Monday Morning Briefing
To mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human rights today, CV Amnesty invites community members to write on behalf of Indigenous land protectors, peaceful protesters and others wrongly imprisoned. Read about it here
A new film created by young Comox Valley filmmakers will be screened Friday evening at the Florence Filberg Centre. Read about it here
B.C. Premier John Horgan will announce the government’s decision on whether to continue or cancel the Site C hydroelectric dam today. Read about it here
The Cumberland Fire Department has not released word yet about the cause of a fire Friday that destroyed three homes and left one man missing. Read it here
Friday Morning Briefing
When former Comox Valley resident and north Island Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant refused to kill two baby black bears who ransacked a freezer in Port Hardy, he was suspended and, despite overwhelming public support, was reassigned to a desk job.
Now, that same B.C. Conservation Service has run a recruitment ad enticing applicants by suggesting they’ll get the chance to “tranquilize a grizzly bear,” and get paid for it. The ad was yanked after the National Observer started asking questions. Read about the offending ad here. Read about Bryce Casavant here.
A west coast Vancouver Island First Nations has launched a run-of-the-river hydro project that powers the equivalent of 6,000 homes in Port Alberni. Read about it here.
Friends will celebrate the life of Comox Valley environmentalist and activist Ruth Masters from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10 at the Florence Filbert Centre in Courtenay. Jack Knox, Times-Colonist columnist and former Campbell River Courier-Islander editor, devoted his column to her this week. Read it here.
Westjet’s new discount airline, Swoop, will service Comox Airport. Read about it here.
Full winter operations begin today on Mt. Washington. All lifts will be operational and nordic trails (ski and snowshoe) will be open. Read about it here. Check the mountain web cams here.
The National Energy Board ruled Thursday that the Texas company Kinder Morgan can now ramp up construction in Burnaby — without municipal permits. So much for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise that “only communities grant permission” for projects that affect them. Read opposing views about it here and here.
Photo: A view of the Campbell River estuary as it was in 1989, before restoration. Courtesy of Tim Ennis
The importance of the planned restoration of the Fields Sawmill site may well go beyond repairing a blight on the Comox Valley’s image. It’s likely to influence the prospects of a coast-wide approach to replacing multiple forest industry eyesores with ecological assets.
The remnants of early-20th century logging practices can be found all up and down Vancouver Island’s coastlines in the persona of abandoned sawmills, which were almost always located in estuaries.
These shuttered mills that once buzzed around the clock, cutting logs into usable lumber, have fallen victim to government policies that allow the export of raw logs, and to changing industry practices.
In the early 1900s, timber companies moved their logs by rail to larger rivers where they were dumped into the river, boomed, then towed by tugboats to sawmills located in estuaries. While booming adored our beaches with interesting collections of driftwood, it was inefficient and slow.
That practice still goes on in the Fraser River and in the Nanaimo and Ladysmith areas. But most Island logging has now moved toward truck-based transportation. It’s flexible, less expensive more reliable.
The change means sawmills no longer need to be located in intertidal environments. And that, in turn, means there’s an opportunity to restore those shorelines and estuaries to their natural habitat, and create functioning ecosystems for fish and other wildlife.
A view of the Campbell River estuary in 2016, after restoration
If Project Watershed — the nonprofit leading Field Sawmill project, called Kus-kus-sum to honor an ancient First Nations village across the river — succeeds in raising the $6.5 million it needs to purchase the property and restore it, other communities will be inspired to seize their own opportunities.
And there are plenty of them.
In Tahsis, there are concrete slabs where two former sawmills once operated on the estuary. They closed down in 2001 and 2003. The Gold River Bowater pulp mill, also located on a river, closed in 1999.
In Port Alberni, the Somass sawmill officially closed in August, but has been essentially shut down for a year. The APD mill there is down to just one shift of workers per day. Both are located on the Alberni inlet.
The Campbell River pulp mill sits empty on about a mile of prime shoreline.
While the loss of jobs devastated those small towns, they have reinvented themselves as destinations for tourism and sport fishing. Reclaiming the abandoned mill sites would help, not hinder, their economic prosperity.
Tim Ennis, senior project manager for the Kus-kus-sum project, believes there may be many opportunities on the B.C. coast to restore former sawmill sites located in estuaries, without negative impacts to the forest economy.
That’s because trucking has replaced marine-based transport as the preferred method of transporting logs and newer government regulations are more restrictive in estuarine environments. So the forest industry doesn’t rely on the use of estuaries as it did in the past.
