Swanson’s Pond – circa 2006

Here’s what the “pristine” pond looked like, and how trespassing users of the property cared for it.

Pond Before and Garbage Collected

 

Advertisements

OMG – Did you hear what is happening on Galiano?

Attention all Salt Spring Islanders – did you hear what is happening on Galiano?

No?

Then scroll down for the grim details.

galiano-island-map

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer – I have absolutely no idea what is going on on Galiano…and I’m guessing as you scrolled down, you also had no idea….

And even though Galiano is just a stone’s throw (OK…a fairly long stone’s throw) from Salt Spring, I would bet that 95%+ of Salt Spring Islanders have absolutely no idea what is happening over there now, or what has happened over the past year, or 20 years for that matter.

I would also bet the average  Salt Spring Islander couldn’t tell you how many people live on Galiano, who any of their elected representatives are, or how many stores, restaurants or resorts there are.

And yet, we are rather constantly reminded that Galiano is part of the Islands Trust, and that, as a result, Salt Spring and Galiano therefore have much in common…

Nonsense!

Each of the 13 Islands Trust Areas are their own separate communities, each with their own flavours, sense of identities, quirks, foibles, characters and politics. We are about as alike as saying Vancouver is like Montreal, or an apple is like a tomato, or that Hillary is like Donald. Cities, fruits and politicians are not alike.

What we do have in common is we all live on islands which the Province clumped together  in a geographical area rather arbitrarily (given the number of BC islands which are not included in the Trust Area) and designated as a quasi-Provincial Park.

So, the next time you hear some say something about how we have much in common with the other islands (apart from being an island) ask yourself the following question – “Do I have any idea of what is happening on ___________ Island?” (insert any one of the 483+ islands within the Islands Trust Area.)

I’ve always believed your honest answer is always the best answer.

 

 

I’ve Been Rarred!

imaginary-fish

As I predicted and warned islanders a few years ago the madness/insanity of the Local Trust Committee’s approach to complying with the provincial government’s RAR policy directive is coming home to roost.

It will cost the Scanlons (see Driftwood article below) several thousand dollars of bureaucratic hocus pocus mumbo jumbo and approvals to install a water line to their property. I encourage anyone to take a look at the ridiculousness of this sad story, where the Scanlons can’t install a 1″ waterline without a Development Permit.

Scandalous…

The ditch in question was reported by Kathy Reimer as:

(a) being non-fish bearing,

(b) having barriers;

(c) seasonal; and

(d) poor habitat

(see extract of her report below)

What possible harm could be done by the installation of a water line, in the middle of summer, when the ditch is dry?

The non-existent fish evidently now have more rights that real human beings.

Common sense is on life support on this island…

66ddf55b-a26a-4752-a91f-3d7f9f5abc77

 

Broadwell RAR

 

 

Seal Lies or Sea Lice?

Recent reports in the BS media (I’ve given up calling it MSM), and social media especially (which is giving a whole new connotation to S&M), would have us believe sea lice are the cause of the estimated, and rather dismal, 853,000 sockeye salmon run return this year.

Lice and tigers and bears, oh my!

With 2.3 million sockeye having been predicted, being generous, that’s a deficit of about 1.5 million missing in action.

However, despite Alexandra Morton’s video, there is actually better evidence to suggest the run’s reduction is linked to seal predation.

Harbour seal populations in BC have skyrocketed since 1975. The graph below shows just two areas of BC (Skeena River and Strait of Georgia) and only spans from 1975 to 1997.

Socky Graph 1.jpg

Two areas belie the fact that 127,000 individual seals were counted in BC during a 1998 aerial survey.

At the exponential rate of reproduction illustrated it is not out of the realm of possibility that there are now a million seals eating salmon off the coast of BC.

A million seals? Is that possible? Are there even that many sea lice in BC waters? (kidding).

On the Atlantic coast of Canada seal populations are seeing similar exponential increases, going from 1.5 million to about 6.5 million in the same time period (1975 – 1995) and show no signs of slowing down.

Socky Graph 2

North Atlantic Seal Population

The same kinds of increases are being reported in Norway.

So, getting back to the menu of the day, if there are a million seals in BC waters, and they each were rationed to just 1 salmon every 8 months…that would be a reduction of 1,500,000 salmon in a year.

Is anyone else beginning to wonder whether seals, and not sea lice, would be the most probable cause of declining numbers of returning salmon?

How many cases of starving seals have been reported by the BSM?

If I was a juvenile salmon, I would be far more concerned about waters infested with seals everywhere, than travelling by a few pens here and there.

And yet, what kind of stories are we being constantly fed about the plight of the poor, cute seals?

Here’s the latest – Seal Escapes Killer Whales

With all due respect, if you love salmon and/or are concerned about reduced salmon stocks, and/or the First Nations members who say they will be without food this year, and/or the fishermen, both commercial and private, who won’t be smoking salmon this year, ask yourself this question –

“In order to help salmon stocks, should the salmon eating seal have been kicked off the boat to literally become part of a killer whale, which sadly, from what I have been led to believe, is another endangered species?”

