Another environmental dilemma: Do biosolids pose a public health risk?

Another environmental dilemma: Do biosolids pose a public health risk?

Creating Coal Hills Class A compost at the CVRD  |  Comox Valley Regional District photo

Another environmental dilemma: Do biosolids pose a public health risk?

By George Le Masurier

Members of the Comox Valley Electoral Areas Services Commission came face-to-face with yet another environmental dilemma this week: sewage sludge.

Sewage sludge is the concentrated residue of everything Comox Valley residents flush down their toilets or pour into their sinks after the wastewater has been separated, treated and piped into the Strait of Georgia.

Unlike most other regional districts, the Comox Valley Regional District treats its sewage sludge to a level that qualifies it as a Class A compost, according to provincial Ministry of Environment regulations. That means the sludge has met certain Organic Matter Recycling Regulation (OMRR) levels of pathogens and other contaminants, such as heavy metals.

The CVRD then sells the compost to local homeowners as Skyrocket and to companies outside of the Comox Valley for large scale land applications for agriculture, forestry and other industries.

Most other BC regional districts either dispose of their sludge in landfills or treat it to Class B (raw biosolids) or to Class A biosolids products (sterilized sludge). Only Ladysmith, Kelowna and Vernon produce a Class A compost equivalent to the CVRD.

But is the treated sludge safe to use in gardens that grow food for human consumption or to be spread on open land?

The CVRD says it is, and staff point to studies embraced by the BC Ministry of Environment.

But after a large-scale land application of Class B treated sludge from the Powell River sewage treatment plant on a Hamm Road property in the Black Creek area earlier this year, a Campbell River environment group has challenged the safety of biosolids.

In a presentation to the Electoral Areas Services Commission Monday, Philippe Lucas said land applications of biosolids are dangerous because they pose a health risk to humans and legal liabilities for the regional district.

Lucas, a PhD student at the University of Victoria and a former Victoria city councillor and Capital Regional District director, represented the Campbell River Environmental Committee.

“After years of debate, academic studies examining the impact of sewage sludge on the local marine environment confirmed what many of us have long suspected: sewage is unquestionably harming the health of our oceans and subsequently threatening human health as well,” he told the commission.

The Capital Regional District recently stopped dumping raw sewage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“So why would it be any safer to expose our local farms, fields and or forests?” Lucas said.

In a letter to the commission, Leroy McFarlane, president of the Campbell River Environment Committee, said even Class A sludges pose health risks.

“If you walk through Canadian Tire, be aware that every liquid on their shelves could potentially find its way into the sewer system and therefore show up in biosolids,” McFarlane wrote. “A similar walk-through London Drugs will remind you that pharmaceuticals and chemicals sold there might also become a part of biosolids being applied to fields and gardens and show up in our food supply and enter our water and in some cases become airborne.”

Lucas said that some European countries have banned the use of biosolids. And he said that some grocers, including Thrifty Foods, refuse to carry products grown on land fertilized with biosolids.

He said First Nations bands, the Sierra Club of BC and others, including the Island Organic Producers Association (IOPA), all oppose land applications of biosolids.

The IOPA certifies organic farms on Vancouver Island. It has certified about a half-dozen farms in the Comox Valley as organic growers. It is supported by local businesses such as Seeds Food Market in Cumberland, Edible Island Whole Foods Market, the Atlas Cafe, Locals Restaurant and Buckerfields.

The commission took no action, but directors suggested the CVRD staff review the science and assess the legal liabilities.

Area A Director Daniel Arbour noted the difference in the CVRD product versus the Hamm Road application but said the discussion would be informative for the public.

“My view is that the skyrocket product is a highly processed composted material, and staff report low levels of contaminants. Granted it is not pure and free of pharmaceuticals, but we need to report on levels so people understand the level of risk, which could prove minimal compared to alternatives,” Area A Director Daniel Arbour told Decafnation after the meeting.

 

MINISTRY AND CVRD SAYS IT’S SAFE

The Lucas presentation focused on Class B and Class A biosolids, as did the studies his presentation relied on.

The BC Ministry of Environment website doesn’t clearly differentiate between Class B and A biosolids and the Class A compost product produced by the CVRD. It appears to lump all biosolids together and labels them safe.

