A cut block on a hillside in the Comox Lake watershed / Pat Carl photos
Take a hike, see devastation in the Comox Lake watershed
When I first moved permanently to the Comox Valley, I met a man who knew the Valley well and many of its paths and trails, those well known and those obscure. He took people on hikes during which he shared his knowledge of the area. I often think of the gift he gave me and others.
One time, a group of us took a hike with him that started at the dam near Comox Lake and ended at Nymph Falls. As I recall, the area during that season was a beautiful and rich emerald green and smelled of softwood pine needles and sap. That was some 15 years ago.
I returned to the dam and lake last weekend with four others. All of us are members of Save Our Forests – Comox Valley, SOFT – CV for short. We were interested in seeing firsthand the extent of the timber harvest currently being conducted by TimberWest throughout the Comox Lake watershed, which is the source of drinking water for most of the Comox Valley.
We traveled some 15 kilometres around Comox Lake and up logging roads along the Cruickshank River, one of the many rivers and streams that feeds into the Lake.
Theoretically, we were prepared for the clear-cutting, but seeing it for ourselves brought home the amount of devastation. Cut block after cut block dotted the sides of steep hills and mountains and came within a hair’s breadth of the Cruickshank. We wondered aloud how TimberWest, with a straight face, could claim, as its website does, to be stewards of its lands that “respect cultural, economic and environmental values.”
I was also struck by the amount of waste that TimberWest’s “stewardship” creates. Weathered and newly created piles of slash waiting to be burned, thick wire ropes lying in the dirt alongside twisted and abandoned metal culverts, logging roads like bleeding veins cutting through the harvested areas, treeless exposed understory with its loose rocks and soil just waiting for a strong winter rain to send it down into the Cruickshank unimpeded, and trees, like the twisted rust-red arbutus beauties, caught up in the clear-cutting onslaught.
What beauty remains in the area is created by the hardwood trees which TimberWest doesn’t consider economically harvest-worthy. The dappling sunshine drifting through what little canopy remains brought to mind what it must have been like before TimberWest became the area’s owner with free rein to log right on top of the watershed that drains into Comox Lake, the source of Courtenay/Comox’s drinking water.
And you wonder why a new water treatment facility is planned for the Comox Valley, costing $126 million to construct and then an estimated $86 yearly operating cost to be shouldered by each Courtenay and Comox household for the next 25 years.
Want to see the devastation yourself? You’ll need to drive a 4×4 vehicle to naviagate the logging roads. And you will need to check TimberWest’s website for current accessibility restrictions. It’s their privately-owned land, after all.
But it’s our watershed and our drinking water.
Pat Carl is a frequent contributor to Decafnation and a participant in the Comox Valley Civic Journalism Project. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
GET CONNECTED BY WATER, LEARN ABOUT THE COMOX LAKE WATERSHED PROTECTION PLAN
High quality drinking water is produced by a healthy, properly functioning ecosystem. Clean water is the outcome of watershed-scale and riparian processes that capture, store and release water while simultaneously reducing or removing suspended sediments, bacteria, viruses, parasites and excess nutrients.
Protecting our drinking water requires two important steps: treating the water and protecting the source. The area of land that drains into Comox Lake is approximately 461 square kilometres, and the majority is privately owned. Much of the area is also K’ómoks First Nation (KFN) traditional territories. Balancing interests such as private ownership, traditional use, active logging, recreation, and hydroelectric power generation, while providing drinking water and sustaining critical fish and wildlife habitat, is a long-term endeavour.
— Comox Valley Regional District website
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