Protecting a community or a profitable harvest?
These are questions Columbia Shuswap Regional District board members wrestled with at the June 16 board meeting.
The issue arose from a letter to the board from BC Timber Sales, in which planning forester Grace Chomitz advised directors that post-fire salvage operations will go ahead as planned.
Chomitz referred to the findings of a hydrologist and geoscientist hired by BC Timber Sales, which stated that a report on terrain stability and hydrologic assessment show that by following their recommendations, including outlined remediation work on legacy roads and trails within the study area, the Wiseman and Sicamous Creek watershed “will become more resilient than their post fire state.”
Area E Rural Sicamous director Rhona Martin expressed her disappointment with BC Timber Sales’ decision and that Chomitz referred to the board as a council rather than and regional district board.
Martin questioned the assessment provided to BC Timber Sales and said the possible effects of often heavy and continuing rain have residents worried about a possible debris flow.
“I think I have more faith in what our experts are telling us,” she said.
CSRD protective services team leader Derek Sutherland expressed respect for the hydrologist and geoscientist but pointed out that “our geotechnical engineers are going in on the basis of protecting community while their experts are working for BC Timber Sales who want to make money.”
He said one of the problems is that BC Timber Sales has said they need to go into the Sicamous Wiseman Creek watershed to correct problems caused by previous logging operations.
While he is not opposed to BC Timber Sales harvesting burned timber that might otherwise not be useful, Sutherland says the geotechnical engineers have said if salvage proceeds, there’s a chance it will exacerbate the risk to the people living at the bottom of the mountain.
“What we have asked is why do you need to harvest, why can’t you just go in there and fix past mistakes,” said Sutherland.
Chair Kevin Flynn agreed with Martin’s request to write a letter to BC Timber Sales asking for a rethink, with a copy going to the minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. He also noted that the minister should go on the board’s list of proposed ministerial meetings at UBCM in September.
“We would suggest there is more mitigation required,” added Area C director Paul Demenok.
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