The Regional District of North Okanagan is urging Tolko Industries to halt plans for a cutblock near the Greater Vernon area’s primary water source.
The Duteau Creek water intake — also known as the Headgates — is located 500 metres below the proposed logging activity. It supplies 60 per cent of the water that services the Greater Vernon area, the RDNO said in a Thursday (April 22) press release.
Tolko, a Vernon-based lumber manufacturer, is planning to log on top of a steep slope directly above “this vital source of water,” the RDNO said, adding its engineers and a hydrologist on retainer are “very concerned” that this logging and the remaining partially cleared land on the block could lead to a landslide or debris torrent, which in turn could damage the water system.
The RDO received notice on April 9 that the logging would be taking place in May 2021.
“Based on the current information available, the risk to water quality and quantity is unacceptable to the RDNO,” the release states.
The RDNO has been in talks with Tolko about the cutblock since it first became aware of the logging plan back in 2016, but says Tolko has “made marginal changes to their plan in response,” and officials are unconvinced that the risk has been properly addressed based on the information Tolko has provided.
The district is requesting that work on the cutblock be paused within the watershed boundary, until Tolko engages with the district to find a solution that protects drinking and agricultural water supplies, while allowing the company to access fibre.
“The board adamantly opposes the current proposal to log (this) Tolko block,” reads a staff report to the RDNO board Wednesday, April 21.
“We want to be clear. The RDNO is not opposed to logging or forestry operations. We have serious concerns about logging at this specific location, and we are asking Tolko to pause and work with us so we can find a mutually beneficial solution,” said Kevin Acton, chair of the RDNO board.
Tolko wasn’t immediately available for comment at the time of publication.