A slow, but determined, walk uphill toward reconciliation.

Not just a gathering

Something happened on a chilly and drizzly Monday afternoon and it wasn’t just a bunch of people milling about at Harbour Quay and then walking to City Hall. On March 27th, 2017 two leaders in this community, Cynthia Dick, Chief Councillor of Tseshaht First Nation, and Jolleen Dick, Councillor of Hupacasath First Nation organized a gathering to speak against systemic racism in Port Alberni.

It succeeded in bringing together a huge amount of people, here on the unceded territory of the Tseshaht and Hupacasath First Nations.  All of these people were together to acknowledge that territory and acknowledge the pain that racism and hatred toward First Nations and toward one another has caused over the years and continues to cause today.  Here are three big things I gained from the experience at the Walk for Reconciliation.

A long Walk uphill.

It is a long, steep journey up Argyle hill from Harbour Quay to City Hall.  There were 200-300 people, trudging up the hill together.  It was made easier because we were all together, we all had someone to talk to and share stories with. We were together in common cause and purpose, and it felt good. When you feel good about something, when you are with friends, when you know someone, or a lot of someones, have your back, it is a lot easier to tackle hard climbs.  This will be a slow process, this reconciliation, but people are determined. Some will not be able to make the journey on their own and will need help.  Others will not be able to participate at all but will meet us there at the finish line in full support.

A Song sung by All.

If you’ve followed me at all on Facebook you might have seen a Kinder Morgan protest march I participate in that featured a very strong First Nations presence.  One of the big moments of that rally of tens of thousands strong was at the end, when a huge circle of Indigenous peoples from all over BC and elsewhere sang and drummed and they asked the crowd to join in. This was the first time I had participated in something where First Nations so openly invited all into their celebration and exclamation. It was very powerful and I think it made a real impact on people there.

There were a number of great songs sung at the Walk for Reconciliation on Monday.

And as Trevor Little of Tseshaht passionately led the final song in front of City Hall, drummed and sung by members of Tseshaht and Hupacasath and others, he encouraged the whole group to join in.  Which it did, a little timidly perhaps, but it did.  For this to be happening in my hometown. A town known for its divisions between races, even between neighbours, was very powerful.  It was a wonderful moment and I thank Mr. Little especially for his passion and outspokenness.

Not just something to wear for the day

Finally, one last thing.  When I first got there, John Alan Jack, councillor for Huu-ay-aht First Nation and Chair of the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District, walked up and offered me this head dress to wear.

He and other First Nation leaders were wearing similar features. I took it and wore it out of respect, but honestly I did so without really knowing what it symbolized.

After the event had wrapped up I walked back up to John and asked if I should give it back.  He very kindly told me it was not something to return but something to wear at events of importance or where learning was taking place. It was a way to focus the mind on the task at hand and it was now mine.

I don’t seek out gifts from others, and so when I am given one of symbolic importance it is important to me.  I want to thank Councillor Jack for his gift.  I am still not entirely confident on how and when is the right time (and may bug John occasionally for advice) but I deeply appreciate the gesture.

I think it is safe to say that Charles Thomas (picture above, courtesy Jen Fisher Bradley) and many other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents of Port Alberni had a lot of fun yesterday.  It was a wonderful event put on by two inspiring leaders in our community, supported by their Nations, and supported by the wider community in an unprecedented way. I hope we have all been able to come away with something of value from the event. I know I did, both in the form of a gift and in the knowledge that Port Alberni might just be ready to heal and grow.  There are no set dates or defitinitions to this. We do not know if this is really the start of real reconciliation or not (I think it is), it comes down to the feeling in the community as a whole and the true relationships between people.  The start and end are fluid, but I think we will know in time, when we have made good progress.

Klecko Klecko.   ….. now… if I could just convince my keyboard to write that in the proper Nuu-Chah-Nulth, we’d have another step up the hill. HELP! 🙂

Update! See it always helps to ask for help.  Here is where you can download keyboard layouts for a huge array of Indigenous Languages and install them on your Mac or Windows computer.  You are looking for Nuučaan̓uł under the Wakashan group of languages.

For iOS users, you can grab the First Voices App and add the Keyboard Layout to your screen!

And if you just need a quick character translation, you can go to this webpage here!

