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2018 Elections – Candidates Perspectives on Environmental Challenges

    Editorial & Opinions, Election Candidates    October 17, 2018

In the lead up to Election Day on October 20th, 2018, the Community Alliance will post answers from candidates to crucial questions. Today, we focus on impact of environmental challenges.

Question: What are the top three challenges facing the natural environment of Salt Spring, and what steps would you take to address these challenges?

Sabrina Ali (candidate for Islands Trustee):

A. The impact of a seasonal occupancy. The stresses on water, sewage, traffic, land use, and our emotional well-being are dramatic due to our seasonal occupancy. This needs to be addressed in a cohesive manner, with all 6 silos adopting a comprehensive seasonal occupancy management strategy.

B. The expanding population base. I would follow a best practices model. Education and monthly town hall meetings that include information about the capacity of the island in terms of water, sewage, conservation, and the emotional well being of residents, following a voluntary stewardship model.

C. Large volume marine traffic. I encourage and support our opposition to the KM and will do whatever I can to continue to bring attention to the precarious state our fragile ecosystem is now in.

Kylie Coates (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Climate change
Droughts and fire
Beer bottles and cans
And just basic garbage
Abandoned boat
Sinking and polluting the local beaches and oceans
Getting a rain catchment system in place will help with droughts

Also working with the local fire department and community to get a fire action plan set up
Either to prevent or to deal with a major fire

To raise the deposit on beer bottles and cans to something a little more significant that you won’t simply throw them away also trying to get restaurants and Takeaway food on the island to get rid of Styrofoam and plastic and get a better environmental option

Reminding local islanders that garbage on the side of a road makes are island look dirty

As for abandoned boats

Trying to find the people that have abandoned them it’s a must

Identifying Boats that are about to sink or have pollutants

Peter Grove (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Lack of water in the summer; the risk of forest fires; increased population

We must improve water collection, storage and distribution methods. To a large degree this falls under the control of the CRD but the Islands Trust can play its part by enabling and/or requiring better management in the projects it approves. It can also advocate for changes to building codes and islands health requirements to put less of a strain on groundwater and on our existing lakes and reservoirs. All new builds should include rainwater collection systems and this can be a requirement through zoning.

Firesmart Canada provides a great deal of information about construction methods which reduce the dangers from fire. Our forests need to be managed in ways to reduce the risks. A task force consisting of representatives from Salt Spring Fire, the CRD, Islands Trust , First Nations and the Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development should be put together to address these important issues.I will be meeting with our Fire Chief to see what the Islands Trust can do to assist.

Increasing population can certainly challenge the natural environment of our island. Population control as has been proven around the world does not work without dire consequences, therefore it must be managed through effective land use and community planning. We need to take a hard look at the community’s expectations and wishes for our island’s development, always respecting the preserve and protect mandate. Issues surrounding population densities and distribution, arable land, water management and protection, First Nations interests, transportation and economics must be addressed in our OCP review.

Gary Holman (candidate for CRD Director):

I’ll focus on Salt Spring’s land-based issues, although degradation of the marine environment and dependent species is also a major concern. I would suggest our three main, land-based environmental issues (which are themselves interrelated) are water and waste; loss of forest cover / ecologically sensitive lands; and climate action / adaptation. While climate action and adaptation is one of our key environmental concerns many other key environmental issues can also be considered within the climate change context.

I’ve covered water-related issues and some suggested strategies to address them, in a question above, primarily as they relate to human uses and risks. Protection of fresh water (for example by use of such tools as Development Permit Areas which are under Trust jurisdiction), not only protects drinking water, it also provides habitat for many species – plant and animal – some of which are rare and endangered.

We are currently shipping our liquid (i.e., septage and sewage) waste off island at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars annually, even though this waste has a water content of 95%. Finding an environmentally responsible method of disposing of our liquid waste at the 18 acre Burgoyne site (which I helped secure as part of the Burgoyne Bay land acquisition in 2001), could save significantly reduce taxpayer costs and reduce GHG emissions associated with off island trucking. Despite voter approval of funding in 2008 (my last year as CRD Director) an on island solution for our liquid waste has not been found.

Regarding solid waste, while we can make improvements in our recycling services, for example regarding single use plastics, our top priority should be to compost our food scraps and green waste to create beneficial soil amendments to increase agricultural productivity and reduce burning. Regionally, the CRD must increase methane capture for power production at the Hartland landfill, again significantly reducing GHG emissions. The methane capture and electricity production already in place at Hartland has been one of the most significant reductions in emissions within the entire regional district. I am currently participating in an ad hoc committee examining composting options and as CRD Director will continue to support this initiative.