“Biosolids are the stabilized products that are recovered at the end of the wastewater treatment process. Biosolids are rich in nutrients that may be beneficially used to improve soil conditions and provide nutrition for plants. Because of the biological components of biosolids, proper management is important to control the impact on the environment and human health,” the website says.

The website has links to multiple studies that support its statement.

But the CVRD has “invested heavily … to produce a product that has unrestricted use, and is a valuable source of recycled nutrients,” Kris La Rose, senior manager of water/wastewater services, told Decafnation.

And in a report to the EASC in April of this year, CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Russell Dyson noted the numerous standards and regulations that the regional district’s biosolids must meet.

“In comparison to other nutrient sources available to agricultural producers, such as manure or chemical fertilizers, land application of biosolids has a more stringent regulatory framework, while providing a similar soil amendment,” he said. An attachment to his report included a comparison of regulatory, product composition and environmental considerations for biosolids, manure and chemical fertilizers.

The regional district Skyrocket page on its website suggests the product is safe for use in landscaping, flower gardens and lawns. It does not mention using the product in vegetable gardens

Area B Director Arzeena Hamir, who operates a certified organic farm, told Decafnation after the meeting that she “could not and would not” use biosolids as fertilizer on the food products she sells.

That’s not the case in the United States, she said, where certified organic growers are allowed to use biosolids.

“This is a big societal question we have to address,” she told Decafnation.

 

COMOX VALLEY BIOSOLIDS

Mike Imrie, the CVRD’s manager of wastewater services, said the district sells between 7,000 and 7,500 cubic yards of Skyrocker per year, while the wastewater treatment plant generates about 1,375 to 1,500 tonnes of dry biosolids annually.

Every week a total of 800 yards is placed in one of five bunkers, which ends up as 160 yards of finished product for sale, after composting, screening and curing. The loss in volume comes about from evaporation, and screening out of oversize amendment, which is recycled back into the next batch.

“All of our Biosolids are used in the composting process and none are disposed of in any other way.” Imrie told Decafnation.

The wet biosolids are mixed with an amendment product, which is usually chipped and ground green waste from the landfill, Imrie says. Every four kilograms of wet biosolids is mixed with six kilograms of amendment.

The Class A composting process exposes the sludge to high temperatures for extended periods. The result is a higher level of sterilization of the end product and a higher extent of oxidation of contaminants of emerging concern.

La Rose says the regional district is keeping up with worldwide research on the presence of pharmaceuticals in biosolids.

“So far the conclusions are that pharmaceuticals that are present in our wastewater are more likely to be discharged in the liquid, and the pharmaceuticals that remain in the biosolids are more likely to be broken down during the composting process,” La Rose said.

He said they are following best practices known now that recycling nutrients and organic matter through composting the biosolids is the best way to recycle them.

“It’s interesting to note that there is increased discussion in Europe to allow biosolids from smaller communities with less industry to be used on organic farms,” he said. “The reason for this is that organic farms can only use rock phosphate or compost, and rock phosphate interestingly enough also contains heavy metals. It’s also of concern that our world supply of phosphorus is diminishing, so we need to recycle as much as we can.”

 

OTHER ALTERNATIVES?

During his presentation on behalf of the Campbell River Environment Committee, Lucas said regional districts have four other options for disposing of biosolids.

He said there are technologies to remove heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and pharmaceuticals, but other regional districts have found this too expensive.

Biosolids can be turned into energy through gasification. Also, biosolids can be shipped to cement kilns on the Lower Mainland for use as fuel (the Capital Regional District has been doing this).

Finally, he said, biosolids can be shipped to a biochar facility in Prince George where the carbon is sequestered and turned into a high-value end product.

But the list of alternatives didn’t resolve the issue for Area A Director Arbour.

“The question of what to do with such material is a good one, and I am not convinced that burning carbon is the best alternative either,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT THE BC MOE SAYS ABOUT BIOSOLIDS

Biosolids are residual products from sewage treatment processes that have been treated to reduce pathogens and vectors. They are primarily used as a fertilizer to promote grass growth on rangeland, for forest fertilization and for site reclamation at sites like gravel pits and mines. Biosolids are not sewage sludge.

