart Hamilton’s July 2007 CW500 Block Assessment of TimberWest’s 2005
forestry operations at Beech Creek, “the left bank was completely logged and no trees were retained
in the riparian area.” Though not specifically stated in the contents of Hamilton’s report, the map on
page three of the report indicates some 200 meters of riparian area was completely removed.
Stuart Macpherson’s July 23, 2007 assessment report to the PMFLC states on page 2: “from my
review of the facts outlined in Mr. Hamilton’s report it appears that the owner has contravened
section 18 the Private Managed Forest Land Council Regulation as during harvesting sufficient
trees along a 200 m section on one side of Beech Creek were not retained.”
Finally, in the PMFLC’s September 27, 2007 Determination, on page three it states that “all of the
trees within the area located in the buffer area between the clearcut area and an approximate 200 m
length of Beech Creek were felled and removed.” The report also states that “TimberWest does not
dispute any of the evidence presented to the investigation report as the evidence relates to
describing the events which occurred in Block CW500.”
The information clearly points to the fact that there is every reason to believe that TimberWest was,
and is still, responsible for violating Section 18 of the Private Managed Forest Council Regulation
within the Beech Creek riparian zone in the Comox Lake drinking watershed, as well stated in the
PMFLC’s Determination, and should be charged accordingly.
Missing Reports
I did not receive, nor find on your website, a copy of TimberWest’s August 28, 2007 written
response submission, nor TimberWest’s two written submissions provided to the PMFLC during the
appeal process in November, 2007 (the submissions are referred to in the Reconsideration as
Appendix 1 and 2, but are not attached in the package I received). Seeing that I am the complainant,
I have to ask the PMFLC why these documents were not included in the package I received on
April 1, 2008, nor provided to me previously (additional concerns regarding the improper release of
information are stated below).
Conversations with Mr. Macpherson
As I read through “all” the documents provided on your website, I became troubled not only about
information reported in the documents, but also about the PMFLC and Mr. Macpherson. Allow me
to explain.
During the course of 2007, following my written complaint of May 21, 2007, I contacted and spoke
to Mr. Macpherson on both his cell phone and office land line on a number of separate instances. At
no time, following the release of Mr. Macpherson’s July 2007 report, or following the release of
Mr. Hamilton’s July 2007 report, or following the arrival of TimberWest’s August 2007 response
report, or following the finding of the PMFLC in September 2007, did Mr. Macpherson inform me
of these reports, submissions or of the PMFLC Determination during our telephone conversations.
Mr. Macpherson, as described below, also failed to volunteer disclosure to me regarding the fact
that he had been informed of this violation by TimberWest in July 2005, and that he had
investigated the site in November 2005 and had, presumably, made his own determination. Mr.
Macpherson stated to me on April 2, 2008 that he was not required to inform me of these matters.
The PMFLC’s Secret Determination of September 27, 2007
Why was the complainant, nor the public, left uninformed, out of the loop, by Mr. Macpherson, or
by the PMFLC, of the Council’s Determination of September 27, 2007? I find this secrecy most
disturbing, for both personal and greater public interest reasons. Aside from the perceived rights of
a given complainant, members of the Comox Valley public, including the area’s newspaper
reporters, kept in keen contact with me throughout 2007 and early 2008 asking me for any updates
from the PMFLC regarding my complaint. Now the public is confronted with information about a
series of silent undertakings, where “public interest” has obviously been ill-served and unprotected.
The Council had formally charged TimberWest with two violations under its Regulation, and yet it
chose not to disclose this matter to the public – WHY NOT? The possible fact that the PMFLC
simply forgot to do so, or that it thought it didn’t need to, is inexcusable, that goes without saying. I
then attempted to discover the reasons behind this matter from Mr. Macpherson in a conversation I
had with him on the morning of April 2, 2008. Mr. Macpherson stated that “I actually asked
whether to make this public. I was told that it wasn’t appropriate.” I then asked Mr. Macpherson
who it was that instructed him not to make the Determination report public. He reluctantly admitted
and identified that it was the PMFLC chair, Trevor Swan, who instructed him to keep the
Determination from public disclosure.