ƛlecko ƛlecko!

Logging truck broadside indicates desperate need for Industrial road network

Do we need a designated road network for industrial truck traffic?

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In today’s paper… the story on the logging truck broadsiding a minivan is pretty frustrating and again illustrates the need for a proper industrial route that includes safety measures and traffic calming measures so that truck drivers, car and minivan drivers, pedestrians and all other road users are safe.

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I brought up this issue a few months ago but it has been bogged down in discussions with Western Forest Products.

Sending heavy industrial traffic like logging trucks but also other heavy trucks willy nilly into our most densely populated and high traffic areas simply isn’t safe.  What the heck was a logging truck doing at the corner of 2nd and Argyle?  Was it going up or down Argyle?  Across Argyle on 2nd?  I honestly don’t know but none of the possibilities make any sense.

What we need is a predictable route, only then can the City properly invest in additional safety and traffic calming measures along that route to boost public safety for all road users, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the like.   We simply don’t have the funds to invest in safety improvements to all possible routes heavy trucks might take.

The quote below from RCMP Corporal Amelia Hayden is official confirmation of the dozens of anecdotal reports I have heard and my own observations of lax observance of traffic laws by heavy truck traffic in the uptown area and other areas around the City including Compton Road, Victoria Quay and others.

“On approach to the intersection, the logging truck slowed down but failed to come to a complete stop at the stop sign…. colliding with the passenger door of the mini van”
In the initial report by the News available on their website they state:
“A family with two small boys was said to be in the minivan.”

Thankfully it appears no one was hurt. Lets not wait for someone to actually be hurt or worse before we act on this pressing issue.

I have previously been in favour of investigating the Waterfront Industrial route and it continues to be under investigation including in this year’s budget, however, as commercial, residential and city re-development continues to gather pace along the waterfront, we are creating conditions for increased potential conflict.  Funnelling all our industrial traffic through the intersection at Argyle and Harbour Road may be detrimental in terms of both safety and future economic opportunity.

I believe a proper examination of the current and future opportunities, including the waterfront industrial road, would show the best, most affordable, and safest long term solution from traffic headed to Ship Creek Road is to ensure all heavy truck traffic uses Anderson.  Anderson residents will have urgent and extremely valid concerns that the City would have to address but addressing those concerns would represent a fraction of the cost compared to the millions needed to build the waterfront route.

It is time for a proper industrial truck network in Port Alberni that confines heavy trucks to a limited number of arterial routes through the City.

For more information about all the options, check out the excellent “Truck Talk” series at the Alberni Valley news website.


Council votes to prepare regulations for Marijuana Dispensaries. (Also, Web Video creeping Closer!)

Update: Councillor Sauvé has provided his perspective on the issue.

It is always a good sign when the public has filled the Council Chambers at City Hall 5 minutes before the regular council meeting starts.

IMG_1494The big topic of interest on the Nov 9 Agenda was Marijuana Dispensaries and what to do with the dispensary known as “WeeMedical“.  A picture of its store front is beside.  Below this post I’ve attached the report from The Peak this morning.  Here is the AVNews Article as of Nov 12.

There had been a ton of talk and concern about the dispensary since it opened a couple weeks ago.  In response to the interest, I conducted an informal and unscientific Facebook poll through my Facebook Page on Oct 26 that asked: “On Marijuana Dispensaries should Port Alberni: A) Discourage/Close as per Federal Criminal Code or B) Regulate, License. As Vancouver has done.” I got an unexpectedly large response. The results of the poll were A: 20 and B: 212. (more responses came after with generally the same ratio).

Getting back to the meeting, after 5 people (Council allowed 1 more than the normal 4 slots) spoke during the Public Input period, City Planner Scott Smith presented a report on the Agenda (click here to fly to the bottom of this post to see the report in full.)

Two motions were presented by Councillor McLeman, note that the below quote might not be the official motion that appears in the minutes of the meeting but it is what Councillor McLeman distributed to councillors during the meeting.

Whereas there is already one “dispensary” open on Third Ave and several others wish to open quickly and

Whereas the City Of Port Alberni has no regulations for such facilities and present zoning would likely allow in any area a pharmacy could go in and there are several locations being possibly eyed for one now.