Good question, eh?…and good luck with answering it…

My guess is virtually everyone was rooting for the underdog (which is ironic considering seals are Caniformes, more closely related to dogs and bears than other sea mammals) and didn’t give a moment’s thought to the 1.5 million missing salmon…

Socky.jpg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home-icide

House Demolition

Home-icide

def – The slow death of a community directly attributable to the inaction of elected politicians to foresee and plan for the provision of a diversity of housing opportunities which allow first time home buyers and/or renters the economic ability to sustain their lives within the community…

Background

Since about 2001, I have written extensively, on numerous occasions, about the need for provision of community housing on the island. During my tenure as Islands Trustee I established a Housing Committee, which, when I left office in 2005, was still active. I was hopeful the Committee members had gotten the message and that the next set of Trustees would take action based on the Committee’s recommendations.

During my term of office I also approved the rezoning of the 27 unit Murakami Garden Housing project and, in spite of opposition from my fellow Trustee, gave successful third reading to the 26 unit Norton Road affordable housing project, which should have green lighted it.

Fast forward eleven years and virtually nothing other than the completion of Murakami Gardens has been achieved since.

Home-icide Count 1

The Norton Road project was stalled for over 9 years (until January 15, 2015 when it was finally approved by the Local Trustees). The delay was a result of “negotiations” with the Islands Trust over the wording of an appropriate housing agreement.

The ridiculousness of this home-icide is laid out in a 2010 Driftwood article ( Norton Road Driftwood Article 2010 ).

The delay in getting final approval overlapped with the September 2014 North Salt Spring Waterworks District moratorium on development, thus stopping the project’s forward motion in its tracks before the housing agreement was approved.

Today the Norton Road property sits vacant and for sale, with, I assume, the owner, and understandably so, having reached terminal frustration. Who could possibly blame him?

Home-icide – Count 2

In October of 2012 I arranged meetings between property owners and the Trustees to discuss a proposal to rezone 9 lots off of Furness Road to create 18 affordable housing units –  9 affordable cottages, and 9 affordable secondary suites. The properties have 9 of the best wells on the island, ranging from 10 – 50 gallons a minute…enough water for 500+ homes. The properties are also on an existing common sewer system. The 9 lots already allowed 9 houses and 9 seasonal cottages.

Both Trustees felt it was a reasonable proposal given all of the factors.

However, after making official application in March 2013, which included a draft housing agreement I had prepared, and beating their heads against the Trust wall for a year and half, during which time they spent thousands of dollars in planning consultants and lawyer’s fees, finally, in utter frustration of the Trust’s inability to agree upon the form of a housing agreement, the owners threw in the towel on the seasonal cottages proposal and amended the application to just 9 secondary suites.

During that process Trustee Peter Grove publicly expressed his frustration over the inability of staff to draft a housing agreement that was satisfactorily acceptable to staff.

Home-icide – Count  3

The Secondary Suite pilot area bylaw was passed into law on May 2, 2013.

During the public hearings on the bylaw I had implored the Trustees not to create “pilot areas,” but instead just legalize secondary suites island wide. That argument fell on deaf ears.

The pilot areas that were subsequently put into law are almost exclusively in the North Salt Spring Waterworks District.

As a result, when the 2014 NSSWD moratorium came into effect secondary suites within the District were banned, unless a completely separate private water system is constructed to service the suite.

Worse yet, any suite which was not legally in existence prior to 1990 is now not only illegal, but, because of NSSWD’s moratorium and new bylaw (see – NSSWD Bylaw 274 ), grounds for shutting off the water supply to the primary residence unless those living in the suite are evicted.

Ask yourself who lives in secondary suites, and who benefits from having a mortgage helper? I’ll give you a hint, it ain’t the infamous/obligatory/notorious 1%.

Attempted Home-icide – Count 4

The Drake Road affordable housing project is currently stalled because of the NSSWD moratorium.

Attempted Home-icide – Count 5

The proposed rezoning of my Park Drive property to allow 8 affordable housing units is proceeding at a painstakingly snail’s pace, primarily due to the NSSWD moratorium. I have identified a work around for the water supply, but, am having challenges convincing Islands Trust staff that the alternative water supply I am proposing to use can legally be used under the existing legislation of BC.

I have just had a go-around with the Secretary to the Water Comptroller whom I actually had to educate on the legal definitions contained within the very act he is paid to oversee and regulate – the BC Water Utility Act.

With all due respect to the bureaucrats involved, the feeling I am getting is not one of “How can we help you achieve your goal of creating affordable housing on Salt Spring?” but, rather “How can we prevent you using an innovative approach to creating affordable housing?”

Any lay person would have laid this proposal to bed a long time ago in the belief it was legally impossible according to government officials.

Stop the Home-icide!

Stop the Homeicide

Solution #1

I have implored both of our current Trustees to just outright legalize seasonal cottages for full time residency. It makes no sense to, on the one hand, have an existing, permitted cottage un-inhabited, while on the other hand searching for solutions to our housing crisis, which, as of this moment, as a direct result of the hot real estate market over the past year and half, is now unprecedented in Salt Spring’s history.

All that one of the Trustees needs to do is this – propose the following resolution at the next LTC meeting:

That the LTC hereby directs Staff to (a) draft a bylaw to permit seasonal cottages to be used as full time, year round dwellings, and, (b) to bring the draft bylaw forward to the next LTC meeting for first and second reading.

