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Vancouver Coastal Health raises concerns over logging operation on Sunshine Coast

A photo showing an area where ELF claims trees have been cut too close to a stream in the Chapman watershed.

 A photo showing an area where ELF claims trees have been cut too close to a stream in the Chapman watershed.A photo showing an area where ELF claims trees have been cut too close to a stream in the Chapman watershed. Photograph By SUBMITTED

Logging on private lands in the Chapman Watershed System has prompted Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) to reach out to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) “to express their concerns,” said Janette Loveys, SCRD chief administrative officer, in a May 10 verbal report.

According to Loveys, SCRD utilities staff first noticed logging on lands owned by AJB Investments, a subsidiary of Surespan, in February while flying into Tetrahedron Provincial Park to conduct a snow survey. “To staff’s knowledge, this logging of Surespan/AJB lands is still ongoing,” said Loveys. She said the SCRD was not notified logging would take place and has not reached out to AJB/Surespan. During the committee meeting, Loveys said staff also communicated with shíshálh Nation staff, “who have expressed similar concerns.”

SCRD is concerned the activities could increase the run-off and sediment loading of Chapman Creek, but no noticeable impact has been observed to date. It maintains the position that logging activity in community watersheds should create “zero risk” from turbidity, sediment and pathogens.

In a follow-up letter, VCH told Coast Reporter a senior environmental health officer asked SCRD in early April whether it had heard about the resumption of logging on Surespan/AJB lands, and that “VCH is concerned about a possible lack of notification from the logging company to the SCRD prior to logging in a sensitive watershed.” VCH is mandated to ensure source water is protected from possible hazards through the Drinking Water Protection Act. VCH identified its advice to the SCRD as a suggestion rather than an order or requirement.

SCRD raised concerns to the Private Managed Forest Council (PMFC), and in April, Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) filed a complaint to PMFC, claiming AJB/Surespan is felling trees too close to riparian areas and building logging roads too close to streams. PMFC is investigating the matter.

AJB/Surespan told Coast Reporter “there are no outstanding deficiencies with regards to the work in the block in question.”

Roberts Creek director Mark Lebbell put forward two motions, which were carried, to move towards more stringent protections against logging in the watershed. One letter will be sent in collaboration with shíshálh Nation to AJB/Surespan, outlining the “potential impact of current harvesting practices on water quality and quantity.” Another will be written to Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and MLA Nicholas Simons to support an amendment to the Private Managed Forest Land Act proposed by the City of Powell River in 2018, to address “concerns with current private managed forest lands regulatory regime.”

At the same meeting, directors passed several motions in response to BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) five-year operating plan, including ensuring shíshálh Nation and Skwxwú7mesh are consulted. Directors voted to inform BCTS that the SCRD opposes logging District Lot 1313 in Elphinstone, that it would like a trail strategy confirmation for cutblocks in West Sechelt and Mt. Elphinstone, that recreational users should be informed of logging in areas using signage, that an eelgrass mapping study should be conducted in coastal areas including in Jervis Inlet and Howe Sound, and that a drinking water protection strategy for forestry operations be established with the goal of “zero turbidity, zero sediment and zero pathogen input,” including a monitoring and data sharing program. Directors also voted for forest in the Coastal Douglas Fir Biogeoclimactic Zone to be protected from logging.

- with files from Sean Eckford. Go to the Coast Reporter for news about the Sunshine Coast.