Why would the PMFLC chair not wish to disclose its Determination to the public or to the
respectful rights of the complainant? Of what benefit could such a decision to withhold disclosure
possibly make, one might ask, based on this line of reasoning? Was there someone else behind the
scenes instructing the chair to keep the Determination internal? Those are relevant questions. I
would hazard a comment, that such a controversial decision would obviously prevent the public and
a keenly interested media from drawing attention to and investigate the violation, its nature,
TimberWest’s forestry practices within or without drinking watershed areas, and ultimately to the
larger political arena, namely the controversial recent amended legislation by the BC Liberal
government to private forest land legislation and regulations and oversight by the PMFLC.
Anyone who has been tracking the history of private forest land practices is familiar with the NDP
government’s intent in the early 1990s, following the release of the 1991 Forest Resources
Commission, to harmonize public and private forest lands under one equal legislative Forest
Practices Code – years of public complaints and investigations had led up to the debates of 1994
and 1995. That intent has come under significant amendments and weakened purposes by the
present provincial administration, leading to the present practices, violations and frenzied
entrepreneurial activities on private forest lands, many of which have come under recent and intense
public scrutiny.
Moreover, the element of secrecy seems to comply with many other governmental circumstances
and delaying tactics in B.C., where members of the public are kept from obtaining documents and
By failing to disclose the Determination and the appeal process to the public, the PMFLC has only
aided in making a smaller blemish larger, in that the later consequences, as witnessed in its delayed
March 2008 Reconsideration, may actually now create “double trouble” by newly interested
inquiring minds on its highly questionable revision.
The July 25, 2005 Email from TimberWest and Mr. Macpherson’s Subsequent Investigation
The intrigue behind the PMFLC’s secrecy to not release the Determination report doesn’t seem to
stop there. It apparently goes back a few years. In Mr. Macpherson’s assessment report of July 23,
2007 (Investigation Report: Harvesting beside Beech Creek, Comox Lake Community Watershed),
he provides some interesting, but selective, details about the subject area in question at Beech
Evidently, TimberWest voluntarily informed PMFLC executive director Mr. Macpherson in a July
25, 2005 email “of a cutblock at Beech Creek”, wherein “a reserve zone had not been left on one
side of Beech Creek” (page 1) by its logging contractor. Mr. Macpherson then contacted
TimberWest’s Manager of Forestry Programs, John Philips, leaving Mr. Philips with ample freedom
to contact Mr. Macpherson at a later “suitable date” “once (the company’s) operations had been
completed.” A copy of the email was not appended in Mr. Macpherson’s report.
Mr. Macpherson finally “completed inspection of the site” some four months later on November 17,
2005, on a helicopter flight with Mr. Philips over the infraction area above Beech Creek. However,
Mr. Macpherson failed to describe or make specific reference to the area of violation in the
summary of his inspection, only citing the “riparian buffer” that “had been left on one side along
one section of Beech Creek” (page one). What is extremely odd is that Mr. Macpherson does not
describe or refer to the violation area in question, the “reserve zone” reference by Mr. Philips in his
earlier email. Mr. Macpherson simply states “that I did not observe any environmental harm and
that TimberWest would have to apply for variance to Council”. In other words, in Mr.
Macpherson’s extremely vague accounting, he makes no remarks to the violation area in question
and then simply excuses TimberWest of any possible contraventions under the Private Managed
Forest Council Regulation. Again, a copy of the evidence, this time Mr. Macpherson’s “inspection
file”, was not appended to his July 23, 2007 report.
Then Mr. Macpherson states, based on Mr. Hamilton’s Block Assessment Report, that “it appears
the owner has contravened section 18 of the Private Managed Forest Land Council Regulation as
during harvesting sufficient trees along a 200 m section on one side of Beech Creek were not
retained” (page 2). Because Mr. Macpherson’s November 2005 inspection file is not attached, the
public has no idea of why this contradictory inspection incident was left in dormancy until the
public complaint of May 21, 2007, and the consequent Determination of the PMFLC in September
The obvious questions remain:
· Why wasn’t TimberWest charged by Mr. Macpherson for violating the provisions under
Section 18 of the Regulations in 2005 as the PMFLC later charged the company in
September 2007 for so doing?
· Would the matter have simply disappeared, or been submerged in abeyance, if the
complainant had not filed his complaint?
· Are there other, similar undisclosed instances of this that need to be investigated by some
independent, or oversight, agency?
Irrelevancy in the March 13, 2008 Reconsideration
The issues stated in the PMFLC’s four-page long March 13, 2008 Reconsideration document that
rescinds the Council’s September 27, 2007 well-reasoned Determination against TimberWest,
following the appeal hearing in early November 2007, appear to be irrelevant and obscure.