The next LTC meeting the bylaw can be given 1st and 2nd readings, and a public hearing can be scheduled. Following the public hearing, the LTC can give 3rd reading and send the bylaw off to the Executive Committee for approval. The Executive Committee will approve the bylaw and send it back to the LTC for final approval.

With political will power, this could happen in a period of less than 5 months.

Solution #2

 Do the same with legalizing suites everywhere on Salt Spring, including watersheds…(anyone else just hear gasps from the peanut gallery?).

The idea that suites have any significant impact on a watershed is ludicrous. There, I’ve said it, now get over it.

Secondary suites necessarily occur in existing homes, or, in homes that are going to be built anyway. The additional 900 sf (the allowable size for secondary suites) isn’t going to make a significant impact on the watershed. The additional car traffic through the watershed won’t. Any septic field must comply with Island Health and CRD standards for sizing, and if there is a problem the avenue for solution involves one complaint call to the health department (which given the record of complainers on the island should ensure compliance.)

The BS argument that secondary suites shouldn’t occur in watersheds is simply that. Further, every property on Salt Spring is in a watershed.

And, Island Health requires 50 gallons of potable water per day per person. That’s less than 1/25th of a gallon a minute. So, please, don’t try and use lack of water as any kind of a rational argument when you’re looking at water supply requirements.

Solution #3

Put the provision of affordable housing at the top of the Islands Trust priority list, where it currently doesn’t reside, and above the 6 other “priorities.” (see LTC Top Priorites )

Solution #4

Create a standing resolution that (a) gives any affordable housing rezoning or development proposal top priority, and (b) a direction to Staff that Staff is to implement a pro-active, positive, solution oriented policy to assisting affordable housing proposals, including proposing and/or formulating any necessary changes in either the OCP or land use bylaws to assist in bringing proposals to fruition.

In other words, make Staff part of the solution instead of part of the now typical red-tape obstructive process which is all too common.

Solution #5

Rescind the January 14, 2016 LTC resolution to proactively enforce against illegal suites and cottages in potable water watersheds. Such enforcement is unnecessary and damaging to the community, while having no significant positive effect on the environment.

Solution #6

Propose changes to the OCP to allow mixed market/community housing projects in Rural and Rural Uplands properties in clustered developments, where water and septic treatment can be adequately proven, on a 1 for 1 basis – one additional market unit for one community housing unit.

As an example – a 20 acre, Rural Upland property – 5 market lots and 5 community, 0.5 acre housing lots, clustered into a 6 acre area with the 14 acre balance being park/common/recreational property.

In other words, carve out as many community housing units as possible, whenever possible. Make it worthwhile for property owners to create opportunities for young families to get their foot in the real estate market door.

The Alternative to Solutions?

Continuing with the home-icide…do nothing and nothing will happen….as Einstein said, and has been oft repeated:

Einstein

Link back to Salt Spring Exchange

Water…What You Don’t See When You’re Not Looking…

Water drop

Water…What You Don’t See When You’re Not Looking…

I attended the Water Preservation Society’s forum last year and left rather disappointed.

While there was some good information presented regarding rainwater catchment, and pleasantly surprising data on our virtual ,state-of-the-art Ganges sewer treatment plant, much of everything else ranked somewhere between being loose or vacant on facts all the way to being misleading and erroneous.

Allow me to wade into the waters and clarify some of what I am referring to.

I’m going to start at the end of the meeting and work my way back, because the response to a question which was asked by an audience member…self-professed relative newcomer to the island (5 years),,,exemplified the general mood which was created by the forum – one of scarcity.

He was concerned about the carrying capacity of the island – how much water do we have, and how many people could Salt Spring actually support with that water? And, more importantly, should we be looking to make changes to the OCP and land use bylaws to further restrict development?

That question was met with a general supportive nod from the majority of people in attendance, which, given the general impression they had just been given – that the island’s water resources are extremely limited – is somewhat understandable…

However, let’s take a ook at a realistic, mathematical answer to the technical question – how many people could be supported on Salt Spring with our water resources?

Singapore

Salt Spring Island is 182.7 square kilometers, which makes it almost exactly ¼ the size of Singapore.

Singapore is a water scarce country.  With a total land area of 718 sq  km  and  a  population  of  5.5  million,  the  country  does  not  have  natural lakes, large rivers or substantial groundwater resources for fresh water supply.

Utilizing local rainfall collection, Singapore has built 17 reservoirs with the completion of two new reservoirs in 2011. It has also expanded the catchment areas to cover two-thirds of its total land area.

As to new water sources, Singapore has built five NEWater plants to treat used water into high-purity water. At present, NEWater or reclaimed water can meet up to 30% of Singapore’s current water consumption.

Apart from reclaimed water, Singapore has introduced desalinated water with the construction of two desalination plants that can currently meet up to 25% of the water consumption in Singapore.

Looking ahead, it is forecast that Singapore’s daily water consumption will almost double by 2060 when the population has risen to 10 million people. As such, the Singapore government plans to more than triple the NEWater capacity and ramp up desalination in the years ahead, with NEWater and desalinated water meeting up to, respectively, 55% and 25%, of Singapore’s water consumption in 2060.

