Trustees are open to the possibility of providing financial support for a Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) “water budget” study, provided the work links directly to land-use planning.
RDN staff report they are in urgent need of monitoring wells in a number of areas for the stdy which is currently underway. See ad page 6.
At a June 22 protocol meeting between the staff and elected representatives of both the RDN and the Islands Trust at the Trust office on North Road, Trustee Sheila Malcolmson noted that in January the Local Trust Committee (LTC) received a request from the RDN for funding to support a “water budget study” – or a conceptual model that shows where and how much water is present, how it is being used, and whether that is sustainable – for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge and De Courcy islands).
In January, trustees asked staff for further information, including what they would get out of funding the project that is not already being paid for by Gabriolans through an RDN Drinking Water, Watershed Protection Program (DWWPP). They also asked if funding for the water budget project would be available in the 2012- 2013 LTC budget.
At their April meeting Trustee Gisele Rudischer again noted that Gabriolans already pay into the DWWPP and wondered why the LTC is being asked to pay more for it. Malcolmson thought the LTC might want to pay for any work specific to Gabriola that wouldn’t otherwise be done through the program. Regional Director Howard Houle agreed with Malcolmson’s suggestion that the LTC consider paying for any gaps in the RDN work. Trustees agreed to add the request for funding support to the agenda for discussion at their protocol meeting with the RDN.
On June 22, Malcolmson reported that Gabriola’s Official Community Plan review budget had recently been approved. She said it includes a provision for groundwater studies. She said if the RDN work identifies “a gap” or information that needs to be filled in, the LTC might be able to chip in financially. She added that it wasn’t a “huge amount of money”, but said the LTC also has a discretionary fund they may also be able to access for this work.
John Finney, RDN general manager of regional and community utilities, said that some have suggested that this work has “already all been done, and why are we redoing this stuff”. However, he said, when you are “studying groundwater and surface water quality and interaction and groundwater movement it’s never done”. He said “you can’t study it all because it’s too extensive and expensive”, but the work they are doing will add to the body of information they have accumulated so far.
Finney said the researchers are coordinating with Gabriolans to gather information. Houle added that they are having trouble contacting Mudge Islanders. Fortunately, he said, Mudge Islander Harvey Taggart has an extensive email list of Mudge residents and landowners. He said the water survey has been emailed to Mudge Islanders this way.
Malcolmson said she wanted to “make sure we are as integrated as possible on the mapping side and not … reinventing the wheel”. Planner Chloe Fox was sure “all the information that needs to be shared”, had been.
“It’s a really exciting program”, Malcolmson said of the DWWPP, “and we love to tell everybody else in the Trust area how great the regional district is in this area. It’s also great when people phone in a panic about a well being drilled in a saltwater-intrusion area, there is finally someone in local government that is able to at least take them by the hand and explain that we have no way to prevent it, but we’re moving forward. We’re thankful to your team for that”.
Rudischer said it was also good when Area B residents can see concrete results for the money they agreed, through a referendum, to contribute towards the program. She said often people think they put money in, and get nothing out, but things like a DWWPP cistern rebate initiative help to counteract that perception.
Finney said RDN staff wanted to get a couple of “clear returns on the ground” quickly. He agreed that the ‘returns’ from the water study are more long-term. RDN Chief Administrative Officer Carol Mason noted that all of the RDN municipalities are now on board with the DWWPP so it is now “region-wide”. Rudischer said that the costs of the program have gone down for the electoral areas as a result.
Regional Planning Manager Chris Jackson said he will be attending the RDN’s DWWP Technical Advisory Committee. Finney said the committee is “amazing” and broad-based. He said despite the large size of the committee, members work together “really well”.
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