The land application of biosolids does not pose a risk to human health or the environment when they are applied in accordance with all of the requirements in the Organic Matter Recycling Regulation. Biosolids should be handled in the same manner as animal manure; efforts should be taken to minimize the risk of accidental ingestion or body entry. The primary method of reducing risk is to limit direct exposure to biosolids.

— BC Ministry of Environment

 

CLASS B BIOSOLIDS NOT SAFE SAYS STUDY

On July 2, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that there may be public health risks from using processed sewage sludge as a commercial fertilizer. Approximately 60 percent of an estimated 5.6 million tons of dry sludge is used or disposed of annually in the United States.

Sludge also includes traces of household chemicals poured down drains, detergents from washing machines, heavy metals from industry, synthetic hormones from birth control pills, pesticides, and dioxins, a group of compounds that have been linked to cancer.

— University of Georgia research

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Stotan Falls petition called “trojan horse,” 3L serves notice of logging Jan. 21

Stotan Falls petition called “trojan horse,” 3L serves notice of logging Jan. 21

Photo Caption

Stotan Falls petition called “trojan horse,” 3L serves notice of logging Jan. 21

By George Le Masurier

It’s a brand new year but the controversy over 3L Developments battle to build a 780-house subdivision in the Puntledge Triangle carries on.

An unknown person or group of people calling themselves the Save Stotan Falls Committee have started a petition to persuade Courtenay City Council to annex the 3L Development property.

At the same time, 3L Developments has sent letters to property owners adjacent to its 500 acres between the Puntledge and Browns rivers notifying them that the company will start logging on Jan. 21.

“Please be advised that the owner of the lands adjacent to your back yards (3L Developments) is currently attempting to sell its lands to the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD). The purpose of this proposed transaction is to enable the CVRD to establish parkland, trails and public access to the lands and Puntledge River. However, should the CVRD fail to come to an agreement with 3L, we will be commencing with clearing and timber harvesting,” the letter states.

3L President David Dutcyvich signed the letter. He says it will take about one week to complete the land clearing.

The regional district began the process of establishing a regional park service in December that is necessary to fund and maintain large regional parks such as the Puntledge Triangle property or the Bevan Trails recreation area. But it’s unlikely that service will be functional in the next two weeks and able to meet Dutcyvich’s logging deadline.

However, not everyone considers some immediate land clearing of the property a justification for not following due process.

Area A Director Daniel Arbour told Decafnation today that “the property has already been extensively logged, and the owner is within his rights in that regard. Most landowners see themselves as stewards of their lands, but some don’t.”

Grant Gordon, a nearby resident, told Decafnation that the 3L property has already been logged several times. Gordon believes the bigger issue at stake is 3L’s assault on the Regional Growth Strategy and the community’s will to keep rural areas “rural.”

Gordon calls the Save Stotan Falls Committee petition a trojan horse.

“Because it isn’t about Saving Stotan Falls. It’s about moving real estate along the river and changing the Regional Growth Strategy, making room for more single-family housing to the detriment of more fiscally responsible infilling of existing municipal areas,” Gordon told Decafnation today.

“There is no way that more people living closer to those falls is going to be good for Stotan Falls through annexation,” he said. “If people want to Save Stotan Falls then they should lobby their provincial government to get back control of the riverways granted to the E&N Railway in 1879.”

Gordon is urging people not to sign the petition, which is also up on the Change.org website.

He said the petition may be well-intentioned, “but it basically demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the RGS and if it was successful it would condemn any natural component of Stotan Falls due to destruction. It would also set back the infilling initiatives of other developers that are occurring now due to the restrictions created by the RGS.”

Decafnation reached out to Dave Mellin, a retired Courtenay business person, who has made presentations to the regional district board and Courtenay council about saving Stotan Falls. We asked if he was behind the petition.

He declined to comment for this story.

The petition reads, “Please read and sign this petition and join us in convincing Courtenay City Council to annex the 3L Development Lands into the City of Courtenay, dramatically reducing the size of the development and saving the 300 acres around Stotan Falls for generations to come! This land will be donated to the community and is worth $14 million- $16 million dollars!

