Yesterday when I drove over “the hump” (a small mountain pass out of my town), I noticed quite a gathering of people.
Apparently there was a good purpose for that gathering. (G&M)
Environmentalists, forest workers, retired forest workers, mill workers and many others all gathered to stop logging trucks from leaving the Alberni Valley.
NDP MLA Scott Fraser was there as well and he asked:
Will the minister agree to meet with the workers and residents of Port Alberni and listen to what they have to say about the impact of this government’s forests policies?
As a resident, I know firsthand of what he speaks.
The Alberni Valley and Port Alberni is a beautiful place. Closely surrounded by mountains and hills it is very majestic. In the past 10 years, the forests on the sides of those mountains have become target for cutting (they are 2nd and some 3rd growth). This has led to large swaths cut from the mountain side.
Being a long time logging community, most in Port Alberni don’t have a problem with the logging per-se. The problem comes in with the practices employed by the companies, TimberWest and Island TimberLands and what they do with the logs afterwards.
The vast majority, if not all, the logs get trucked out of the Valley. I dodge them every day on my way to work. Probably 100-200 trucks a day.
In the meantime, our mills are deteriorating, and there is a lot of talk, from the Mayor of Port Alberni himself, that these mills could shut down… thus decimating the economic base of the Valley. With hillsides covered in trees… this is a reality that is truly hard to deal with for residents here.
What’s more, the practices themselves seem to be causing serious water problems. One of the districts that connects to Port Alberni, known as Beaver Creek, takes all of its drinking water from a river (Beaver Creek) that flows down from the mountain sides. It rains a lot in Port Alberni (2nd only to Prince Rupert). This year.. the rain storms have caused massive injections of mud into the water supply… causing 3 boil water advisories since November.
Why the mud? Eye witness accounts of streams of dark water running down off of clear-cut areas, and directly into feeder streams have been reported. The District has launched a formal investigation and will launch legal action against the logging companies if they don’t clean up their act.
In short. All is not well in Port Alberni. And we are simply a symptom of a greater problem. As much as the Premier would love to tell you that BC is “booming” it is not. Primary industry still forms the basis of the economy in this province, and forestry still has massive problems. The Softwood Lumber dispute, the high Canadian Dollar, the gutting of the Forest Practices Code, and forest companies not willing to invest in the very communities that provide them with workers and trees to cut.
The Olympics will not solve this. Nor with the windfall from rising oil and gas exports.
I fear that Port Alberni may end up being just another Port Alice, or Gold River. Mill closes, town dries up, everyone heads to the big city.
Something needs to be done. And it needs to start in Victoria. (and Port Alberni.. but it looks like it’s finally starting to get revved up. )
Quick update… a 4th Boil Water Advisory has been issued for the Beaver Creek area due turbidity levels caused by the most recent rainfalls. I grew up in Beaver Creek and remember only one boil water advisory in the span of 10 years.. this is the 4th in 4 months. The cause of these problems is clear…
Update 2 Thank you to OutonTheCoast in the comments for pointing out that the excellent regional online-paper, the Westcoaster.ca has more in depth coverage of the issue.
On any given day, James added, about 100-150 logging trucks leave town.
Right now, he said, the private lands are being monitored by a company group, an action which is much like a “bull playing in a china shop.”