So, currently Singapore provides enough water by catchment and recycling for 1,650,000 people, and desalination for another 1,375,000 for a total of 3,025,000 people.

By 2060 Singapore’s plan is to desalinate enough water for about 2.5 million people.

Singapore gets about twice as much rainfall as Salt Spring – 2.34 metres vs 1 metre.

Now, for fun, lets do some comparisons. Since we have as much sea water around us as Singapore, and, ¼ the land mass, we could, by 2060, using the identical technology, “technically” provide 2,500,000 people with water by desalination.

For argument’s sake, let’s cut the rainfall catchment and reuse supply in half (for rainfall), and then ¼ it (for land mass difference). That would be another 1,650,000 x .5 x .25 = 206,250 people.

Salt Spring current population is just over 10,000.

Is anyone seeing the absurdity of the gentleman’s question and/or the audience’s concerns?

When it comes to Chicken Little water scarcity concerns, the only thing that’s really falling from the sky here is rain.

There is, without a doubt, a cabal of drawbridge mentality people on the island, who are so completely and utterly opposed to any further development of any other property on the island, other than their own, that they would rather bury their heads in the sand instead of look at realistic alternatives.

They believe that if they can manage to scare enough people into believing there is a scarcity of water then our OCP and Land Use Bylaws should be revamped to downzone undeveloped properties, and restrict existing properties from utilizing their allowable uses.

In 2008, during the OCP review, Trustee Peter Lamb, (now former Water Council Coordinator, and current Secretary) put forth exactly that proposition at a public meeting at Artspring. I rose to my feet and said, “Excuse me, but, I can go down to the CRD building inspection office today and apply for a building permit to construct a 1500 sf home, and, if I have an engineered rainwater catchment design, the CRD will issue the building permit. So, unless you are aware of any place on Salt Spring where it doesn’t rain, then there is nowhere on the island that has a water supply problem.”  My rationale fell on deaf ears then, since, and, it is clearly falling on deaf ears now, unless you’re listening at the moment.

Rainwater Catchment Reality

When it comes to rainwater catchment the reality is this – 1500 sf x 39 inches (rainfall) = 4,875 cubic feet of water x 6.22 gallons per cubic foot = 30,322 gallons per year potential rainwater catchment. Divide that by 365 days and you have the grand sum of 85 gallons per day, a little less than what Island Health recommends for two persons (50 gallons/day per person).

The CRD also requires 12,000 gallons of storage to get you through the drier summer months.

Compare those amounts to the 550 gallons/day that NSSWD has “allotted,” through policy, to each property within the District. The only shortage of water on this island is the drought in the minds of those who don’t understand the math.

So, first, lets get over the question of whether there is enough water for our projected, puny by comparison, 17,000 people at full build out under the current OCP. If someone from Singapore was sitting in the audience at the meeting they would either have been howling with laughter at the local paranoia, or dumbfounded at the displayed lack of knowledge of current technology.

Desalination

While it was billed as one of the four major topics of  the night, the subject of desalination was glossed over, as it was in 2008 when I raised it as a potential water supply, as being too expensive to even talk about. NSSWD Manager, Ron Stepaniuk, stated he was “not an expert, but the small amount I do know is that capital and operating costs are expensive.”

This was in spite of ANY figures given as to costs.

So ended the evening’s discussion on desalination…unbelievable.

The approximate current cost per gallon for desalination is $0.80 per cubic metre. To put that into perspective, an equivalent year’s supply of rainwater catchment (30,322 gallons) would cost you just $91.20 (Math = 30,322 gallons = 114 cubic metres x $0.80 per cubic metre = $91.20), or, $0.25 a day….now, compare that cost to your last water bill.

Yes there is a capital cost associated with it. So, let’s look at an estimate for entirely replacing the water used from St. Mary annually – 1,202,000 cubic metres per year = 317,534,806 gallons per year or 869,958 gallons per day.

The estimated cost for a 1 million gallon per day plant would be approximately $12 million US, not much more than the current estimate for raising the weir ($2-4 million) and the proposed water treatment plant ($8-9 million).

Cost of Desalination Plants

At a cost per gallon less than what is currently being charged ratepayers, how is this considered “too expensive” to be a long term alternative?

And, if we were going to go with my idea of establishing a desalination plant say in Ganges, and pressure feed the treated water into the system, the cost would (a) be relatively insignificant, (b) only have to be utilized on a need basis during the summer months, which reduces the energy consumption, and (c) provide an emergency back up in a catastrophic event in one of the lakes, such as a prolonged cyanobacteria bloom in one of the two major lakes or, heaven forbid, a major forest fire

Groundwater

Let’s move onto groundwater supply for just a moment. Using the required 85 gallons/day figure from rainwater catchment, we can calculate the equivalency in gallons per minute that would be required from a well to get a building permit (with 12,000 gallons of storage)…85 gallons divided by 24 hours divided by 60 minutes = 0.059 gallons per minute…a little more than 1/20th of a gallon a minute. Thus, if you have a well that has a sustainable yield of just 1 gallon per minute, your well produces the equivalent annual water supply of 17 homes using rainwater catchment.

There are huge areas on the island that produce an average of 5 gallons per minute, or, enough for 85 homes from one well. In some areas, like the base of Mt. Bruce, wells range from 15 to 50 gpm.