Almost two thirds of SSI is forested. These forests provide significant environmental benefits including habitat for a number of species, capture of carbon emissions, preventing damaging storm water runoff, and protecting water quality. As a former Board member of the Salt Spring Island Conservancy and The Land Conservancy of BC, who has worked with the community and conservation agencies to save precious green space on this island, I’m very proud that about 20% of the SSI land base is permanently protected. Including the recent Provincial announcement that no logging on our Crown lands will be permitted, SSI has protected over 6,500 acres of green space since 2001, a remarkable accomplishment. CRD Parks has played a significant role in these protection efforts and I will work with the CRD Board to pursue other green space protection opportunities.

Our forests on SSI are also at risk (the remainder of this response was deleted, as it exceeded the maximum word count of 500 words per answer).

Howard Holzapfel (candidate for Islands Trustee):

Water, wildfire, and waste management are the top three challenges facing our environment. For water problems see question – Gov. #3. Completion of the liquid-waste facility at Burgoyne Bay should be a high priority to avoid the excessive shipment costs and also transshipment costs from other islands. For mitigation of fire risks, I support the FireSmart Program as well as the neighbor POD systems as well as education about the increased risks here compared to urban areas.

Laura Patrick (candidate for Islands Trustee):

I believe the top three challenges to our island’s natural environment are climate change, which is leading to an increased fire risk and contributing to our dwindling water supplies, and single use plastics that are polluting our road sides, lakes, streams, beaches and local ocean waters (not to mention floating off and joining the floating garbage gyre in the Pacific Ocean).

I have made maintaining and strengthening our environmental safeguards to keep Salt Spring and the Trust Area special and a world-class example of sustainability a focus of my campaign platform.

We can do better by communicating how every one of us who lives in, owns land on, vacations in or travels through this region needs to become a steward of our precious ecosystem. We need to know what actions we can each take to protect it. This includes actions such as educating islanders about programs like Fire Smart. We need to be far more aggressive with eliminating single use plastics on this island.

We can do better by managing and conserving our water supplies and employing standards to ensure long-term ecological sustainability of our watersheds while encouraging ecologically-sound housing solutions. We must develop a culture of water conservation within the Trust Area. We should consider evolving the Salt Spring Water Protection Alliance (SSWPA) to a Trust Area-wide conservation authority. We need to consider changes to the building code that include, for example, ultra-low water use fixtures, dual plumbing and rainwater collection systems. We need to find the right partners to offer an incentive program to help existing homeowners upgrade their homes with water conservation features. We need an education program about water conservation that targets residents, farmers, businesses, visitors, and schools. Real estate agents across the Trust Area should inform prospective purchasers why conservation is necessary to sustain the island’s water supplies.

We can do better planning the future of our community. We must realistically consider the benefits and challenges of tourism as well as the impacts of climate change. We need an updated Official Community Plan (OCP) and Land Use Bylaw – Let’s begin by building on the valuable recommendations from the 2007 OCP review. We need plans and bylaws to help us determine what our community will look like, and realistically consider the impacts of climate change.

Robin Williams (candidate for CRD Director):

The first of the top three is water. We need to work towards an island wide principle water district. The main part of this move will be some kind of amalgamation of the CRD with North Salt Spring water. The combine resources will give us the ability to operate water based engineering on island and be far less reliant on CRD integrated water in Victoria.

The second is waste. We must look at the situation of the amount of sludge we produce and ship off island at a cost of around $350,000 per year. Here I want to see SSI transition to a world class leader. I have a strong back ground in both Chemical and Environmental Engineering and understand traditional waste management systems. I do not have a solution for this yet but I will make it a priority. There is an old expression “there is money in muck”. I will try and find the expertise to better use our waste products in a more environmentally supportive manner. I recently saw am amazing presentation on “bio char” at the last Egg Heads meeting. I am also aware of a new innovative waste water facility in Sechelt. We definitely need a new kind of thinking to deal with this ongoing problem. The is deforestation. I am very concerned with the clear trend in ceder trees simply dieing. This is an extreme fire hazard and we see evidence of this climate change effect island wide. At this time I am not sure what to do in response. At the very least we are going to have to take the dead stock out simply to minimize the risk.

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