“This key addition to the Puntledge River Greenway offers recreation access for swimming, hiking, mountain biking, walking, fishing, salmon enhancement, white water kayaking, palaeontology, and bird watching just to name a few.

“This would make Stotan Falls the fourth largest park in the Comox Valley. This aligns with a major goal of the 20-year Regional Growth Strategy for the Comox Valley…”to protect, steward and enhance the health of the natural environment and ecological connections”. – that we ALL share.”

A lively discussion on various social media pages speculates that the anonymous petition organizers may be working on behalf of 3L, as their latest attempt to push the Riverwood subdivision through local governments.

If the petition is presented to the City of Courtenay, the venue of the debate will shift from the regional district to City Council but the arguments may remain the same: amend the Regional Growth Strategy or not.

Area A Director Arbour says Courtenay councillors will have to consider the broader implications.

“Annexing the lands into the City of Courtenay may risk more urban sprawl and a threat to agricultural and forestry lands. All the jurisdictions would still have to come together to consider the implications on the Regional Growth Strategy,” he said. “Courtenay would also have to consider how this fits in relation to their new OCP, which appears to favour densification.”

In a comment on Facebook, another nearby resident, Lisa Benard Christensen said, “That petition has little to do with saving the falls. From the comments of the people signing. I would think they do not know what they are asking for. They do not understand what it means for Courtenay to annex the lands. That annexation would come at a huge cost.

“We would be telling developers we don’t hold to our hard-won long term plans, that we don’t mind urban sprawl long before areas that are easier to provide transit and services to are infilled.

“It would take away from the rural feel of the area, allowing a concentrated block of 1000+ families and their guests and pets to take it over.

“Anyone that thinks that tiny falls recreation area could withstand that influx let alone still have room for the nostalgic outsiders to enjoy it is kidding themselves.

“This petition is basically a Trojan horse. A flashy statement meant to appeal to people’s nostalgia and their frustration at being denied access. It encourages a snap decision, hoping they don’t read too much into what annexation would actually do to the area.

“The best way to save the falls is to hold strong to our RGS and not allow this urban sprawl to occur. The price is too high. Don’t believe the illusion, research fully before you sign anything. Much is at stake here.”

Area C Director Edwin Grieve said the regional district is looking into resurrecting the regional parks service that was never rescinded but has been on mothballs for 25 years. 

“Everything moves at the laborious “speed of government” so it all takes time but, once the parks service bylaw is active, it is possible for the CVRD to go to the Municipal Financial Authority and borrow money at a very low-interest rate over an extended period against that,” he told Decafnation.

“Dave (Mellin) and the boys are correct in realizing that any development south of the Puntledge River would be in Courtenay’s settlement expansion area and it clearly says in the RGS that “services would be extended through annexation into the Municipality,” he said. “Once the land is out of the Electoral Area, the 4-hectare minimum lot size and many more restrictive regulations could cease to apply.”

This article has been updated to include Director Grieve’s comments and to correct that he referred to Dave Mellin.

 

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B.C.’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong

B.C.’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong

B.C.’s 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to right a historic wrong

BY PAUL MANLY, MP

As 2020 draws to a close, it’s become a cliche to say that it’s a year to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not recognize the progress we made this year as people took the time to reflect on the things that really matter. As COVID-19 shut down our world and the dramatic political divisions south of the border came to a head, we spent more time contemplating the changes needed to build a more compassionate, peaceful society.

In particular, one of the bright spots of 2020 was a much wider acknowledgement of the need to address systemic racism. We must now look for every opportunity to address our own history of racism and advance tangible reconciliation.

As the 150th anniversary of B.C. joining the Canadian confederation approaches in 2021, our federal government has an opportunity to advance reconciliation with First Nations on Southern Vancouver Island, while also protecting local drinking watersheds and endangered species, and fostering sustainable economic opportunities.

The negotiation of modern treaties in our part of the province is impeded by the lack of Crown Land due to the historic E&N Land Grant. The grant, which disregarded the rights and title of all First Nations in the area, is a legacy of B.C. joining the confederation. As part of the deal, the government awarded coal baron and government minister Robert Dunsmuir more than 20% of Vancouver Island, two million acres of land, along with $750,000. In exchange, Dunsmuir built the E&N railway, completing the rail link between Canada’s provincial capitals.