We can look to Cedar Lane or Scott Point Waterworks, to see whether such a system would work in practice….it is my understanding they limit their users to 100 gallons per day, and the users are careful with their water usage…imagine that…being personally responsible for your water use…welcome to the 21st Century.

In July 2001, a report was prepared by professional engineer, Robert Potter, which theorized on the groundwater supply in the Maxwell Lake area and gave recommendations as to how to go about testing the theoretical supply of what would be some of the very best water on the island. The estimated cost for the recommended study? About $100,000 in today’s dollars.

Mr. Potter’s estimate was that 200,000 cubic metres of good quality groundwater could be accessed in the rather small 8 sq km Maxwell area alone. 200,000 cm = 4,000,000 gallons…

What has the NSSWD done to follow up on the study’s recommendations? NADA, nothing, zilch…

This is in spite of Mr. Stepaniuk’s recent (July 2015) warning to the Board that if there is ever a fire in the Lake Maxwell watershed the water may be undrinkable for 5 years. If I understand the consequences correctly, currently, there is no alternative, backup supply in that event. Please correct me if I’m sounding irrational here, but wouldn’t it be prudent to explore the possibility of developing alternative water supplies even as emergency backup in the event of disaster? What am I missing?

And yet, Mr. Stepaniuk stated that his knowledge of groundwater quantities is basically limited to discussions he has had with people on the island, and that “there are serious limitations in a number of areas on the island.”

With all due respect, that is a very simplistic view of the vast resources of groundwater that have been identified, and which are publicly available for viewing online through the BC Water Resources Atlas.

The Potter Report found the average groundwater yield, per 1,000 feet of drilled wells, in four areas on Salt Spring (Lees Hill, Stewart Road, Reginald Hill and Mt.Belcher Heights) was over 17 gallons per minute. 17 x 60 x 24 = 25,000+ gallons per day, divided by 50 gallons per day per person = enough water for 500 people for every 1,000 feet of well drilled.

It once again begs the question – are those in charge of our water systems looking to find real world solutions, or just scare us into believing there aren’t any?

What is the agenda here? Who is driving the policies? What is the end game? IMO, the answers, in order, are very simply – Stop development, extreme environmentalists, and stopping development.

Lake levels

I was appalled at the lack of a historical understanding presented regarding the ebb and flow of our annual rainfall as it relates to periods of drought. Likewise, the spectre of climate change was raised as being the cause of the current “drought.”

Give me a break, please….the graphs below, going back to 1900, from across Canada, indicate the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). The PDSI is the amount of moisture occurring in soil. Do you see any generalized trend towards drought in any of the graphs? I sure don’t.

Palmer Drought Severity Index

These graphs are taken from a peer reviewed study conducted in 2012 which states, for southern BC, there is:

 “a significant increasing trend, which appears to be driven by a significant increase in annual precipitation. There is a nonsignificant increasing trend in the May–August temperature, but potential evapotranspiration shows no trend at all. Compared to the first three modes, moisture anomalies in this region generally exhibited less year-to-year persistence and have lower amplitudes during the first half of the study period.”

In other words, in southern BC, contrary to the climate change crowd, (a) we are getting more, not less precipitation, (b) there is a slight, non-significant increase in summer temperature,  (c) there is no trend in increase of potential evaporation, and (d) there is MORE year to year persistence now than there was in the first half of the 20th Century…all of which is good news.

However, what was presented at the forum was a scary looking graph of the last 3 years, of St. Mary Lake levels, as if that was representative of the past or the future.

While it was clear the levels of the lake were lower in the summer of 2015 than 2016, someone in the audience pointed out that by the end of 2015 the levels were actually higher than in late 2014. The explanation? Well, it rained more in November that year….as if that was some kind of extraordinary event….rain in November on Salt Spring…who’d have thunk it, as Alfred Neumann would have said….

In previous posts I have written extensively on the St. Mary Lake water levels, and the negative impact the 2006 removal of the beaver dam and placement of the weir has had on summer lake levels, as graphically shown here:

Lake Levels Before and After

If you haven’t already, you can read more about that here https://islandstrust.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/water-water-everywhere/

What is/was appalling is that a professional limited his view to a couple of years rather than showing us there is no actual trend. The fact that 97% (114/117) of Global Climate Models have been shown (see – 114 out of 117 Models Wrong ) to drastically overestimate projected future temperature as compared to real world observations tends to go unreported to, and/or unnoticed by, the general public.

And yet, the results of those inaccurate models have been used as the basis to predict local disaster in the NSSWD Hydrology study released last year.

GIGO is the alpha and omega of such predictions.

Ganges Sewer Water

Someone asked, repeatedly, if the panel could inform him as to how many gallons a day of virtually clean water is being flushed into Ganges Harbour…not one of the panelists had an answer….I blurted out “About 113,000 gallons.”

How is that I knew the answer (based on reading Ganges Sewer Commission minutes) but no one on the expert panel knew, including the Manager of NSSWD and two of the other panelists who were there to speak on the subject?

Who also knew that the quality of the plant’s treated water was so clean? The maximum for suspended solids (TDS) for streams bearing fish is 25 parts per million (ppm). Ganges Sewer treated water is 1 ppm…and no, that is not a typo….

Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) is how much oxygen does water use to decompose organics. The allowable limit for BOD is 25 ppm…clean surface water would be 5 ppm or less….the Ganges plant’s water is just 3 ppm, about the same as St. Mary Lake.

Fecal coliform limit is 1,000 per 100 millilitres of water. The limit if you want to use a stream or lake for a water source is 100 per 100 ml of water. The Ganges effluent is about 25…

Thus, if the remainder of the water was treated to remove phosphorus, iron, copper, zinc, pharmaceuticals, etc. (easily done with reverse osmosis), the water would be drinkable.

About 113,000 gallons a day of it….@ 50 gpd per person, enough to water 2,260 people each and every day.

Also, it was brought out that all that is required to actually start using the water is an application from someone…

I was once again rather gobsmacked given the plant is run by the CRD, which is also in charge of Centennial Park, one block away.

This is what Centennial Park looks like today – IMG_1214.JPG

This, IMO, is a public disgrace. The grass is dead to the point of there being large areas of bare soil exposed. The next rain will turn this into a mud pit. While the question of what should we do to improve the Park is being debated with grandiose/ridiculous schemes being proposed, the idea of installing a simple water line, run from the plant to the Park, is completely overlooked. This ranks right up there at the top, with the unfinished Ganges Boardwalk, on the list of things Salt Spring should be ashamed of.

Septic Solutions

Someone asked about composting toilets, which should have resulted in an extremely interesting solution to water conservation being revealed.

It was stated that composting toilets, like privy pits (outhouse holes in ground, permitted by the health department) are a little used, but allowable use on Salt Spring.

What wasn’t revealed is that if you used a composting toilet or privy pit for eliminating “black water” (septic) and put in a holding tank to capture, treat and then reuse graywater, you wouldn’t need a septic field. I was recently informed by the CRD that as long as you have a service that can pump out a holding tank, you don’t need a septic field to get a building permit. Thus, it would be possible to create a very efficient, closed loop system at a fraction of the cost of installing a septic field.

Storage is one answer

In lieu of a sustainable well, stream or lake supply, storage is the most obvious solution which was virtually ignored as well.

During the fall, winter and early spring periods, millions of gallons of water flow out of the lakes and into the ocean. That same water could easily be stored in storage tanks on individual properties. In other words, turn the tap on during the wet season, fill the tank, and then use it only as needed during the summer months. Combined with a lower, off-season, water rate, individuals could reduce their annual water bills while taking the load off of the system during the summer.

New construction within NSSWD could require large capacity storage tanks to be installed and filled on that basis.

Hot Admission?

Ron Stepaniuk made a statement which indirectly corroborated my previous expose on the implication of the St. Mary Lake aerators with the cyanobacteria outbreak…an admission I have not, to this date, heard before from anyone associated with NSSWD..

The admission was that even a 1 degree Celsius can trigger a bloom….that was the very point I tried to bring up with NSSWD in early 2013, just 6 months before the aerators were turned off forever.

My analysis of the NSSWD temperature data of St. Mary Lake at that time showed up to a 7 degree Celsius increase in the temperature of the lower levels of the lake after the aerators were installed. A quick Google search revealed studies indicating the temperature to algae bloom connection.

However, when I requested more data information from NSSWD I was basically told to FO by one of the Directors, a retired engineer….he “told” me they had “experts” who knew far more than I and had everything under control…..right.

The Next Day, A Journey into the Great Unknown Underworld

I attended the presentation the next day by Diana Allan on the subject of “Estimating Groundwater Recharge to the Gulf Islands: Challenges and Progress.”

With all due respect to Ms. Allan, the title could just have easily have been “After 20 Years of Studying Groundwater Recharge in the Gulf Islands, It’s Still a Hazy Mystery to Us Experts.”

The bottom line of Ms. Allan’s presentation is that there is no known methodology for accurately predicting or calculating groundwater recharge on Salt Spring Island.

The complex and varied geology of the island, which you can view for yourself below makes it virtually impossible to understand what is going on 10 feet below you, let alone 10 feet on either side of you, or, 1,000 feet below.

Cross SectionGeology Map

I found it interesting that one of the attendees delivers water to well owners whose wells have gone dry. His knowledge is directly observational. He is notified when any particular well goes dry, and, when it has recharged to the point of not needing water delivery. Thus, in his day to day life, he tracks the direct connectivity between rainfall and recharge of wells with varied geologies (e.g. shale, sandstone, granite, etc.)…it was clear he investigates the lithology of his customers’ wells….thus he is a great source of practical, real world, local knowledge.

I would love to see an open panel forum on Salt Spring groundwater wells with him, longtime well driller, Albert Kaye and retired engineer Bob Potter sharing their direct experience and knowledge.

During Ms. Allan’s mention of the potential of salt water intrusion into groundwater supplies on the island I leaned over to Driftwood reporter, Sean McIntyre, and told him he should speak to Albert, about the deepest well he ever drilled on the island – it was 825’ and he hit fresh water. However, the most notable part wasn’t the depth of the well, but, where the well is located…not on the top of Mt. Belcher, or Mt. Bruce, but, within 250’ of Long Harbour. The top of the well is at an elevation of about 25’ above sea level, which puts the bottom of the well about 800’ below sea level. Let that sink in a little, because it paints a different picture than what the average person has been led to imagine….