Whereas other cities have been “caught napping” and are now trying to catch up to a problem

I move that the Council for the City of Port Alberni direct staff to come back by the next regular council meeting ( November 23 2015) with recommended zoning and operating conditions for “medical marijuana dispensing facilities” in Port Alberni.


This first motion was passed after a great deal of good discussion on the issue both for and against.

Personally, I firmly believe that two of the three recommendations from the City Planner, letting the RCMP investigate and deal with the issue solely, or wait for other municipalities to come up with a solution, would, due to low enforcement levels, effectively allow the current dispensary to operate without any oversight and control and allow others to start at will.  While I completely agreed with Councillor Sauve and Mayor Ruttan that the sale of marijuana was illegal, I disagreed that we should leave it only to the RCMP because I believe we as a City would be left powerless.  Since we do have tools as a City to zone property, enact bylaws, and enforce bylaws, by creating special bylaws for marijuana dispensaries, we give ourselves the tools necessary to protect public safety and neighbours as much as we possibly can.

I also stated that, given anecdotal evidence I have seen and heard, I strongly believe there may be medicinal benefits to marijuana.  However, dispensaries as they stand now seem to really just be a way for people to access recreational marijuana.  That is my opinion but it  was something I wanted folks to be aware of.  Since I believe the ultimate desire and benefit of the Canadian public is to legalize marijuana completely, I don’t have a problem with this reality.  In fact, I would prefer if the ‘dispensaries’ lost the medicinal pretence as I believe that that actually harms their legitimacy.  In time, after marijuana is legalized, I am sure there will be extensive research carried out to determine scientifically and conclusively the medicinal benefits and side effects of cannabis and the many compounds it contains and hopefully those medicinal products are distributed through pharmacies just as other drugs are now while the recreational stuff is sold like cigarettes… but that is another topic! 🙂

I was also very pleased to see a letter from the neighbouring business at Flandangles.  It was a late addition to the Agenda so unfortunately you will not be able to see it until the minutes come to the next meeting on the 23rd, but it was generally very supportive of the dispensary next door and detailed their experience since the dispensary opened.  The final statement from the letter was:

“In closing, it appears that all of my fears were misplaced.”

Councillor Sauve and Ruttan spoke most strongly against the motion but I don’t want to attempt to paraphrase them as it would be unfair.  However, we did find out during the break that the video recordings of the recent meetings (since the new audio/video equipment was installed) will be posted online in the not-too-distant future.  There were some major issues last night apparently with the audio on Shaw Cable but the audio and video on a limited test run of the web stream was excellent so I am hopeful people will be able to view those, live as well as after the fact, soon.  Then all will be able to see how all of Council contributed.

Update… Councillor Sauvé has provided his point of view through Facebook and has allowed me to reproduce it here. Thank you Councillor Sauvé!

I feel I must respond to the following blog by this councillor as to what exactly was the motion to which I did not support last night at City council. The motion in part I’m fully in support with one BIG EXCEPTION. The motion last night gave city staff the direction to discuss regulations and zoning of illegal dispensaries at this time.

City representatives have been elected to not only represent of community but also the health and safety of those residents we represent. I agree we must be prepared as to zoning and regulation locations of these dispensaries BUT not when it is still illegal in this country to sell or distribute this drug. Such motion should be in place when the Federal Government puts into place new laws or regulations which will permit distribution of this product in a safe manner.

Presently we have one dispensary to which is operating illegal with no health safety guidelines to its customers. I support the use of this drug for medicinal use and feel it’s best for this Federal Government and Health Canada work quickly to ensure it is clear to the community as to what regulations will be. The Federal Government has a responsibility to ensure such safe product.

What concerns me is that the motion put in place last night gives a clear message that our council wants to regulate something that is clearly ILLEGAL at this present time. I can tell you first hand that the RCMP will not work with the city into regulating something which is clearly still against the law. Doing so we are putting a big liability on the city if God forbid something would happen due to the actions of any dispensary presently distributing this narcotic. The burden of such actions will fall on the tax payers to which all council members took and oath to serve and protect.