Today, the remaining undeveloped land is at risk due to logging and the potential sale of mineral rights. Local watersheds have come under threat from these activities, with communities being forced to invest millions on filtration and treatment plants to maintain their access to clean drinking water. Unsustainable development and resource extraction also threaten fish estuaries and animal habitats. Restoring the land to local First Nations could be done in a way that prioritizes vital conservation efforts, while also providing sustainable economic opportunities including selective forestry, recreation and tourism.

There are already programs in place to make this happen. The federal government has committed to protecting 30% of our natural areas by 2030 through Canada’s Nature Legacy program. A key part of this commitment is the creation of Indigenous Protected Conservation Areas (IPCAs), which fall under the jurisdiction and authority of the local First Nations.

Through a First Nations-led process the government could acquire a minimum of 30% of the existing forest lands that were privatized under the E&N land grant and place them under the jurisdiction and control of the affected First Nations. Land acquisition could focus on the critical habitat around rivers, watercourses and catchment areas for community drinking watersheds, with special consideration given to placing community drinking watersheds under co-management between First Nations and the cities and towns that rely on the water supply. Under the successful Land Guardian program, co-management could be coordinated between First Nations within the Hul’qumi’num, Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth territories of the land grant region.

The acquisition process could include the use of carbon offsets, land transfers, tax incentives and cash purchases to assemble the land. User fees generated by recreational use of the lands for activities such as camping, rafting and kayaking company tours, and parking fees for day use could also help fund ongoing land management through the Land Guardian program.

The acquisition of a portion of the E&N lands as IPCAs would be a significant step towards advancing reconciliation on Southern Vancouver Island. It can be done in a way that advances other goals that are important to Islanders, like protecting wild salmon, conserving the habitats of endangered species and preserving biodiversity, while also ensuring our communities have access to clean drinking water and outdoor recreation. This ‘rise together’ strategy has environmental, social and economic benefits.

If we take one lesson from 2020, let it be that honouring our history means looking at it with clear eyes. If we forget the full reality of our history, we are doomed to repeat it. So, what better way to celebrate the anniversary of our province joining the Canadian confederation than to address the historic wrong that was perpetrated as part of it? If we do, we can move forward together as a more just and sustainable province.

Paul Manly is the MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith. He wrote this version of his op-ed column for Decafnation.

 

 

MORE ABOUT DUNSMUIR AND THE LAND GRANT

A rail link between Nanaimo and Victoria had been planned as early as 1873, but no serious effort to start construction was made until December 1883 when the province transferred to the federal government sufficient crown lands for the project. To safeguard control of the island’s economic future, and prevent the possibility of the Northern Pacific Railroad gaining the contract, many businessmen and politicians urged Robert Dunsmuir to build the line.

Dunsmuir was reluctant to accept the task, thinking it of little benefit to his colliery operations. He submitted a proposal to the Canadian government, however, and despite the severity of his terms he emerged as the sole acceptable alternative to foreign builders. After much shrewd bargaining in Ottawa Dunsmuir agreed to construct the railway in return for a subsidy of $750,000 in cash and a parcel of land comprising some two million acres – fully one-fifth of Vancouver Island. Significantly, the land grant came with “all coal, coal oil, ores, stones, clay, marble, slates, mines, minerals, and substances whatsoever in, on or under the lands so to be granted.”

He received also all foreshore rights for the lands, all mining privileges (including the right to mine under adjacent seabeds), and the retention of all coal and other minerals taken from the land. Additionally, as contractor he was permitted to cut whatever timber and erect whatever structures he saw fit to build the line. To promote settlement, provision was made for the sale of farmlands to homesteaders at one dollar per acre. Squatters of at least one year’s residence were allowed to buy up to 160 acres, and those settlers with title were allowed to retain their holdings, but virtually all else would go to the contractor in right of performance.

It was, in short, a major give-away of British Columbia’s natural resources.

