The Peachland Watershed Alliance snapped a photo their hike July 21 to confirm cut block areas scheduled for harvesting between 2018 and 2020 with WFN. Image: Contributed

Peachland residents, loggers collide on water issues

Residents are concerned with their watershed, loggers explained steps to ensure water is protected

Residents concerned with the impact clear-cut logging will have on Peachland’s watershed and wildlife have ramped up an information campaign in an attempt to deal with issues they say could be caused by logging in the area.

The newly-formed Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance has raised issues about logging in the area around Peachland, where four companies are planning work in the area: Ntityix Resources (Westbank First Nation), Crown corporation BC Timber Sales, Gorman Brothers Logging and Tolko Industries Ltd.

“Our creeks are getting more and more muddied and one of the reasons could be runoff and sedimentation due to clear-cut logging,” said public relations officer with the Peachland alliance Taryn Skalbania.

“We’ve noticed since the ’70s runoff has been dirtier, there’s been an increase in boil water bans, flooding has been increasing… we’re just wondering if there’s a tie.”

The District of Peachland follows Interior Health’s guidelines to regulate water turbidity levels, said Peachland director of operations Joe Mitchell.

The drinking water objectives from Interior Health came in 2006, but before then, the district is unable to count the number of water advisories and notices issued, he said. However, the main determining factor that contributes to the advisories is weather, said Mitchell.

A few weeks ago, WFN foresters took the residents on a walk on the recreational trails to Spring Lake in order to discuss their logging plans.

According to Westbank First Nation communications officer Mandi Carroll, “The plan is to work together with interested groups including Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance to ensure projects are met with satisfaction. The clear cuts will be restricted to pine stands only and a max size of three hectares, and we will selectively harvest the Douglas-fir stands. All areas harvested will be reforested. The plan is to submit an application for a cutting permit in 2018 and harvest in 2020.”

Skalbania said Gormon Brothers Logging and the WFN have been accommodating in addressing the residents’ concerns, but she said they don’t have the knowledge to ensure the companies are true to their word.

“We’re just asking the province to take a look at it,” she said.

In June, a presentation was made to Peachland city council about watershed logging practices from the four companies and the Natural Resource District for the Okanagan Shuswap regional executive director Ray Crampton.

The resource district is responsible for the authorization of cutting permits, stewardship plans and road permits that stakeholders apply for in order to harvest, he said.

Crampton said there are several checks licensees have to perform before being able to log which include hiring a hydrologist to ensure logging doesn’t impact nearby creeks and streams.

“So when major licenses like Gorman Brothers or Tolko want to log, they have a professional hydrologist assess the cutting plans against that information to ensure that any road or cut block will not cause problems,” said Crampton.

Licensees also must abide by Peachland’s Watershed Assessment Plan which was created by hydrologists who determined the appropriate harvest levels for trees and vulnerability of streams, as well as the Forest Range Practices Act which governs logging.

“Depending on the size of the lake or stream there are appropriate setbacks and harvesting methods to protect the functioning methods of the channel and also vegetation protection and of course fish,” said Crampton.

Licensees must also receive forest certification and are audited by the provincial government.

“It’s one of the industries’ ways to assure the public they are being audited,” said Crampton, adding the provincial government also has a compliance and enforcement arm which does audits and inspections.

“The misinformation we want to address is ‘they’re doing what they want, they’re causing unacceptable damage and the government isn’t doing anything.’ (This) is not the case,” he said.

Crampton said for the most part, licensees do a good job ensuring protocols are followed. He noted although there is some level of self-governance done by the licensees, overall logging companies are meeting watershed and provincial requirements.

According to Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin, the question concerning the watershed and logging came about after a massive landslide in January.

“I don’t think anyone is anti-logging, they just want to know what’s going on up there,” said Fortin.

Fortin said the companies did a good job at addressing concerns from council, but she still has questions.

“We really appreciate the fact that they came down and they faced not only council but a gallery of people who followed them out,” she said. “They understand our concerns, a lot of them live here too.”

City council also forwarded a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities in 2016 requesting for municipalities to have a broader say on health and protection in their watersheds.

Manager of BC Timber Sales for the Okanagan Columbia region Colin Johnston said the company readily addresses public concerns and he attended the Peachland council meeting in June.

“Our approach it to invite the public whenever they have an issue, to engage us and have that discussion,” he said.

The logging company is currently going through the planning process and logging will commence after 2020.

Gorman Brothers Logging declined to comment on this story while Tolko Industries Ltd. did not return phone calls by press deadline Thursday.