The Islands Trust Council, consisting of 26 trustees from 13 different Trust areas, met last week on Bowen Island. We heard an interesting presentation from the Western Canada Response Corporation (WCRC) which included a trip to the waterfront and a look at some of the marine equipment used to respond to oil spills. The organisation started as a co-operative of five major oil industries, which still provide funding. The WCRC must meet Transport Canada certification. All oil facilities and ships must have a response plan and an agreement with a response agency to respond in case of an oil spill.
WCRC looks at the risks in each community to catalogue what is sensitive in each area. That information is accessible to all 25 vessels covering eight geographic response plans. They are responsible for 28,000 kilometres of coastline and have only 25 employees. The party that spills the oil is responsible for waste disposal and handling wildlife.
This was followed by a presentation from Julie Knight representing the Island Oil Spill Association, a community organisation started in 1988 in the San Juan Islands. They have 235 volunteer responders trained to deal with spills throughout the region. Some of these are support personnel for those who go out in boats or deal with the oil on shore.
The association is funded by membership fees, grants, contract services, and resorts in the San Juan Islands. They have inventoried what values need protecting and have created protection strategies for every bay in the San Juan Islands, in coordination with government response organisations. In bays where the shoreline doesn’t lend itself to anchoring booms, they’ve installed rock bolts above the waterline for boom attachments. This has been accomplished in cooperation with other organisations and neighbours who have offered areas to position pump trucks as well as boom bolts, should they be needed.
In addition to providing vessel operators and towing equipment, they can deliver food and first aid, and set up staging areas and facilities for public meetings. They provide charts, neighbour information, shoreline monitoring, removal of shoreline debris, and animal clean-up. It really showed us how effective a dedicated volunteer group can be, and serves as an example of what can be done locally to prepare for a spill.
Food for thought: it’s estimated that only 15 per cent of the spilled oil is actually recovered.
The adoption of a model fees bylaw that would have increased fees for bylaw amendments and permits was deferred and sent back to the Financial Planning Committee and the Local Planning Committee for more consideration. A Development Approval Bylaw for Galiano that sets requirements for various applications was moved forward and is expected to serve as a model for other islands. This clarifies for applicants what sort of information is required before an application can move forward.
The council approved the term’s strategic plan, which sets the priorities for Trust Council for the duration of the term. The objectives in order of importance are: protect the natural environment; protect coastal and marine ecosystems; protect the quality and quantity of water resources; enhance community economic sustainability and security; strengthen relations with First Nations; and improve organisational cost and operations.
A joint session was held with Bowen Island municipal councillors to discuss matters of mutual interest generally, and in Howe Sound specifically. We also listened to a number of delegations and acted on a number of their requests. These included sending another letter to the environmental assessment office informing them that the Denman Island Area extends to the Vancouver Island shoreline, and reiterating concerns with the proposed Raven Coal Mine. Another letter will be sent to the MPs in the Islands Trust Area asking that they express their support for a Ministry of Peace, an idea that was initiated years ago but not yet acted on.
The Executive Committee was asked by Trust Council to follow up on their previous advocacy to the provincial government with respect to BC Hydro’s Smart Meter program – particularly with regard to enabling an opt-out clause for homeowners. In response to concerns about the development of a large-scale open-pit gravel mine and crushing facility at McNab Creek on the Sunshine Coast, we requested that the Islands Trust advocate for a comprehensive Howe Sound Management Plan to assure a balanced relationship between development and the protection of the unique biophysical qualities of the area.
We also gave direction to the Executive Committee on which motions of those proposed at the Sept. 26-30 meeting of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities in Vancouver should be supported. One of these resolutions requests that the provincial government “oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC’s coastal waters”.
The next Trust Council meeting will be held on Salt Spring Island Dec. 4-6, 2012.
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