Two Views – You Decide Which You Want to Believe

The following letter was published in the Island Tides. [My comments/responses are bracketed.]

Supporting Salt Spring’s Riparian Area Regulations Bylaw [Or not…]

Dear Editor:

This letter offers some facts in response to alarmist information being circulated regarding Salt Spring’s proposed riparian area protection bylaw, known as the RAR
bylaw. [Alarmist as opposed to what…misleading…like this letter?]

This bylaw is being proposed to comply with a provincial mandate for local governments in southern BC to adopt a bylaw protecting habitat of certain types of fish including
cutthroat trout and salmon. [We already have fish habitat protection, and have since 1998]

The proposed bylaw follows the format provided by the Province. [The proposed bylaw goes FAR beyond the format “provided by the Province.]

Salt Spring is one of the last communities which has not yet complied. [Salt Spring has been deemed to be in compliance since March 2005]

The draft bylaw would establish a Development Permit Area (DPA) covering 24 watersheds on Salt Spring that have streams capable of supporting these fish. Let’s call them
‘fish-habitat streams’.[Sure you can call them anything you want. But, the bylaw also covers ditches – Let’s call them “non-fish-habitat plain old ditches”]

The 24 watersheds cover a large part of the island. [About 60%, but the Trust says less than 10%]

But the bylaw does not affect all properties in the watershed. [Just the ones with drainage ditches or streams within 30 metres of them.]

It affects landowners proposing a new project (such as building a structure or clearing land) [or digging a garden] within an assessment area of 30 metres of a fish-habitat stream, [or of a ditch that runs into a fish-habitat stream no matter how far away from fish it may be] or its tributary streams and water-bodies, or five metres from a ditch that flows on the surface into such a stream [but only if a Qualified Environmental Professional agrees] , or ten metres from a few mapped non fish-bearing streams that have been in an existing development permit area for many years.

DPAs are not new to Salt Spring. They have been used for years to regulate activities near steep slopes, along the shore and near lakes and some streams. [And now they are being expanded greatly]

So, what will happen if your project is within a RAR assessment area? [Good question]

The bylaw would not establish a ‘set back’ or ‘no go’ area but rather a ‘go carefully’ assessment area. [Sorry, but this is total BS. A Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area (SPEA) established by a QEP  is a “no-go” area, and, will establish a “setback.” And, it may even be covenanted or requested to be transferred to someone else.]

A property owner will need to obtain a written assessment from a qualified environmental professional (QEP) describing where development can take place within the assessment area. [At a cost of about $1500 or more. Further, a Development Permit, cost $1,100 will be required. No where in this article does Maxine mention ‘real world’ costs.]

A QEP who spoke on Salt Spring said that the QEP tries to accommodate the landowner’s project while also protecting fish habitat. [If that was the case, why would non-fish bearing ditches need to be ‘protected’ under the bylaw? Oh yeah, its not just about fish…]

If done appropriately, a single assessment can guide future projects on the property. [Once again that is not true. There is nothing in the proposed bylaw which says if you have one assessment it is good for all time.]

Even within the assessment area, with some reasonable limitations, many activities are exempt, such as maintenance and modifications to structures and landscaping on their
existing footprint, installing fences, emergency measures and farming activities. [And then again, most activities are not exempt]

Ditches are included in RAR because destructive land clearing in or near a ditch can cause erosion and pollutants to be carried into a stream and harm fish habitat.  [And who controls most of these major ditches? Ministry of Transportation, which is not required to pay any attention to the bylaw.]

However, most activities near roadside ditches will not be affected since the five metre assessment area will usually be within the construction setback from the property line and normal landscape maintenance is exempt. [This ignores the fact that if you want to do anything on the boulevard in front of your property you will need permission from MoT and a Development Permit. This includes “regular maintenance.”]

The draft bylaw is supported by the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, the Cusheon Lake and St Mary Lake Stewardship Committees and the Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society because it will help protect riparian areas including Salt Spring’s drinking water lakes, which, as recent blooms of toxin-producing cyanobacteria have shown, badly need all the help they can get. [And, it is not supported by hundreds of private property owners.]

A major threat to lake drinking water is erosion from land clearing along streams, which carry phosphorus (the primary contributor to the blooms) into lakes. [And those major ditches will be scraped bare every 3-7 years by the MoT without a care in the world, exposing phosphorus.]

The draft RAR bylaw has been criticized because it has maps of the watersheds that contain fish-habitat streams instead of maps of individual streams as was done on North Pender Island. [The mapping has been criticized because it is inaccurate (and has been for the past 11 years)]

North Pender has only three short fish-habitat streams. [So what?]

Salt Spring has 24 fish-habitat watersheds, some of which are huge with many tributary streams. [Welcome to Salt Spring. Didn’t you know this before you moved here from California?]

