21st October 2018
Editor's Note: After five long months of waiting, the Minister has finally responded to our presentation of April 10th, 2018. We wrote on May 8th, June 12th and another request from MLA Leonard Krog, requesting timelines of our four requests to government on April 10th. This is the response
September 26, 2018
June Ross, Chair
Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition
Dear Ms. Ross:
Thank you for your email of May 8, 2018, reiterating the recommendations made by members of the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition at the April 10, 2018, meeting with local MLAs. I am pleased to respond to you on behalf of my colleagues, and I apologize for the lengthy delay in doing so.
Your letter recommends changes in legislation and implementation of other initiatives to increase local and Indigenous Nation involvement in watershed management, enhance water information and restrict natural resource activities in designated community watersheds. I understand that your broader goal is to ensure healthy water quality in designated community watersheds on Vancouver Island.
The current focus of government’s water-related legislative and regulatory development is the continued implementation of the Water Sustainability Act (WSA); changes in the water-related provisions of other statutes are not planned at this time. Government is also not currently planning the development of any special funds to support watershed management. I am pleased to report, however, that we are taking action on many of your recommendations.
Water Sustainability Act Implementation
A number of regulations are under development as part of WSA implementation, including work on livestock watering and measuring and reporting regulations. We are also developing policy and testing the scientific framework to use in developing WSA water objectives to sustain water quantity, water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. Policy work to support the development of water sustainability plans is also underway. A pilot in the Nicola watershed will test governance tools, planning and objective setting; the experience and knowledge gained are expected to inform policy, regulations and future projects, including future water sustainability plans.
Policy work to examine the process for declaring a significant water shortage for a specified area, resulting in the determination of critical environment flow (CEF) thresholds for that area (WSA Sections 86 and 87) is also in development. CEF thresholds are different from environmental flow needs (EFNs), which must be considered in all water allocation decisions. WSA Section 88 is a complementary but separate tool that specifies that the Minister may issue an order to protect a fish population, if the Minister considers that the flow of water in a specified stream is, or is likely to become, so low that the survival of a population of fish in the stream may be or may become threatened, and that application of the order will likely yield immediate, direct benefits to the fish population.
Engaging Indigenous Nations
In partnership with Indigenous Nations, a number of ministries are developing and testing a resource stewardship framework focused on reconciliation and shared environmental stewardship. The hope is to expand this approach, once tested, in the future. Further, the Water Protection and Sustainability Branch in my ministry is developing a consultation framework to ensure Indigenous Nations’ participation in WSA implementation.
Provincial Monitoring Programs
We continue to improve the provincial water monitoring program; recent enhancements include the open release of data and a third-party data-sharing agreement. We are currently looking at a broader water monitoring strategy for the province that would include enhanced data integration and collaboration, and would guide coordinating monitoring activities; developing and assessing water quality objectives; permitting, attainment and compliance evaluation; and collaborating with communities and Indigenous Nations on local monitoring initiatives.
Community Watersheds and Drinking Water
Community watershed designation supports the use of Crown lands for multiple values while helping to ensure that resource management activities in community watersheds do not significantly reduce drinking water quality. Government takes a multi-barrier provincial approach to drinking water safety that also includes consideration of Source Drinking Water Quality Guidelines and water quality objectives in government decision making, the requirement that natural resource activities in designated community watersheds comply with government objectives, and implementation of the Drinking Water Protection Act.
My ministry is required to consider water quality guidelines and objectives in all relevant decisions, including permitting decisions, licences and legal orders under the Environmental Management Act.
Implementation of the WSA and related government initiatives will provide additional tools to protect drinking water quality and enable more local participation in watershed management. Local issues on Crown land, including the protection of watersheds, may be appropriately addressed via a land use planning process that considers multiple values and is based on collaboration with other agencies and partners including First Nations. Once a local land use plan is in place, the legal mechanism to implement it can be considered.
The Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in BC (the Code) contains provisions to protect water quality and water courses for mining operations. The Code contains additional conditions for mineral exploration activities conducted within a community watershed, including: maintaining surface and subsurface drainage patterns within the range of natural variability; protecting stream channel stability; ensuring water quality at a potable water supply intake is not degraded; requiring the mining company to notify the water licensee(s) at least 48 hours prior to commencing exploration activities; requiring the mining company to have a contingency plan to restore potable water quality in the event it is impacted; and requiring the company to immediately cease exploration activities and take remedial action if those activities adversely impacted potable water quality or quantity.
My ministry recently completed a review of professional reliance in the natural resource sector to ensure the highest professional, technical and ethical standards are being applied to resource management in British Columbia. The recently released report recommends ways in which this results-based model can be enhanced. Government is currently considering, and will respond to, these recommendations. The report can be found on our Professional Reliance webpage.
If you have further questions about these initiatives, please contact Jennifer Vigano, Director of Watershed Sustainability, at Jennifer.Viganogov.bc.ca, or Ted White, Director and Comptroller of Water Rights with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, at Ted.Whitegov.bc.ca.
While the WSA contains tools that can help address impacts from activities like forestry and mining, broader opportunities will need to be explored to address any sector-wide issues, such as land use planning. I continue to work with my colleagues to address these issues.
Thank you for your commitment to water and for all the work undertaken by the groups associated with the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition.
cc: Honourable Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Leonard Krog, MLA, Nanaimo
Tom Ethier, Assistant Deputy Minister, Resource Stewardship Division, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Craig Sutherland, Assistant Deputy Minister, Regional Operations Division – Coast Area, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development