Simply said….let’s not put the cart before the horse. We need to BE PATIENT and wait for the Federal Government to implement guidelines on this matter. Until it’s legal, I feel city council and the RCMP have no authority to regulate something that is illegal at the present time. The RCMP have a strong mandate to uphold and turning a blind eye to something illegal is NOT one of them.

The RCMP clearly stated to the media last night that they have a file open and the file remains active.

Until it’s officially legal… I cannot support any illegal dispensary until the law of the land has change and proper precaution are in place to ensure the health and safety of our community.

I do agree we need to prepare for what will be coming…..but until then….the city has no authority to regulate something that is presently illegal and clearly a Federal mandate issue.

Acting alone on this issue and not waiting for proper laws and guidelines in place is simply throwing caution to the air to which I refuse to do.

I’m looking forward and eagerly awaiting the Federal government stance and changes on this issue….but until then I cannot take part in supporting illegal activity.

Councillor Denis Sauve


In the end, it was a recorded vote on this motion so I can say the vote was (in Alphabetical Order):

  • FOR : Alemany, McLeman, Minions, Paulson, Washington
  • AGAINST: Ruttan, Sauvé

The second motion that was passed on the topic gave City staff some specific suggestions on how to move forward.  The discussion was much shorter and it was not a recorded vote.  While it isn’t in the written motion below, I suggested during the discussion that the bylaw include a requirement that both non-profits and for-profit dispensaries be required to have a business license so that if any of the requirements imposed in a new bylaw were not met, that license could be revoked by the City and the business shut.


Second Motion

Move that staff work with local businesses and the RCMP to come up with conditions and locations. The conditions could include:- -off hours security

-product safety disclosure posted

-age requirement to enter –suggest 19

– stand alone “dispensaries” only (no coffee shop or other combo)

-must keep records of all suppliers and be prepared to give to RCMP if they request it.

I am very proud of City Council for going in the direction it has and I believe it sends an excellent signal of openness and pro-activeness to the community and even to business owners looking at us from outside.  The owner of WeeMedical has said he intends on keeping the business open and also following the rules the City puts in place.

Oh, and one final thing on that topic: I presented a notice of motion, so a motion that would come to the next meeting, asking Staff to write to the Federal Government to urge them to move quickly on the legalization file so that this ‘grey area’ can be resolved and municipalities are not forced to deal with it in such a non-standard way.


News Article From 93.3 The Peak:

City Council will regulate where medical marijuana shops can locate, Councillor Jack McLeman believes the city should get in front of the issue and start planning where pot shops can and can’t go.

McLeman said one of the purposes of his motion was to keep pot shops away from parks and schools. McLeman has also asked that city staff put together a report on medical marijuana shops including a legal opinion. Wee Medical owner [Justin] Liu agreed with the motion which allows his shop to remain open for now.

Wee Medical Marijuana owner [Justin] Liu said he’s impressed with the forward thinking leadership of city council. He’ll keep his Third Avenue store open, barring any police issues with the store that currently employs 4 people.

Port Alberni Mayor Mike Ruttan and councillor Denis Sauve voted against the motion arguing that marijuana is illegal and that trumps all other issues.

Councillors Chris Alemany and Sharie Minions admonished Mayor Mike Ruttan for speaking publically against Wee Medical Marijuana in advance of council’s discussion.

Alemany wants the city to send a letter to the federal government, asking them to move forward quickly on legalizing marijuana.

Port Alberni RCMP Inspector Mac Richards said the medical marijuana shop is the focus of an active investigation.

Dispensary Report:


SUBJECT: Background


Ken Watson, City Manager Scott Smith, City Planner November 2, 2015

Marijuana Dispensaries

A non-profit society (WeeMedical Dispensary Society) has opened a marijuana dispensary in the Uptown on 3rd Avenue. The City has also received verbal inquiries into opening further dispensaries in a variety of areas in the City.

Under the current federal laws, it is illegal to sell marijuana as a storefront operation. The City of Vancouver has chosen to regulate marijuana dispensaries and the City of Victoria is considering similar regulations. There are several unlicensed dispensaries open in Nanaimo including two stores run by WeeMedical. A news report from Nanaimo is attached for information.

A statement on a Supreme Court decision on medical marijuana dated July 8, 2015 is also attached for information. Changes to Federal marijuana laws are possible over the next several years.


