Union Bay: in or out of CVRD?

Union Bay: in or out of CVRD?

Board video goes missing, decision reversed

By Alice de Wolff

The Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) board has done an about-face.

On Nov. 16, the UBID Board of Trustees voted to evaluate the pros and cons of joining the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD).   

 But at a public meeting on Dec. 14, it became clear that the board does not have a unified will to act on this motion, at least not in the immediate future.   

First of all, landowners learned that the minutes of the Nov. 16 meeting do not include the relevant motion. The UBID Administrator reported that the motion and its discussion were somehow deleted from the video recording of the meeting and consequently didn’t make it into the minutes.

An amended set of minutes are promised in the new year.

But now it appears that the board made another decision to defer initiating the process until the UBID has completed several major projects.  The Board made this decision at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Dec. 13.  

No formal record of this decision has been made public. However, Janet Thomas, a landowner who was present at that meeting, reports that the board voted to not approach the CVRD until: 1) the new water filtration system is set up; 2) the watershed around Langley Lake is protected from logging; and, 3) the fire hall is secured.   

At yet another public meeting, on Dec. 14, the board chair responded to several questions from landowners about when the board would start the process of exploring a merger with the CVRD, and what would be involved. 

The chair stated repeatedly that joining the CVRD was not on the board’s agenda.  

Alice de Wolff is a Union Bay resident and a Citizen Journalist with the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at alicedewolff@gmail.com


Should Union Bay join CVRD?

Should Union Bay join CVRD?

Water district residents will decide in public vote

Photo: The iconic Union Bay Post Office seen from the breakwater

By Alice de Wolff

The Board of Trustees of the Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) will evaluate the pros and cons of joining the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). They made the decision at their November board meeting. 

The information that emerges during this process will be made public, and Union Bay landowners will ultimately decide whether to go ahead with the conversion.

“The Improvement District management system is intended for small rural areas.  But the projects UBID needs to take on over the next couple of years are too complex and expensive, and we need to graduate to the next stage,” says Suzanna Kaljur, UBID Trustee. Kaljur moved the motion at November’s meeting.

UBID manages the volunteer fire and rescue, drinking water and street lighting systems for 1,185 residents who live in 560 residences. It faces a number of pressures to upgrade and increase its services. 

The community includes some of the traditional territories of the K’omox First Nation, who are in the final stage of negotiating a treaty. A final treaty could mean a housing development and the need for services on their lands.   

Kensington Island Properties owns another large parcel of land within the community, and has a long-standing proposal to add over 3,000 housing units and a golf course to the district.   

Kaljur’s motion in November was the third time she had put the proposal before the Board. She was following through on a 2016 a petition that was signed by 420 property owners that requested the provincial government to transfer UBID”s governance to the CVRD. The province responded by making it clear that only the UBID Board could initiate this change.

There are several substantial projects ahead for the district.

The most pressing is the first phase of new water treatment plant for existing homes. Island Health requires that UBID complete it within the next year. The second phase requires further filtration installed by 2021. In addition, a new primary reservoir is needed. 

A recent report to the UBID Board points to concerns about how much use Langley Lake can handle, and recommends a comprehensive hydrologic analysis. Langley Lake is the source of Union Bay’s drinking water. The district’s water mains also need to be upgraded and the existing water meters and billing system must be replaced. 

And finally, the fire hall location and equipment are scheduled for replacement and upgrading by 2020. 

While the last two boards have stabilized UBID’s tax revenue in order to handle the major costs of the first phase of the water treatment plant and the fire hall upgrades, the district’s resources are stretched. Improvement Districts are not eligible for the kind of funds that the regional district can access, including municipal and federal infrastructure grants.   

By comparison, three quarters of the cost of CVRD’s proposed new water treatment facility will likely be paid for by other levels of government.

The board’s motion means that it can now apply for a CVRD grant to research the details and costs of transferring responsibilities and administration to the CVRD. The investigation, followed by a public education process and discussion among Union Bay landowners will take many months.

Sandwick Waterworks District is the most recent community to join the CVRD. Their process began in 2103 with a resolution that was similar to the one just passed by UBID. Their conversion was completed in early 2017. 

Sandwick residents now pay an annual flat water rate rather than metered billing, and their water bills are included in their annual property tax notices. In addition, each family home is responsible for $4,902 for new connections to the CVRD water system.

Alice de Wolff is a Union Bay resident and a Citizen Journalist with the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She may be contacted at alicedewolff@gmail.com.

Solidarity with salmon defenders

Solidarity with salmon defenders

200 support First Nations opposition to fish farms

By Alice de Wolff

The science surrounding Atlantic salmon farming and First Nations’ opposition to these farms on their territories in the Broughton Archipelago came together at a powerful event Thursday night in Courtenay.

Two hundred Comox people filled the North Island College theatre to view the documentary “Salmon Confidential,” and show their support for First Nations who have occupied a Marine Harvest first farm since August on Midsummer Island, near the Broughton Archipelago just east of Port McNeil on northern Vancouver Island.

The Comox Valley event took place just two days after a B.C. judge ordered the defenders to take down a camp they had been occupying since August. The wild salmon defenders represent the Musgamagw Dzawada’enuxw, ‘Namgis, Mamalilikala and Lawit’sis First Nations.

While the court order was a disappointing moment in the struggle to have the farms removed, it allowed two key young activists, Molina Dawson and Karissa Glendale, to attend the event in person. Their presence brought a personal sense of immediacy to the gathering.

They told the large crowd that First Nations are not going to stop opposing farms in their territory.

The Kumugwe Dancers opened the evening. They shared traditional dances that honoured the salmon, offered healing and called to the powerful spirit of the ocean.

The crowd then took a moment to honour the work of the late Twyla Roskovich, who made and narrated the documentary film. People were encouraged to donate to the scholarship that has been established in her name.

The film features biologist Alexandra Morton and her struggle to help identify what is causing dramatic declines in wild salmon populations. She and others have been concerned for many years about the extent to which parasites, viruses and heart disease are present in Atlantic farmed salmon and their impact on B.C.’s wild fish.

Roskovich’s documentary investigates disputes between scientists, and the apparent muzzling of critics of the industry. It includes interviews with B.C.’s Animal Health Centre’s fish pathologist Gary Marty, whose findings and connection with the industry have recently come under scrutiny by the new provincial government.

Activist Sally Gellard delivered a statement of solidarity on behalf of Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. Sally travelled to the Midsummer Island camp two weeks ago, along with six other Council of Canadians supporters, and delivered the same message then.

She emphasized that one of the key acts of reconciliation our governments could take is implementing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Molina Dawson and Karissa Glendale then spoke about their experience of being served with an eviction notice and appearing in front of the judge in Vancouver. Their quiet clarity and unwavering dedication to the removal of farms from their territories brought the audience to its feet in a long standing ovation.

Carla Voyageur also spoke. She is a central coordinator of the campaign, and is Molina’s mother. She reminded the audience about the need to pressure both levels of government not to renew the fish farm licences.

She encouraged all supporters to not purchase farmed Atlantic salmon. And she brought the gathering back to a key reason that pushed her community into action: Her relatives and others on the coast do not have enough food fish for this winter and she is very concerned about how people are going to survive.

The evening was hosted by the Comox Valley Council of Canadians. It raised funds for the Twyla Roskovich Scholarship held by the Gulf Island Film and Television School, and the on-going work of the salmon defenders.

Alice de Wolff is a citizen journalist with the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project, and a national director for the Council of Canadians. She lives in Union Bay. She may be contacted at alicedewolff@gmail.com.