Langley Lake is located near Union Bay and supplies the drinking water for the coastal community. Photo courtesy JET Productions.

Union Bay residents concerned about logging within Langley Lake watershed

Residents have been writing to the province, requesting it put a temporary halt to planned activity

Several Union Bay residents are concerned about impending logging in the Langley Lake watershed.

Forestry company Island Timberlands gave notice to the Union Bay Improvement District (UBID) last year that the company intends to conduct industrial activity near the southwest corner of Langley Lake for the 2018 timber harvest.

Langley Lake is the drinking water source for the roughly 1,200 people in Union Bay. But Island Timberlands owns the land the lake is situated on and has conducted logging there in the past.

In its November 2017 news update to landowners, UBID chief administrative officer Gord Mason and board chair Peter Jacques wrote that the situation is “of great concern to the UBID trustees.

“…should it be allowed to happen, there is little doubt this logging will do irreparable harm to our watershed and water system,” read the update.

Alongside the improvement district, many Union Bay residents also appear concerned with Island Timberlands’ plans.

At UBID’s Dec. 14 meeting, multiple gallery members asked the board what is being done regarding the issue.

On Jan. 10, Union Bay resident David Mills wrote a letter to Mid Island-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser, who also chairs the B.C. Legislature’s Environment and Land Use Committee.

“As has been clearly demonstrated in [the] Comox Lake watershed, industrial-scale logging creates defined health risks and taxpayer liabilities,” he wrote.

“Langley Lake is small, it has previously been impacted by harvesting, and it is the only available source of clean, safe drinking water in adequate quantity.”

Mills told the Record he feels logging is inconsistent with modern water supply management systems in B.C.

“It’s a concern because Union Bay’s water supply is fragile enough as it is,” he said. “Industrial activity near any community’s drinking supply is unacceptable in this day and age.”

The Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition (VIWWC) also penned a letter to Fraser, outlining the coalition’s opposition to Island Timberlands’ plans.

“To be blunt, it is no longer acceptable to conduct industrial resource extraction in community drinking water systems,” wrote VIWWC chair June Ross.

“This is unfair to Union Bay residents who face real health impacts that neither they nor their elected representatives can address — not to mention future financial liability to fund treatment costs needed to remedy damage industrial resource extraction causes to drinking water supply systems.”

Ross’s letter went on to state that the coalition hopes Fraser’s committee will “impose an immediate temporary injunction preventing any further industrial resource extraction activity within the Langley Lake watershed” until community control over water supply areas can be proposed within the legislature.

Mills echoed the VIWWC’s sentiments.

“In this situation, a temporary injunction is the most reasonable way to put the brakes on so we can answer all these questions,” he said.

When reached for comment, the B.C. Ministry of Forestry, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development issued the following statement regarding the matter:

“Under the Private Managed Forest Land Act and regulations, companies are required to protect key values including fish habitat, water quality and critical wildlife habitat,” reads a portion of the statement. “The forest management objective for private managed forest land with respect to water quality is to protect human drinking water, both during and after harvesting.”

According to UBID’s newsletter, Island Timberlands plans to log up to 20 metres within the Langley Lake shoreline. The topography of the area is fairly steep and the soil is of a loose organic nature.

The logging will take place on the opposite side of the lake from the intake of UBID’s water system.

Island Timberlands did not respond to interview requests.

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