The City of Port Alberni, Business License bylaw would not require a business license, for a non-profit business. However, even if a business license were required, the City would not issue one for a marijuana dispensary, as the business is illegal. Because this use is illegal the Zoning bylaw does not have any reference to marijuana dispensaries, except to prohibit a storefront or retail outlet as part of a medical marijuana production facility. If Council wanted to amend City bylaws to address marijuana dispensaries, similar to Vancouver and Victoria, the City would be regulating a business that is currently illegal.

The RCMP has issued the WeeMedical Society a letter outlining the concerns and potential ramifications of their marijuana dispensary.

Medical marijuana dispensaries are a challenging issue for local governments and staff is requesting direction from City Council on how to proceed.


  1. Rely on local RCMP investigation of marijuana dispensary activity.
  2. Investigate bylaw amendments to regulate the activity of a marijuana dispensary. The potential pitfall of this bylaw amendment is that we would be regulating an illegal activity, and the use would need to be permitted in some areas.
  3. Await clarification of similar issues arising from decisions in other B.C. municipalities currently wrestling with this issue.


That the report from the City Planner dated November 2, 2015 be received.

Council direction required.

Less Fires in the City, More Water in Dry Creeks (where and when it’s supposed to be), and in Dunk Tanks!

A few interesting things happening in City Business.

Big changes to Fires in the City

Over the past couple weeks the City has gone through a bit of a sea change on the fire prevention front and it all comes down to improving Air Quaity.

#1: Backyard Burning Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.53.39 AMbanned yearround starting April 16, 2016.

This will not affect campfires but does affect any burning of yard debris on properties in City limits larger than campfire size (1/2 metre).  Burning of land clearing debris and of anything but clean, dry wood has been banned in City Limits for a number of years already.  The ban specifically refers to fires of up to 1 metre that are hand-piled.  Alternatives to this final step will be to bring all your yard waste to the dump (it is generally free or very inexpensive) or hopefully in the intervening year the City will be able to start up a Kitchen and Yard Waste program or otherwise provide a yard waste pickup day for residents to put out their yard clippings in spring and fall.  Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.53.14 AMThe reason for the ban is Air Quality.  Backyard bunring in the fall especially contributes to very bad air quality and has led to multiple Advisories over the past few years including the two in November and December shown in the pictures on the left and right.  We ar
e stuck in our beautiful little Valley with inversions that trap the smoke from peoples fires and stoves.  While stoves can be upgraded to burn very efficiently (more on that below), backyard burn piles cannot.  Many other communities like ours have banned backyard burning for the same reason.  I would not be surprised to see it grow to a Valley wide ban through the ACRD in the near future.  Emissions from fires cause major health problems especially for the young and elderly.

#2 Non-EPA Woodstoves phased out by 2017

old_stove_versus_new_stoveDid you know that the City has been in the throes of a five-year sunset clause on all Non-EPA wood stoves?  That means, by January 1 2017, all non-EPA wood stoves must be removed from City residences.

Non-EPA Woodstoves are already required to be removed from properties at the time of a sale.  There have also been exchange programs through the Air Quality council for a number of years where people can get discounts on new stoves by bringing in their old ones.


#3 When is the Tsunami Warning System actually used?

Ever wonder what it actually takes to have our Tsunami Warning System actually used?  Well, it is in our new Fire Control Bylaw in the July 13 Agenda.

  1. (xiii)  activate the Tsunami Warning System in the following situations:(A)  a tsunami warning affecting the Port Alberni area has been issued by Emergency Management British Columbia;(B)  a tsunami warning affecting the Port Alberni area has been issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Warning Center;(C)  An earthquake affecting the Alberni Valley occurs, the magnitude of which makes standing difficult.

Work Begins on Dry Creek Project (while fish being moved too).

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.27.20 AMWork has begun on the Dry Creek Mitigation project.  There has already been digging work done in the channel between 4th and 3rd Avenue and behind Smitty’s.  More significant work involving the bridges, culverts and buildings in the area that had to be bought by the City will be happening very soon as well.

Here are some ‘before’ pictures from the Dry Creek Mitigation Study done in 2013. Click for full size.


Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.31.01 AMScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.28.16 AM

And here are some current pictures from this morning.