— From the website, Biographi

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Comox Valley receives $9.251 million to offset COVID-19 pandemic economic impact

Comox Valley receives $9.251 million to offset COVID-19 pandemic economic impact

The new Comox Valley Regional District offices in Courtenay  |  file photo

Comox Valley receives $9.251 million to offset COVID-19 pandemic economic impact

By George Le Masurier

The Comox Valley has received more than $9 million as its share of British Columbia’s Safe Restart Grant Program.

The province distributed $425 million under the federal Safe Restart Agreement to B.C.’s local governments. This federal/provincial funding is designated to support the reopening and operational costs of facilities along with funding local emergency responses. The province allocated funds to each of British Columbia’s municipalities and regional districts.

The City of Courtenay has received $4.149 million. The Town of Comox received $3.067 million. The Village of Cumberland received $1.312 million. And the Comox Valley Regional District received $723,000. In total, the Comox Valley received $9.251 million.

The CVRD board allocated its $723,000 to a variety of uses at its board meeting this week.

Emergency operations preparedness and community support – $200,000

Promoting local food security and supporting vulnerable populations through the Comox Valley Community Foundation – $100,000

Information technology resilience to support safe work, public engagement and effective service delivery – $100,000

Rural fire department support for increased preparedness and personal preparedness equipment – $40,000

Unallocated BC Safe Restart grant program funds, totalling $283,000, will be retained for future considerations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the region. Unallocated funds would be primarily dedicated to the following projects: recreation services, rural community hall support and food aggregation and promoting local food security

“We are thrilled to see grant funding being delivered to the community level,” CVRD Board Chair Jesse Ketler said in a news release.. “Each local government received funding to invest back into community recovery and resiliency as we navigate these challenging times. At the CVRD we are focusing our efforts on supporting vulnerable populations, promoting food security and improving resiliency to deliver the services residents use daily.”

 

 

 

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CVRD starts the process to create a regional parks service, it could take until 2022

CVRD starts the process to create a regional parks service, it could take until 2022

Graham Hilliar and Jen Alton examining trees tagged for logging in the Bevan Trails Recreation Area  |  George Le Masurier photo

CVRD starts the process to create a regional parks service, it could take until 2022

By George Le Masurier

With the possibility of losing several important large parcels of recreational land to logging, the Comox Valley Regional District this week moved a step closer to establishing a regional park service.

During its Dec. 15 meeting, regional directors voted to start what could be a lengthy process to create a regional parks service.

They directed staff to undertake a $25,000 background study and report back to the board.

A regional parks service that is funded by the entire Comox Valley would create the increased capacity to purchase large parcels of land, such as the 3L Developments Inc. property near Stotan Falls and the Bevan Trails Recreation Area higher up on the Puntledge River.

The only active parks service in existence now applies exclusively to the rural electoral areas and is funded by residents of those areas.

The vote occurred after directors heard a presentation from CVRD Parks Manager Mark Harrison on the history of parks services, the difference between regional and community parks and the benefits of creating a regional parks service.

In 1971, the then-Comox Strathcona Regional District developed a regional parks service that was funded in both 1972 and 1975, but the money was ultimately redistributed to the participating municipalities because directors could not agree on which parks to fund. The bylaw became dormant.

Harrison’s presentation offered the board several options for reactivating.

The first option would undertake a background study to include input from municipalities and the K’omoks First Nation, It would review best practices, funding models, examine local parks and greenway plans and more.

It’s a process that staff indicated could take until 2022 to re-activate the dormant parks service bylaw.

But several directors did not want to wait that long.

They preferred a second option to convert the dormant service into an active bylaw first and then engage the municipalities and KFN later. That would have enabled the regional district to start funding and possibly pursuing parkland more quickly.

“It (a regional parks service) is long overdue and the time is now,” Area C Electoral Director Edwin Grieve said. He urged directors to take a leadership role.

Area A Director Daniel Arbour agreed. “We’ve had 50 years to think about this,” he said.

But the rest of the directors voted to accept the staff recommendation with an understanding that it be completed as soon as possible.

 

BENEFITS OF A PARK SERVICE

Parks Manager Harrison told the board that the pandemic has shown the importance of natural areas for mental and physical health and social engagement. But, he said, it has also revealed the deficiencies in the existing parks service.