The good news coming out of the presentation is that, similar to what I reported above with respect to rainfall trends, Ms. Allan believes groundwater recharge on Salt Spring will likely remain the same, AND, may actually improve by 2060…something which I’m sure didn’t make the members of the “Scarcity is In Abundance on Salt Spring Sect” sitting in the audience very happy. Good news after all is bad news in some people’s minds.

The talk was very informative, but throughout it reminded me very much of the infamous quote from Donald Rumsfeld “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

On the subject of hydraulic fracking of drinking water wells to increase flow, Ms. Allan did not have a firm opinion. She had proposed a study to drill a second observational well on Ross Road, within 100’ of one of the few existing government observation wells on the island, frack it, and see if there was an effect on the existing well. She said it would be fairly expensive and would need funding to do the study, but that it would be “fun”….that word perhaps comes from the Latin root – fundi, or the plural fundus  – loosely meaning “I/we have an idea, please give me/us money.”

All kidding/sarcasm aside, the absurdity that such a “fracking study” (which ironically would be a good term for it) would provide anything other than just one, particular example of the uncertainty of what may or may not happen below ground was ironically underlined by something Ms. Allan had said, just two minutes before –

With the research that we’ve been doing…its impossible…we’ve gone in and used physics to characterize a particular site and 20 feet away its different.

So, in her own words, the results of a fracking study at one location could just as easily be different than a fracking study conducted 20’ away…such is the nature of these fracking studies.

Ms. Allan closed off her talk by saying it is virtually impossible to inform the general public on the “uncertainty and complexity” of groundwater recharge and said even international experts struggle to inform each other on the subject.

My Conclusions?

Water is abundant on Salt Spring…it is the delivery of piped water which is restricted because of the unwritten, but evidently adopted, policy of overlooking abundance in the face of the drawbridge mentality and  pursuit of preventing development, at all costs…

If, like myself, you are interested in seeking real, long term solutions, you will have to look beyond these well meaning events, and look to the world for the latest in technological innovations which clearly show you can have as much good quality water as you want, when you want it, at a reasonable cost.

The question of whether development pressures will increase as a result is a political question, to be decided and answered by the people we elect to represent us. If you don’t want development, vote for those who are anti-development. If you feel a certain amount of development (e.g. affordable housing, recreational facilities, or commercial accommodation) is acceptable, then vote for those who take a practical approach to maintaining a healthy, vibrant community where real, inter-generational opportunities for a diversity of island residents are possible. …

Currently, this community is about as far from that reality as it can get and headed in the wrong direction…and it is scarcity thinking and its like-minded policies that are driving the proverbial bus towards the cliff…

How to change that direction and thinking is a constant challenge….

Whack a mole

Water, Water, Everywhere

Manmade Drought on Salt Spring?

As we move towards summer, the time when lake levels island wide naturally decline, North Salt Spring Waterworks District is once again (last year publicly, on national TV news no less), predicting dire consequences.

Meanwhile, in back rooms around the island the local anti-development cabal are cheering at the blessing the weather of the past couple of years has bestowed upon them. For every rainless cloud of doom there evidently is a silver lining for them.

Fears that future global climate change will lead to more droughts are being expressed by the local anti-carbonites as they drive up to their favourite coffee shops in their SUV’s to sip their favourite blend of organic, free trade coffee that has been imported from their favourite socialist South American country. I’m reminded of Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi’s famous misdirection line, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” But, if you take just a moment to look, invisible carbon footprints are all over Ganges.

All right, enough hypocrite bashing. I’ll get right to the point.

I’ve had water on my brain for the last few years, so I thought I would share some of what has leaked out…

99 million gallons per year is the licensed amount of water which can be annually drawn from Lake Maxwell.

But, there is an estimated 53 million gallons per year of better quality water which likely is available…if only we would take the time to find out.

In 2001 a preliminary groundwater study was conducted of the Maxwell watershed area, by Robert Potter, P.Eng.. The study was provided to the Islands Trust and North Salt Spring Waterworks District (NSSWD). I have posted a copy of the study here Potter Report 1

The study’s concluding recommendation was to proceed with real world testing of the area’s groundwater potential. The total estimated cost to prove? A paltry $75,000.

Last July, the NSSWD Board was informed by staff that should a forest fire occur in the Maxwell watershed, the fallout could make Lake Maxwell water undrinkable for a number of years due to the fine sedimentation which would result.

Think about the consequences of 99 million gallons being removed from use in Ganges.

Now, ask yourself why on earth hasn’t NSSWD done anything for the past 15 years to followup on Mr. Potter’s study by tapping into arguably one of the best, purest, groundwater areas on the island…even as an emergency back up supply? The Board has approved millions upon millions of dollars of other improvements…what’s another $75,000 in the grand scheme of things?

Next…I conducted a simple, comparative analysis of NSSWD’s published St. Mary Lake level data of the average of the 17 years before 2006 with the 9 years since. (see graph Lake Levels Before and After) The data clearly shows NSSWD’s 2006 removal of the beaver dam on St. Mary Lake has created an average, annual shortfall of over 80 million gallons of water during the driest time of the year. In other words, last year’s St. Mary “drought” was, in essence, a result of NSSWD’s interference with Nature…a manmade drought. And, it appears the proposed raising of the weir will only recapture a portion of what was lost as a result of their removal of the beavers.