As you can see, it’s a big project!  This is all to try to mitigate the flooding on 3rd avenue and also will provide some better fish habitat.  The original stream of course did not conveniently curve around the industrial properties but rather empty pretty much straight from 4th Avenue into where the fisherman’s harbour is now.  But this is an attempt to improve the situation both structurally and environmentally.  Soon, many of the buildings along the creekside between 3rd and 4th will be demolished to make way for the larger stream bed and the added culvert under third avenue.

Dunk Tank!

And last but not least this Sunday, August 2 between 4:30PM and 5PM you have the exciting opportunity to drop me in the dunk tank at the Blue Marlin (former Arlington)!

(Click the picture for the Blue Marlin’s Facebook Event PageScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 11.10.19 AM)



They are raising money for Ty Watson House.  The event runs from 4PM to 9:30PM.  So come on by dunk some councillors and other community folks and enjoy what they have to offer.  All for a great cause.

4:00-A rep from Ty Watson
4:30-Christopher Alemany (City Council)
5:00-Denis Denis Sauve (City Council)
5:30-Nancy Wilmont (Shaw TV)
6:00-Kevin A Wright (SteamPunk Cafe and Coffee House)
6:30-Sproat Fire Hall
7:00-Cathy Braiden (Remax)
7:30-Beaver Creak Fire Hall

Stuff happening:
Live Music “The Enablers”
Dunk Tank
Lots of Kids activities
Pony Rides
Horse & Carriage Rides
Free Hot Dogs for kids 6 & under. Over that age $5.00 and includes a cold beverage.
Pork Roast Dinner, Corn on the Cob, & Salads – $12.95
Proceeds to the Ty Watson House in memory of Ed Walcot.


Gardens, Greenery…. and Gall. The Power of Community to Overcome Greed.

Grow a Garden, It’s Important. 🙂

This past Sunday I had the honour and privilege to cut the ribbon (it was even red!) at the Official opening for the Community Garden built by the Young Professionals of the Alberni Valley at 4th and Napier.

Thanks Kama Money for  the nice photo.
Thanks Kama Money for the nice photo.

It is a wonderful space and it has been put together by a who’s who of local businesses and dozens of volunteers all working together to create this important source of local food for citizens.  All of the two dozen plots are now spoken for and there is a wait list.

Long before there were grocery stores filled with fruits and vegetables from farms thousands of miles away, there were people all over the world living off the land and cultivating its bounty.

As the more negative effects of climate change start to take hold and put our centralized, industrialized food sytem under pressure, we will need more initiatives like these to get people back to the land and connected to their food.  IMG_4035

In the future, i believe we will be relying much more own ourselves and our neighbours, and I cannot think of a more wonderful future to live in.

Innovation, Technology.  Betterment of Self and Place.

859757_10152580361315204_1085488828_oIn the past few decades, we have had incredible advances in our understanding of nature, of technology, and of our human condition.  Here is a beautiful new ship docking in Alberni Harbour last year.  This ship represents jobs, opportunity, progress.  Doesn’t it?  Or does it represent log exports, recession, and environmental destruction? Decades ago our harbour ran black like coffee but now it is relatively clear.  These changes were made *with* industry as a partner and an innovator.  Proving, I believe that we truly can have our cake (jobs) and eat it too (without poisoning ourselves).  But at the same time we have seen other changes where economy has trumped the needs of both the natural world and the local community.

So what am I getting at?

Gall – def.: bold, impudent behavior.

Last Monday, the City held its regular by-invitation meeting with local forestry companies and others on issues affecting the watershed.  I was concerned, but not surprised, to hear at the meeting that logging in the McFarlane/Bainbridge lake catchment area continues.

But have you looked at Mt. Arrowsmith lately? IMG_5571-e1423707612327-1024x668 The City relies on the Bainbridge Lake water supply in the summer months in order to supplement water flow when Lizard Lake and China Creek start to get low.  Bainbridge is also our go-to source when China Creek gets too turbid in high-rainfall events in the winter months.  Island Health is currently studying the Bainbridge water supply to ensure that it is sufficiently and reliably clear so that the City of Port Alberni can continue to have a waiver from the very expensive ($$ Million) necessity of installing filtration on our water system.