One of the deficiencies is a lack of clarity over what constitutes a community park versus a regional park service.

A community park service, he said, primarily benefits the rural areas that exclusively fund and operate them. A regional service benefits the whole region and is funded by all taxpayers in the Comox Valley.

Harrison said if the regional district chooses to collaborate and reactive a regional parks service it could accomplish many goals.

He said regional parks could consist of trails that connect our core communities. It could protect natural assets in perpetuity and make it possible to acquire large parcels of land that in the Comox Valley are often held privately.

A regional parks service could help combat climate change, enhance tourism. It would protect traditional recreation lands and the integrity of watersheds.

“These are all really good and just goals,” he said.

Harrison pointed to successes by other Vancouver Island regional districts that already have regional parks services. He noted the Englishman River park that includes a conservation area. The Elk and Beaver lakes areas in the Capital Regional District and the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails.

In the Cowichan area, the regional district has protected swimming pools along the Cowichan River and created an extensive trail system for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

“It takes cooperation from a whole community to achieve some of these types of parks that are regionally significant and benefit the region as a whole,” he said.

 

CONSERVATION GROUPS SUPPORT

The 26 organizations of the Comox Valley Conservation Partnership and their thousands of individual members have encouraged the regional district to activate a regional parks service.

Speaking to the board on behalf of the partnership, Tim Ennis, the executive director of the Comox Valley Lands Trust offered to collaborate with the regional district because “we can achieve more together.”

He noted the Lands Trust and the regional district have worked successfully together in the past on projects like the Tsolum River Commons and the Morrison Creek Conservation Area. In the latter project, the regional district provided a third of the funding and the Lands Trust secured the remainder from sources within and outside the local community.

“A regional park service could expand our capabilities,” he said.

Ennis noted that there are several front-burner conservation opportunities before the community currently that could only be accomplished through collaboration. He said CVCP members have extensive experience and that they were available to help.

 

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CV governments apply for infrastructure funds to ease pandemic economic recovery

CV governments apply for infrastructure funds to ease pandemic economic recovery

Courtenay and District Museum building  |  George Le Masurier photo

CV governments apply for infrastructure funds to ease pandemic economic recovery

By George Le Masurier

All four of the Comox Valley’s local governments have applied for provincial funds designated to help BC communities recover from the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic.

The provincial government set aside $90 million to provide one-time, 100 percent funding for projects — up to $1 million each — that meet one of four objectives:

— Community economic resilience
— Destination development
— Unique heritage infrastructure
— Rural economic recovery

Projects will be chosen from the applications based on their contribution toward creating immediate new employment or re-employing laid-off workers. The projects have to begin before Dec. 31, 2021, and complete by March 31, 2023.

Decafnation asked each local government what they applied to do.

TOWN OF COMOX

Comox has applied to complete phase two of its marina enhancement plan. It hopes to receive funds for a new marine services building.

CITY OF COURTENAY

Courtenay city staff have worked with and supported the Courtenay Museum to renovate and build a new section onto the existing facility.

The city also negotiated with the provincial granting agency to get the Sixth Street bridge included. But the complexity and environmental aspects of the project could not meet the 2021 deadline for starting the construction.

VILLAGE OF CUMBERLAND

Cumberland applied to rebuild the village’s No. 2 dam, hydro generation and Unnamed Creek remediation project.

It has also applied for infrastructure development of water services on the Bevan Lands and infrastructure upgrades and improvement for Cumberland Lake Park. If the Bevan Lands project did not qualify for timing reasons, the village planned to also apply for renovations of the field house and washroom facilities at its Village Park.

In another application, Cumberland applied to the separate but related Childcare BC New Spaces Fund for up to $3 million to create new childcare spaces within the village.

COMOX VALLEY REGIONAL DISTRICT

The regional district submitted six applications, four to the federal infrastructure program and two to the province.

The federal applications include the Denman Island water treatment project, phase one of the Baynes Sound sewer extension project, a retrofit of the CV Sports Centre mezzanine area and a Shingle Spit boat launch project.

The provincial applications included expansion of the Seal Bay parking lot and the Merville Hall food hub project.

 

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