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LETTER - CVRD skips steps in supporting Merville water business

Dear Editor,
In a 2-1 vote, the Comox Valley Regional District electoral area services committee approved a home occupation use for the owner of a Merville property who has applied for a water extraction licence. (Pixabay photo)

Dear Editor,

The Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) planning staff and directors Hardy and Grieve have done a grave disservice to the Comox Valley in supporting the “storage, transport, and sale of bulk water” from the Comox Valley aquifer as a home occupation zoning permitted use. The cogent opposition of Director Arbour was ignored.

RELATED: Comox Valley directors approve home occupation use for water extraction

At the overflow January meeting, in response to residents’ concerns with the planning department’s suggestion that this was an allowable use, the directors voted unanimously to defer a decision and obtain an independent legal opinion, confirm a response from the K’òmoks First Nation, and request a meeting with the province.

A legal opinion was critical, given the precedent-setting issues raised by approval of a provincially classified industrial use as a home occupation use, but the CVRD planning department declined to obtain that opinion, instead reiterating its own contention that groundwater bulk sales was a legal home occupation use. This week Directors Hardy and Grieve voted - despite their earlier commitment - to approve that recommendation with neither the legal opinion nor the provincial meeting available later this spring (the confidential response of K’òmoks First Nation is with the Province). This broken promise may have far-ranging community planning implications.

Even more importantly, under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) - formerly NAFTA - Canadian aquifers and other waters are sheltered from inclusion in negotiations IF they are not commercially traded: once water is sold, it falls irrevocably from protection; and it is naïve not to assume an increasingly parched U.S. will eventually bring water to the negotiating table.

If this Merville commercial operation begins, the Comox Valley’s population, agricultural sector and critical ecosystems could forever be at risk from ‘expropriation’ of the aquifer, already suffering reduced recharge from less rainfall and facing the eventual loss of seasonal flows from the disappearing Comox Glacier.

The province has not responded to my request for clarification as to whether provincial law could protect water at the international negotiation table, so I’m assuming not.

Our only hope now is that the provincial government will not approve this application, but instead compensate the licence holders, extinguish the licence and never permit another on the Comox Valley aquifer or any other BC aquifer. Please write to Premier Eby ( and Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, Nathan Cullen ( and ask them to safeguard all BC aquifers from potential inclusion in CUSMA negotiations by immediately banning commercial groundwater extraction.

Gillian Anderson,