B.C.’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is willing to defend his department’s decision to issue a conditional water licence to a family in Merville for a proposed water bottling business.
Doug Donaldson was in Black Creek on Monday for a tour of a local tree nursery. Afterwards, he spoke to reporters about the contentious water bottling business idea, which has received backlash and media attention throughout the Comox Valley in recent weeks.
Though he didn’t say when or where it could take place, Donaldson said ministry staff is willing to do a presentation on the technical data and consultation process that went into issuing the water licence to Christopher Scott MacKenzie and Regula Heynck last November.
“I reviewed with staff the technical requirements they went through to make the decision,” he said. “I’m confident in those technical results. They’ll be at a public presentation with a working group.”
Donaldson said he also planned to meet with Area C residents and farmers who are worried about how the proposed water bottling operation would impact their water supplies. Residents say their wells are already experiencing droughts in the summers and that 10,000 litres of groundwater extraction per day would make the issue worse.
“I think [meeting with them] will go a long ways towards addressing the concerns around what the decision was based on to issue the water licence,” he said.
Among those who have criticized the water bottling idea is the K’omoks First Nation. Chief Nicole Rempel issued a statement on March 8 criticizing the “lack of consultation” from the provincial government before issuing the water licence.
Donaldson said the ministry is now reviewing the consultation process that occurred with the KFN.
“…we’ll be meeting [with the KFN again] to make sure they know the consultation process that was done, as well as going over the technical data the decision was based on,” he said.
To contact Donaldson directly on the matter, email doug.donaldson.MLA@leg.bc.ca
Applicant surprised at backlash
MacKenzie, who is now applying for a rezoning application through the Comox Valley Regional District to kickstart the water bottling operation, said he was surprised at the level of backlash the idea has received.
“We just thought we’d have a side-of-the-road business,” he said. “We have a lot of cyclists, and there are a lot of boil-water advisories.
“We thought it would be nice to have people come out with their containers to get some of our awesome water.”
MacKenzie also spoke out against the CVRD.
“We’re trying to follow the established guidelines and the CVRD has proven their bias before we had our chance to say anything to the area directors in public,” he said, adding that local golf courses and other operations use far more water than he intends to extract.
“The amount is very small considering the comparisons. If I were to take my five-acre plot and convert it to corn, I would use four times that amount per annum.”
According to MacKenzie, one of his neighbours recently filed an appeal against his proposed business through the Environmental Appeal Board, though the appeal comes months after the board’s 30-day deadline.
The proposed business idea could come back to the CVRD for a public hearing in the future.