Comox Valley community water forum Oct. 10

Our water future: Water governance in the Comox Valley

Amazing recreation, the great outdoors and delicious local food are just some of the reasons why the Comox Valley is an awesome place to live and play. And water is an essential component of all these things.

Rivers and streams give life to the places where we play and have fun. Groundwater fuels our farms and food economy. And the mighty Comox Lake and watershed around it sustain the growing communities across our valley.

People here understand how water connects to all aspects of the lives we enjoy.

A town hall meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 7-9 p.m. at the Florence Filberg Centre, Courtenay, will be the start of a community conversation about water in the Comox Valley. We will be talking about a community governance model of our local watersheds and looking at examples around the province. Such a project would grant local governments the powers outlined in the 2016 Water Sustainability Act to create a Watershed Sustainability Plan. This plan would ideally encompass the entire regional district.

A second important goal of the meeting is to encourage voter turnout for the October local municipal elections.

There are several reasons why the Comox Valley would be a logical and ideal place to establish such a project. We are a “swing” electoral riding; most party platforms will attempt to address local concerns.

Stage 2 water restrictions were in effect for some of the summer; there has been ongoing community concern about the water licence issued by the province, allowing one individual to withdraw and bottle 10,000 litres/day from a local aquifer which serves multiple families and farms, despite opposition from both the Komoks First Nation and the Comox Valley Regional District. There is clearly a disconnect between the province and local governments.

First Nation governments in the Nikola Valley recently signed an MOU with the province to create such a plan. In the Cowichan Valley, the Watershed Board, developed by community members, has been functioning since 2010 in an advisory capacity with their regional district to protect and manage their water resources. The Comox Valley could potentially establish a similar board.

Some local issues will be described. David Stapley, retired as chair of the CV Conservation Partnership and current board member of the CV Land Trust, will speak about the Comox Lake watershed. Bruce Gibbons will discuss the Merville Water Guardians and his ongoing communications with the province.

Dave Mills of the Langley Lake Watershed Protection Society will describe the proposed development and logging in the Union Bay watershed.

Rosie Simms is a water law and policy research co-ordinator with the Polis Water Sustainability Project (water@polisproject.org). She will talk about the 2016 Water Sustainability Act, and the opportunities to implement a local sustainability plan, here and now.

Tom Rutherford, former fisheries biologist and currently chair of the Cowichan Water Board, will share his experiences with the board.

The event is being sponsored by Comox Valley Water Watch, Our Water BC, Watershed Sentinel, Comox Valley Conservation Partnership, Merville Water Guardians and the Comox Valley Council of Canadians.

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