Trust staff stated at a recent public meeting that they have a ballpark estimate of $100,000 to map these streams. [The Trust has never requested a proper estimate. I did, from the same company that mapped Pender – less than $42,000 and two months to map all 24 watersheds. It took me 5 minutes and an email to obtain the detailed 5 page estimate.]

The Salt Spring Island trustees and staff have worked hard to craft a bylaw that follows the provincial guidelines while minimizing impacts on landowners. [Please…they have worked hard to ram this bylaw through before the end of the current Trustees’ term.]

Measures planned to mitigate any potential impact include reducing permit fees, minimizing the time to get a permit, helping landowners determine whether a permit is required and seeking funds to incrementally map streams. [This is another set of absurd ideas. They are entirely discretionary, are inequitable, and don’t hold any weight. It is nothing more than political pandering to try and grease the slide in the public’s eyes.]

Environmental protection has a cost, but so does lack of protection. [And the cost of accurate mapping has a cost – less than $42,000]

Fish numbers have declined because of habitat loss.[Not on Salt Spring they haven’t and I challenge Maxine to provide a shred of scientific evidence to support this claim.]

Removal of streamside vegetation increases water flow which can damage down-stream properties, and reduces infiltration to groundwater. [And the existing 10m setbacks under the existing Development Permit areas are sufficient to protect fish habitat island-wide.]

Blooms of toxin-producing cyanobacteria have resulted in many Salt Spring residents being unable to drink their tap water for months. [This bylaw will not prevent cyanobacteria blooms, and I challenge Maxine to provide the science, other than ‘conjecture science,’ which shows how the bylaw will prevent blooms.]

Our quality of life and the success of our tourism industry depend on having a healthy natural environment. [Our quality of life also depends on our enjoyment of our property without having to pay large sums of money to effectively prevent/protect nothing.]

In the real world, the effectiveness of an environmental protection measure is always balanced against costs and inconvenience. [And yet who is it who doesn’t want to pay for accurate mapping or inconveniently wait until the mapping is complete before moving forward? Oh yeah, that would be you.]

This proposed bylaw is a balanced approach that deserves our support. [This bylaw is a blanket/shotgun approach that will not improve the environment, and in its current form does not deserve anyone’s support.]

Maxine Leichter, Salt Spring Island [Eric Booth, Salt Spring Island]

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2 Responses to Two Views – You Decide Which You Want to Believe

  1. George Grams says:

    Leichter is a close colleague of Torgrimson. Like Ehring, both are American born and I can only assume they imported their conservationist marxism from south of the border. Leichter is noted on the Gulf Islands Alliance (GIA) web site as Trust Policy Project Chair. Torgrimson was chair of GIA prior to becoming a trustee. Presumably Leichter also buys into the anti-democratic, people-hostile position statements formally adopted by GIA and published on their web site. These include:

    “The Trust . . . was not intended to represent the interests of its residents.”

    How Leichter and Torgrimson square this with clause 6.1 of the Islands Trust Act has never been answered. The Act places a specific responsibility on trustees:

    “For each local trust area, TWO TRUSTEES ARE TO BE ELECTED TO REPRESENT THE ELECTORS OF THE AREA.”  (My capitals).

    It might hold with their conservationist ideology to entirely ignore this clause but it certainly confirms neither is fit to hold office as trustee. This clause, and thus the duty to represent islanders, is a fundamental requirement of the Act. If trustees do not represent those who place them in office, they are delinquent in their duty to the law.

    Other anti-democratic, people-hostile position statements adopted by GIA are:

    “residents have difficulty in seeing themselves as the enemy who have wrested power from the local trustees and who have presided over the negative impacts that have occurred . . .”
    “The Trust “was intended to protect the ‘place’ for the ‘people of British Columbia’ largely from Trust Area residents and landowners.”
    “Put place before people”.

    To summarize, we have a trustee (and at least one known supporter) who held office in an organization that publishes position statements that:
    denounces a trustee’s duty to represent the residents of their area;
    regards island residents as enemies;
    espouses a view that the ‘place’ needs to be protected from those residents/enemies, because that place is more important than they are;
    infers that there is a need to ‘wrest’ powers from those electors/residents/enemies.

    The Trust was once considered a power for good. It was an institution of attraction and persuasion. Torgrimson, Ehring and their supporters are seeking to turn it into an institution of coercion. No more clear confirmation of that fact exists than proposed bylaw 449, the primary purpose of which is to effect a massive transfer of powers from island home owners to trustees, exactly as posited in GIA’s mission statements.

    Torgrimson and Leichter’s adopted position statements pose a dilemma. If they regard island residents as their enemies, how should island residents regard them?

    • Kimberly Lineger says:

      “Torgrimson and Leichter’s adopted position statements pose a dilemma. If they regard island residents as their enemies, how should island residents regard them?”

      I’ll sum it up in one word – incompetent.

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