We are told by NSSWD that 2009 was a 1 in 100 year drought level. The proper way of describing the lake level in the summer of 2009 was a 1 in 3 year, manmade drought level. The same applies to last year’s levels…it is now a 1 in 9 year, manmade drought level.

It is, therefore, and in my opinion, disingenuous at best for NSSWD to have ratepayers believe manmade climate change is the villain here, and that we don’t have enough water to service currently zoned properties within the District.

A simple, grade school, calculation could easily have, and should have, predicted what would happen if the beaver dam was removed. Now we are being told approval for the raising of the weir may take another 2 years and the costs for the expropriation of lake front property are rising into the hundreds of thousands.

In fact, at the April 6, 2016 NSSWD Board meeting it was announced that there may have to be a referendum on the projected expenditure (April 6, 2016 NSSWD Minutes ) to raise the weir. Given the consulting firm’s (tasked with interacting with lakeside property owners) contract alone was over $200,000, it is not out of the question to project the cost to raise the weir will be over $1,000,000.

Add to that amount the potential legal costs associated with the lawsuit by Channel Ridge and Paradigm against NSSWD, the Islands Trust, and the Water Preservation Society Supreme Court Preliminary – Channel Ridge, et al vs NSSWD, Island Trust, Water Preservation and money is flowing out of ratepayers’ pockets faster than water down Duck Creek.

And speaking of water and money leaking away, meanwhile, over the past 15 years, NSSWD has done little to stem or identify the leakage in the system (estimated in 2001 to be a whopping 20%). That appears to calculate out, system wide, to another 80,000,000 gallons a year.

So, add up the three numbers – 53M (potential groundwater), 80M (loss from beaver removal) and 80M (leaks) = 213 million gallons a year….about 50% of the entire licensed amount of water from both lakes.

Lastly, in December 2012,  I took a look at the published data from St. Mary Lake trying to see if there was anything unusual that would have triggered the cyanobacteria outbreaks. What I noticed was disturbing. Lake temperature was being measured at 3 levels. After the aerators were introduced in 2006, the lowest level temperature was up to 7 degrees Celsius higher than before the aerators. It was obvious to this lay person that the warm ambient air, taken and pumped into the bottom of the lake during the summer months, was warming the lower climes. The data has since been removed from the NSSWD website.

A quick Google search found a number of published, peer-reviewed studies indicating that in shallow lakes (like St. Mary) a ONE degree Celsius increase could set off an algal bloom. (Here’s just one – effects-tem-nutrient-microcystis-cyanobacteria-blooms-HA2009 )

Around the same time, a report in the Driftwood contained what is now, in retrospect, a rather hilariously, ironic statement from Dr. Ken Ashley, the fellow who designed the aerators. At a Water Council sponsored event, Dr. Ashley is quoted as saying, “There’s a lot of manmade solutions. If I had a dollar for every snake-oil salesman who called me up, I’d be retired by now….There’s a lot of people who want to sell (the treating of symptoms) and they sort of prey on your incomplete knowledge to convince you that something will work and it won’t.”

All of which obviously makes one wonder whether Dr. Ashley is now retired.

At the same meeting Professor John Sprague railed against septic fields surrounding the lake as being a prime contributor to phosphorus…another notion which has recently been dispelled. (see – July 15, 2015 Driftwood Sewer Phosphorus )

Meanwhile, longtime lakeside property owner, Ed Davis, was poo-pooed for suggesting the removal of the beaver dam reduced the flushing action in the lake.

And finally, Denis Russell, P. Eng., and then Chair of the NSSWD, is quoted as saying, “I hate to think of what the lake would be like without the aerators.”

Eight months later, on August 14, 2013, the aerators were permanently shut down. Chair Russell’s worst fear had evidently come to pass.

When I made a detailed request for further data from NSSWD in Feb 2013, I received a rather terse one sentence response from Director Bob Watson– “We have qualified experts looking at all aspects of this.” In other words quit playing investigative reporter.

Three years later, in 2015, NSSWD finally admitted the aerators were the likely cause of the blooms ( NSSWD Aerator announcement ), BUT, to date, there has been no discussion of their effect on lake temperature…or, how much the whole debacle has cost ratepayers.

Again, given the available knowledge (lake depth, ambient summer air temperature, climes, etc.) it should have been predictable there would be a potential algal bloom on the lake. It was also not lost on me that there was also up to 90 million gallons less lake water to warm in the summers after 2006.

Water, water everywhere, but barely a drop to drink…right…here are the two, simplest, short term steps towards common sense solutions of our local, manmade water crises – (1) take Mr. Potter’s advice and drill 3 test wells in the Maxwell watershed, and (2) forget the weir and “Bring Back St. Mary’s Beaver.”

Do what all the environmentalists usually demand – leave Nature alone. How hard/expensive is it to restock a couple of beavers? Certainly less than the unnatural, annual stocking of the lake with farmed fish (hatchery) that don’t belong there in the first place, but, which has been going on for decades.

But what do I know?….There are experts involved right?