Campbell River led the way
Project Watershed has viewed the restoration of three sawmill sites in the Campbell River estuary as a model for their Kus-kus-sum project.
Ennis managed the Campbell River project. At the time, he was the director of land stewardship for the B.C. region of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which purchased the former Raven Lumber sawmill property as well as two smaller operations in the estuary.
He is now the senior project manager for Kus-kus-sum, as well as the executive director of the Comox Valley Land Trust, and brings his experience from much larger restoration projects.
“Compared to the Campbell River situation,” Ennis said. “The Field Sawmill site does not appear to be nearly as complex to restore and offers a huge potential benefit for the community.”
The projects are similar, he said, in that both are being led by nonprofit organizations. One of the Campbell River mills, known locally as Ocean Blue, closely resembled the Field Sawmill site, including a solid wall fronting the river.
But there are also critical differences.
The Campbell River City Council was committed to de-industrializing the river estuary. The city created an estuary management commission, which developed an estuary management plan. That plan included a conscious effort to relocate industrial operations away from the estuary.
So there was considerable political support in Campbell River, which was matched by the city’s financial contribution of approximately 25 percent of the land acquisition costs.
The City of Courtenay, on the other hand, was not the source of inspiration for restoring the Fields Sawmill site. Kus-kus-sum has been primarily driven by NGO and First Nations leadership.
And the City Council has not yet committed itself to any degree of financial support toward acquisition costs.
They have waived property taxes for two years while Project Watershed raises acquisition funds. But the eventual title will name the city as part owners of the property.
Nor has the Town of Comox or the Comox Valley Regional District made commitments, both of which stand to benefit as much as Courtenay from eliminating this eyesore on a main transportation corridor.
Fortunately, the K’omoks First Nations are committed and strong partners on the Kus-kus-sum project.
Not only are the K’omoks chief, council, band administration and Guardian Watchman department onside, nearly every K’omoks band member has signed a petition supporting the cause.
The Campbell River Indian Band was not as active.
If Kus-kus-sum succeeds, it will build on the restoration momentum from Campbell River, and set the stage for a much grander opportunity: to inspire and support the restoration of other abandoned sawmill sites throughout the B.C. coast.
How you can help
Kus-kus-sum needs community financial support in order to leverage the millions of dollars needed from granting organizations and the federal and provincial governments. Their website makes it easy to donate.
The Ocean Blue site in Campbell River before restoration
The Ocean Blue site after restoration
Wednesday Morning Briefing
A Canadian clean-tech company proposing to build a waste-to-energy plant in the Comox Valley plans to invest $350 million to open a dozen such facilities in the next five years. Will the north Island be one of those? Read about it here.
The Times-Colonist reports this morning that a Washington state senator is introducing legislation to ban open-net pen fish farms and says British Columbia should do the same. Read it here.
During the current fish farm debate, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, has recommended listing Fraser River sockeye salmon on Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Read it here.
The award for how not to show sensitivity in promoting sensitivity training goes to the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario for a poster using the ficticious acronym ‘LGGBDTTTIQQAAPP’. Read it here.
George H.W. Bush this week passed Gerald Ford’s record of 93 years, 165 days, to become the longest-living former president in U.S. history. But Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle argues that younger leaders think faster and have a greater ability to inspire, which is why the U.S. needs younger presidents. Read it here.
A single gram of the deadly toxin used to make Botox could kill 1 million people. That’s why it’s locked down in a super-secret laboratory. Where? Read it here.
Monday Morning Briefing
Times-Colonist reporter Amy Smart talks with First Nations, Port Hardy mayor, a First Nations farm manager and others and writes about their different perspectives on fish farms. Read it here.
Steelhead LNG has scrapped plans for a floating LNG plant in the Stanch Inlet. The Malahat Nation laments a loss of jobs. Green MLA Adam Olsen says the project was implausible from the start. Read it here.
One-time Comox Valley teenager Pamela Anderson gives some advice to aspiring actors in Hollywood: “Don’t go into a hotel room alone, if someone answers the door in a bathrobe, leave, you know …?” Read it here.
A family physician in Salmon Arm writes why Canada needs electoral reform, and proportional representation, and offers up the UK as a prime example. Read it here.
Time magazine announces its annual Person of the Year on Wednesday. The weekly news magazine selected Donald Trump last year. Here’s a history of past winners.
But the more important honor might be the word of the year. Faith Salie muses about some of the possible contenders. Can you say ‘fake news?’ Read it here.