While parts of the province have been dealing with the effects of recent flooding, Cumberland is trying to think ahead over its watershed, especially in light of runoff and other concerns from forest harvesting.
In recent months, the village has been working with Mosaic Forest Management, the Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS), K’ómoks First Nation and others on the Perseverance Watershed Initiative (PWI).
“I think this is quite timely,” village manager of parks and recreation Kevin McPhedran told council at the Nov. 22 meeting.
He said the plan is to come up with a long-term rather than case-by-case approach around watershed management.
The idea was initiated by the forest society and brought before council earlier in the year. One issue, in light of road-building and harvesting timelines, is a proposed logging area near Allen Lake. Some of the key concerns surround impact on water quality, risk mitigation measures and land protection scenarios.
“The impetus was a proposed forest harvesting block,” McPhedran said.
Council adopted a forest management direction statement in March to help protect forests and drinking water on the almost 230 hectares it owns in the Perseverance Creek watershed.
At the November meeting, McPhedran noted the PWI is focused on about 2,200 hectares of land, about three-quarters of which is privately owned.
Road-building was completed earlier in the fall, prior to the “wet” season, according to the village staff report, while falling and hailing are supposed to take place in 2022.
Coun. Jesse Ketler talked about the need for modernizing forest policy, though she said the focus from the province has been more on Crown land rather than private land such as the forest in question. She did credit the forest company for its involvement in the process.
“I’m happy to see Mosaic is voluntarily participating with us,” she said, adding she hopes to see the province make such involvement mandatory.
Another issue raised by council was whether there might be a fire break between the forest land in question and the adjacent area. McPhedran responded that fire risk is one of the considerations in the planning process, though he was not sure whether a fire break would be a part of this. He added there are areas that need thinning to reduce the fuel load for potential wildfires.
Coun. Gwyn Sproule noted the area had probably been logged two or three times over the years and said she would not have expected this kind of collaborative planning process in the past. As well, she noted how the watershed supplied the community with water through gravity.
“I’m very heartened to see this,” she said. “This is a very unique watershed.”
So far in 2021, council has allocated $20,000 from the general financial stabilization reserve to fund strategic work, though additional resources have been requested in the village’s five-year financial planning process. As well, the village successfully applied for a grant worth an additional $10,000 from the province’s Local Government Infrastructure Planning Grant Program, while CCFS got a $20,000 grant from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and committed another $10,000 in matching village cash and in-kind contributions.