The province is allowing a proposed salvage logging operation near Sicamous to proceed despite repeated protests from the regional district.
At its Aug. 18 meeting, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board received written correspondence, dated July 26, from BC Timber Sales (BCTS) planning forester Grace Chomitz, who acknowledged having received a letter from CSRD chair Kevin Flynn. He had asked that the provincial agency re-evaluate all technical reports conducted pertaining to terrain stability in the Sicamous Creek and Wiseman Creek watershed, and reconsider completing the legacy remediation without harvesting the salvage timber.
“Although harvesting while conducting the remediation is more cost effective, in this case the engineers hired through EMBC (Emergency Management BC) funding have determined that this option would significantly increase the public safety risk,” wrote Flynn on behalf of the CSRD.
Chomitz replied BCTS appreciates the CSRD’s concerns regarding slope stability within the Sicamous and Wiseman Creek watersheds, “and we are committed to the safety of the community and watersheds.”
“BCTS will achieve these objectives by following all recommendations that our trusted professionals have laid out in their report and by following best practices as we carry out these recommendations on the ground.”
Chomitz explained during an April presentation to the CSRD board that hydrological function in areas impacted by the 2021 Two Mile Creek wildfire had been reduced, and “post-fire conditions are contributing to a high hazard rating that includes a legacy network of non-status roads and trails that were not deactivated.”
“These roads and trails are disrupting the drainage patterns and impacting the slope stability in the area,” said Chomitz. “There’s a large amount of hydrophobic soils (soils that repel water), as well as very little surviving vegetation. It has been indicated further landslide activity in this area is expected.”
The remediation work proposed by BCTS was based on recommendations from a terrain stability report by M.J. Milne and Associates. During the presentation, it was pointed out how those recommendations conflicted with recommendations the CSRD received from BGC Engineering Inc., which was hired with funding from EMBC to complete a post-wildfire assessment. BGC determined that harvesting salvage timber in the watersheds would increase the risk of landslides, which would impact residences below.
In the July 26 letter, Chomitz said BCTS is moving forward with plans for auction of timber sales to address “the prompt salvage harvest and reforestation of fire damaged stands and will continue to communicate with CSRD when there are changes or updates to the plans.”
Responding to Chomitz’ letter, Electoral Area E director Rhona Martin said she was disappointed.
“I don’t feel that they’ve taken into consideration that it’s through the emergency program that some of this information that we have was garnered,” said Martin. “It’s through provincial agencies…, people they use, that are giving us advice. It seems I guess kind of pointless to try and argue a case to somebody that’s not receptive to hearing anything.”
Flynn noted neither the board nor CSRD staff are specialists on the matter and rely on the input of experts.
“And when two different groups, experts, don’t agree, it puts us all in a tough position,” said Flynn. “I tend to agree with director Martin, they’re going to do what they’re going to do and we’ve provided our input. Let’s hope everybody is safe.”
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