Without TimberWest’s two written submissions that led to the Council’s 180 degree shift, it is
difficult to understand the details behind the Reconsideration. That is why I am requesting a copy of
the submissions from the PMFLC. Meanwhile, I must rely on the summary statements provided by
the Council concerning TimberWest’s appeal arguments.
The reason for my stating the Council’s issues are irrelevant is because they simply appear to be so.
A contract is a contract, no matter who may execute the contract for the delegated licensee. If
TimberWest’s unidentified contractor had failed to carry out the owner’s riparian harvesting plans
that TimberWest apparently and so diligently discussed with its contractor, then TimberWest, under
contract law, is liable for any infractions, plain and simple. And, if TimberWest is so charged, it can
seek compensatory remedies under the law against its own contractor. That’s the way the business
world operates, or so we expect.
However, the PMFLC has provided some special, provisional loop-hole exemptions for
TimberWest and its contractor in its Reconsideration, exemptions that seem to be lacking in logic.
There seem to be two main arguments.
The first is that TimberWest had somehow “exercised all due diligence” regarding the violations
previous to its contractor actually clearcutting the buffer zone. What this has to do with the
violations is not clear, merely that it seems that the presumed intent of TimberWest was to prevent
the violations from occurring by its contractor. That, of course, does not change the fate of what
occurred. The Council now seems intent on believing that TimberWest is no longer responsible for
what occurred.
The second Council argument is that “the removal of the buffer area” was somehow unforeseen,
“not reasonably foreseeable”. What the Council seems to be saying is that the clearcutting incident
was ‘accidental’. If it was clear from Council’s deliberations that TimberWest had practiced “due
diligence”, and that its contractor did not “move a marked harvesting boundary”, how could the
violation have been ‘an accident’? There isn’t a discussion about this important question.
Furthermore, Mr. Macpherson states in his July 27, 2007 report assessment that TimberWest failed
to make “an application for exemption from the tree retention requirement for large streams (section
18) under section 3” (page 4), ruling out any possibility by the PMFLC to excuse TimberWest in its
Reconsideration. The way that the Council seems to wiggle out of this murky and confusing
argument is that if “the [clearcutting] event was reasonable (sic, “reasonably”) foreseeable,” i.e.,
that the violation was not an accident and was done purposely by the contractor, then “the Council
is” somehow “satisfied that TimberWest took all reasonable measures to prevent the event from
occurring.” So, if TimberWest isn’t responsible, and its contractor isn’t responsible, then who is?
Answer: nobody. That conclusion is sheer nonsense.
What do these week arguments by the PMFLC mean, one might ask? What they mean is that the
PMFLC no longer intends to charge TimberWest for the violations, even though there are no firm
grounds provided in the Council’s revisionist finding for not charging the company. When one takes
a careful examination of the arguments in the Reconsideration they merely amount to hollow
In line with the spirit of the day, there may be another message here governing community
watersheds in private forest lands, namely that an already weakened law can easily be bent by a
decision-making body which apparently operates, through the behest of the provincial government,
beyond public involvement, scrutiny and accountability.
Beyond the burdensome technicalities related to recent controversial laws that now allow logging in
community watersheds, community watersheds ought to be fully protected on both public and
private lands, under one law for all.
Will Koop,
Coordinator, B.C. Tap Water Alliance
cc. Comox-Strathcona Regional District Board of Directors
Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition & Vancouver Island Water Watch Campaign
Save Our Valley Alliance (Port Alberni)
Rich Coleman, Minister of Forests and Range
Bob Simpson, NDP opposition Forests & Range Critic
Barry Penner, Minister of Environment
Shane Simpson, NDP Environment Critic
Pat Bell, Minister of Agriculture and Lands
Dr. Perry Kendall, Provincial Medical Health Officer
Jane Sterk, BC Green Party Leader
John Wareing, David Suzuki Foundation
Jill Thompson, Sierra Club, Victoria
Joe Foy, Western Canada Wilderness Committee
Marilyn Burgoon, Slocan Valley Watershed Alliance
West Coast Environmental Law Association
Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund)
Comox Valley Record
Comox Valley Echo
Vancouver Sun newspaper
Vancouver Province newspaper
CBC News Network
CKNW Radio, Vancouver
The Tyee
Georgia Straight newspaper
Victoria Times Colonist