The forest companies recognize the serious situation for our snowpack, but this sentiment from one of the companies shocked me.

“A lot of the risk are exaggerated as far as quality [turbidity]…. quantity more of an issue…

“Recognize that a fir tree will take 200 litres water… general science says: take away cover… to flush more water into surface water (to help reservoirs)… “

These are my notes of the meeting, so it’s just paraphrasing, but I think the message is pretty clear.  Yes, it is correct to a point (according to the science) that if we remove the tree cover, then more water is allowed to flush into the system more quickly.  But to use temporary reservoir filling during months with the least rainfall, as implicit justification for the high rate of forest harvest including old growth to the exclusion of the inevitable and scientifically proven turbidity, temperature and other risks associated with high rate forest harvesting, I found to be galling and somewhat insulting.  The flippancy actually made me angry.

Environment and Education, It’s not just a Left Wing/Anti-Business Thing.

Rachel Notley, leader of the Alberta NDP. Note: This is not an endorsement.

This Reuters article today relating to the NDP surge in historically Conservative Alberta contained this gem:  “Today Alberta is one of the youngest provinces and polls show younger and more diverse population is more likely to support left-wing causes such as environment and education and more critical of big business. The New Democratic Party still only got 10 percent of the votes in the 2012 vote, but an election of a Muslim politician as a mayor of Calgary in 2010 served as an early sign of the changing political landscape.

There is a fundamental problem with that paragraph.  It seems to imply that the young inherently care more about the environment and education (as well as diversity) and that the “old” and big business do not.   Is that true?  Is that how stark our society has become that each “side” is painted so negatively against the other?

I reject that.  Not because I do not see it play out sometimes, like perhaps last Monday, but because it must not be that way, and it is not that way for many good people and companies.  Big business, especially those majority owned by you and I through pension funds (relied upon by the not-so-young), need not stand in opposition to the environment and education.  That is why I posted my “Jobs vs. Green – False Choice” post during the campaign.

11206633_10153184788286251_5143007253263495987_oFor example, consider all of the companies that contributed to the Community Garden Project.  The City of Port Alberni contributed to the project too of course, by providing water hookups, land and other things.

Now imagine if a forest company’s name was on that list because instead of continuing to make excuses and delivering platitudes they promised to shift their private lands in the watershed into a forest-retention strategy that ensured the purest water to the garden and the whole community while also providing unparalleled recreational opportunities in combination with world-leading small patch or thinning forest practices  that created local milling and value-added jobs as well as alternative (food or cultural) forest resource development and wildlife habitat restoration.

Is the economy going to self-destruct and the oilsands shut down the day an NDP government takes power in Edmonton?  Doubtful.  Is the economy of the Alberni Valley going to go into the tank if logging is severely curtailed or stopped altogether in our watershed?  Also, doubtful.  We need to move past these dire assumptions and we need to demand private forest owners stop breaking their historic social contract obligations.  As Stephen Hume recently pointed out in the Vancouver Sun, the public is watching now and the costs of doing nothing can be sky high.

Just like a community garden can host fruits and vegetables of all types given the right conditions to grow and can counteract the increasingly negative effects of our industrialized and centralized food system, we have an incredible opportunity to build a community for all residents and all companies to live and thrive in.  But it is very hard to do if even a handful of players decide to ignore what is best for the community.




Appendix – More from the Study –

Check out this “state-of-the-science synthesis of the effects of forest harvest activities on peak flows and channel morphology in western Oregon” done by Grant et al (200x – not sure when it was published) for the US Forest Service and Oregon State University if you want to see an excellent treatment of the effects of different types of harvesting on peak river flows.   It analyzes dozens of studies over the past 30 years.

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It shows that while different types of harvesting (at left) do indeed change the peak rates of water flow, the biggest changes actually come on the smallest scales.  Runoff changes the most from small rain events, and from smaller areas nearest the cuts, rather than from the biggest rain storms across an entire watershed.  In fact, it is other human endeavours that affect peak flow the most….  “the effects of dams on hydrologic regimes, including peak flows, can be several orders of magnitude greater, particularly where the dams are large and used for flood control (Grant, 1997). Urbanization similarly imposes much larger changes to peak flows than does forest harvest, although less than dams. “