Protecting the Watershed

This graphic shows the many key stakeholders who operate within the Gibsons Aquifer watershed. Robust communication and collaboration between these groups (and others) is critical, if we are going to successfully protect our community’s drinking water in perpetuity.

Background

The Gibsons Aquifer is a pristine, award-winning and irreplaceable natural asset, and the Town of Gibsons takes our stewardship of it very seriously. Accordingly, the Town has taken a number of steps to protect the aquifer within our municipal boundaries.

In order to ensure the ongoing health of our primary water source, however, we must also work to protect the aquifer’s watershed area, which extends well beyond the Town’s borders and is impacted by a wide variety of organizations and user groups.

The Source to Sea project, for example, seeks to evaluate and manage the natural assets that lie within the entire watershed, as any activity that impacts these assets also impacts our community’s stormwater management, flood mitigation and drinking water services.

BC Watershed Security Coalition

The BC Watershed Security Coalition represents British Columbians from all walks of life and every corner of our province. Our Members act as a collective and non-partisan voice for the water community to elected leaders on shared priorities.

  1. Create a BC Watershed Security Fund (see below);
  2. Enact implementing legislation and regulations; and
  3. Establish a watershed governance framework.

Learn more about the BC Watershed Security Coalition here.

Watershed Security Strategy and Fund

The Province is developing B.C.’s first Watershed Security Strategy and Fund, which will build on efforts inside and outside of government to ensure our water and watersheds are respected and valued for all they provide. Government’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples will be foundational to this work.

Read a Press Release about the new Watershed Security Strategy and Fund here.

Public Engagement – Provide Input on the Development of the Watershed Security Strategy

On January 25, 2022, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman announced that the public engagement process for the Watershed Security Strategy and Fund had been launched. Watch the Press Conference here.

The related Engage BC website has gone live and a discussion paper has been prepared based on what the government has heard from Indigenous peoples, key stakeholders, internal experts, opinion leaders, and the public.

Now, the Province is inviting the public to provide input about the ideas and options presented in the discussion paper.

The deadline for public comment on the discussion paper is March 18, 2022 at 4pm. Feedback will inform a draft strategy to be released in the fall. The Province expects to release a final strategy in 2023.

Learn more and share your thoughts with the Province about development of the Watershed Security Strategy here.

The BC Watershed Security Coalition has prepared a Resource Document for Submission to the BC Government on the Watershed Security Fund which provides background and key messaging focused on the province’s commitment to create a BC Watershed Security Fund. It may be useful in developing your submission to the BC Government.

 Recent Actions Taken to Protect the Watershed (Q4 2021)

On November 3, 2021, the Town of Gibsons hosted the Elphinstone-Gibsons Watershed Dialogue which brought together a comprehensive group of stakeholders to discuss:

  1. The need to collaborate in order to protect the Gibsons Aquifer watershed; and
  2. Short-term and long-term strategies to achieve that goal.

At that meeting, future actions suggested to protect the watershed included:

  1. That the SCRD and Town of Gibsons investigate the costs to develop and install signage to inform the public of the watershed and aquifer areas and need to protect them. (Similar to Campbell River);
  2. That the Town of Gibsons staff compile information and presentations from the dialogue on a dedicated webpage. (Completed);
  3. That legal research be conducted into options available under provincial Acts and Regulations to protect the watershed and aquifer area. (The SCCA has offered to coordinate this work.);
  4. That the Town and SCRD consider ways to harmonize bylaws that are intended to protect the watershed-aquifer areas from the impacts of development or other activities; and
  5. That the SCRD, Town of Gibsons and others form a committee to continue to work with the Squamish Nation and the provincial government to develop an overall strategy for the long-term protection of the watershed and aquifer areas.

Since the Elphinstone-Gibsons Watershed Dialogue, a number of actions have been undertaken to advance watershed protections. These include:

On November 16, 2021, Council resolved that a proposal be submitted to the AVICC Executive Committee, requesting a session on Watershed Governance during the 2022 Convention. Read related Staff Report here.

Also on November 16, 2021, Council directed that a letter to be sent to Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, requesting that DL 1313, known locally as the Reed Road forest, be removed from BC Timber Sales timber supply and not be logged. Read the related Coast Reporter story here.

On November 20, 2021, Michael Maser (an attendee of the Watershed Dialogue) wrote to Mayor Beamish to let him know that he appreciated the Dialogue, and that as a result of the discussion, would be following up with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) in order to challenge their report of August 11, 2021, which asserts that “asphalt was not being disposed at the [Gilmour Road] site and was being temporarily stored for re-use”. Mr. Maser does not believe this is true. Mr. Maser has now written to MOTI asking for the Ministry to either 1. revise the report in order to correct what he believes to be omissions/distortions in the report, or 2. explain how/why the distortions occurred. Mr. Maser will report back to the Mayor when he receives a response from MOTI.

On November 23, 2021, Mayor Beamish met with Town staff and SCRD Director Donna McMahon to discuss actions to reduce flooding in Area E. As part of this work, costs for an engineering study to assess the stormwater issues that impact Area E are being investigated. It is envisioned that the study would be conducted by Urban Systems and jointly funded by the SCRD, ToG and MOTI.

On December 2, 2021, the Mayor met with Nicholas Simons, MLA, to discuss the Watershed Dialogue and solicit his support in approaching his colleagues on this matter.

 

Additional Resources

Nov 30-2021: Provincial Government Announces $27 million Investment in Watershed Security

Water has a crucial role in modernized land use planning

https://poliswaterproject.org/2020/07/22/water-in-modernized-land-use-planning/

Our Water, Our Future

https://healthywatersheds.ca/

Water Sustainability Plans: Potential, Options, and Essential Content

https://poliswaterproject.org/polis-research-publication/water-sustainability-plans/

A Watershed Security Fund for British Columbia

https://poliswaterproject.org/files/2019/11/Watershed-Security-Fund-Position-Paper-1.pdf

Gibsons Water Testing and Monitoring

https://gibsons.ca/services/water-testing-and-monitoring/

Case Studies: Examining Local Government Sustainable Funding Mechanisms In B.C.

https://watershedsbc.ca/resource/local-government-funding-mechanisms/

SCRD Watershed Assessments Report, February 2009

2009-02 Delcan – Integrated Stormwater Management Planning, Phase 2 Watershed Assessments

Source Water Protection Toolkit

2021-12 Source Water Protection Toolkit (Okanagan Basin)

BC Watershed Security Fund – A Collaborative Vision

2021-12 BC Watershed Security Fund