A new early warning system was launched for residents of the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park in response to a heightened risk of landslides in the Wiseman Creek area. (Google Earth image)

A new early warning system was launched for residents of the Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park in response to a heightened risk of landslides in the Wiseman Creek area. (Google Earth image)

Province argues logging will make wildfire-damaged watershed near Sicamous more resilient

Concerns around debris flows prompted request by local governments for moratorium

The District of Sicamous received exactly the same response as the Columbia Shuswap Regional District to a request for a moratorium on logging in the Wiseman Creek watershed.

At its April 13 meeting, council received a letter from Grace Chomitz, a planning forester with BC Timber Sales (BCTS). In the letter, Chomitz referred to the District of Sicamous’ recommendation to halt logging activity for two years in the Sicamous Creek and Wiseman Creek watershed – areas impacted by the Two Mile Road wildfire in 2021 – due to there being a high risk of debris flow.

The district’s recommendation was in response to a referral from BCTS regarding salvage logging proposed for areas of the watershed.

While “further collaboration with the District of Sicamous regarding the Two Mile fire salvage development” is welcomed, Chomitz said BCTS has conducted its own studies of the watershed and that harvesting within the fire area will help to make it “more resilient.”

“The fire has created an abundance of trees that are susceptible to the Douglas Fir bark beetle, which is likely to cause an increase in the beetle population in the area,” said Chomitz, noting this will add to the hydrologic issues in the watershed.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board provided the same recommendation to the province, and received the same written reply from Chomitz.

The recommendations of both local governments followed studies conducted for the CSRD by BGC Engineering, which recommended no salvage logging take place in areas affected by the Two Mile Road wildfire until 2024, when the situation can be reassessed.

“Even thereafter, operations require careful execution and monitoring,” reads a BGC report.

Stressing safety of the public is vitally important to BCTS when developing permits on Crown lands, Chomitz explained plans for the watershed include deactivating and rehabilitating historic trails and roads in the vicinity, and replanting of trees as quickly as possible.

Regarding the district’s recommendation to BCTS, Coun. Malcolm Makeyev noted “you couldn’t find a watershed more thoroughly investigated than Wiseman Creek.”

“And so we sent a letter to the BC Timber Sales saying please don’t log in that area,” commented Makeyev. “They sent us a letter back saying we’ve got our experts, it would be better to cut them down than leave them up because of the pine beetle or the birch beetle or whatever infestation, and dig up the soil and all that stuff. Basically, if you peel back the onion, we said, ‘Please leave that alone,’ and they said, ‘No, we’re logging there.’”

Town manager Evan Parliament appreciated BCTS’ offer to meet with the district, both on site and in council chambers.

“But it’s going to be a debate between the experts…,” said Parliament.

At the end of March, the CSRD’s Shuswap Emergency Program learned the province would be funding an early warning system to alert residents of Sicamous Creek Mobile Home Park, located in the Wiseman Creek watershed, in the event of a debris flood or debris flow.

Read more: Province likely to proceed with salvage logging in ‘high geohazard risk’ areas near Sicamous

Read more: Regional district against Sicamous salvage logging that would up debris flow risk

Read more:Sicamous council joins call for logging moratorium in watershed impacted by wildfire

Read more: Sicamous mobile home park residents asked to alert neighbours in event of evacuation


lachlan@saobserver.net
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