Residents packed the Comox Valley Regional District’s boardroom at a committee meeting in March to protesting a proposed water bottling operation. File photo/Black Press

Strathcona Regional District board reconsiders some of bottled water stance

One key issue is whether residents can supply neighbours during drought

The Strathcona Regional District board has taken a position against commercial bottled water operations on Vancouver Island.

A motion to that effect was drafted and passed at a meeting last month in response to the possibility that following the failure of a bid by a Merville couple in the Comox Valley, the couple might want to move the bottling operation to this regional district while extracting the water from the Merville area.

RELATED STORY: Strathcona Regional District board takes stand against water bottling

“There was talk this bottling operation might come north,” Area D Director Brenda Leigh told members of the board who were new or had missed the meeting during which the issue arose.

The Mirror has tried to contact the couple via Facebook but has not yet heard back.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Regional District defeats Merville water bottling operation application

Part of the SRD board’s position involves lobbying at the provincial level in order to see a ban across the island. However, at the first meeting of the new board on Wednesday afternoon, some directors worried that the wording of a motion that is to be submitted to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) was watered down in such a way that it might restrict people with water from providing it to neighbours whose wells have run dry during summer drought conditions.

John MacDonald, Sayward’s mayor and board representative, brought up the matter at the meeting, expressing concern the SRD might now be putting people who might be able to help provide water in a position where it would not be untenable to do so.

“It stops anybody from going into the groundwater,” he said.

Area C Director Jim Abram responded that the emergency water provision cited by McDonald was not the intended target of the SRD board.

“That’s water for domestic purposes,” he said. “It’s quite a different situation.”

Leigh also pointed out the SRD position is aimed more at influencing people in senior government, as it is the provincial government and not local authorities that issue water licences.

“It’s not like we have the authority to tell the province to issue licenses or not,” she said.

The board discussed the issue for some time, weighing word options such as whether to permit bulk water sales while restricting commercial sale operations.

Gold River’s mayor and representative on the board, Brad Unger also raised the question of how motions might affect existing bottling operations.

Mayor Andy Adams, one of the Campbell River directors, suggested the idea the board defer to staff to work on the motion. His Campbell River colleague Charlie Cornfield added that he felt the motion was not a AVICC-ready resolution.

As the deadline to submit motions to the AVICC is not until the middle of February 2019, the board agreed to send the matter back to SRD staff to work on the wording rather than spend more time at the regular public meeting.

“We’re not going to wordsmith this here today,” Chair Michele Babchuk said.

However, the board’s move this week does not affect the motion by the SRD board last month expressing general opposition to water bottling for commercial purposes.

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