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General · 17th April 2013
Jim Abram
What a beautiful spring day! I have literally just walked in the door from the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities Annual General Meeting (AVICC), held this year in Sooke. It was a three day event inclusive of all local governments from Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Central Coast. It was a great opportunity to deal with our issues so close to the timing of the election.

Advisory Group
The Area C informal Advisory Group met last week and the main topic of discussion was "how are we going to deal with the ongoing problem of harm caused by our ferry system". Very good discussion took place and lots of innovative ideas were put forward. As a result it was decided that a media advisory should be put out to all possible media advising them of my upcoming meetings in Sooke and that we are available to comment on the platforms of the various parties as they are released. This was, of course, to pique the media interest in what coastal communities are concerned about. The group discussed a number of topics including forestry and view sheds, our economy, our loss of families, young and older and, of course, you guessed it, ferries! One of our members took on the initial draft and others commented on it. It was finalized and released to all media within 48 hours of inception. So far CHEK -TV news and the two Campbell River radio stations have responded. More will as we get closer to release of the platforms. We intend to make this an election issue that cannot be ignored.

There were many resolutions that were debated at the convention but the one that fits most closely with our current coastal priority is the following:
R23 - BC FERRY FARES - Powell River RD

WHEREAS coastal communities consider that ferry services are an integral part of the provincial highway system; AND WHEREAS increasing ferry fares are crippling coastal community economies:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AVICC and the UBCM lobby the provincial government to recognize the coastal ferry services as essential extensions of our provincial public highway system and to ensure that ferry fares are reduced and core service levels are maintained at current service levels until such time as the provincial government implements legislation that recognizes our coastal ferry services as essential extensions of our provincial public highway system and creates equity between BC’s terrestrial and marine, interior and coast highway systems.

This resolution passed unanimously! I also had the opportunity to read it verbatim to the representative for Adrian Dix who spoke to the convention in his place. I speak of MLA John Horgan, the Finance Critic at this time. He and I also met for about forty five minutes on Friday. He gets it, as do some of the other MLA's including ours, Claire Trevena. So, should the NDP form the next government, which is anyone's guess, we are already a long way into providing them with the information that they need to do things differently and try to save our coastal communities. We need help!

I thank all of you for your patience on this topic. A long string of emails between the person in charge of this project and his contractors arrived a number of days ago. Progress is happening! Have any of you by any chance looked at the signal indicator on your phones and seen LTE at the top??? (Hint, hint!). I am still awaiting the area Manager's permission to formally announce the installation and for the service to come fully on line. Telus wants to be the one to do the media and I must respect that wish. So hold on for a bit longer. News is coming soon.

Well Water Study and information session
I received an email earlier today and thought you would like some prior notice of the possible upcoming workshop. Also provided here is a web site with information on the program.

North Island Labs (in Courtenay), routinely tests private well water and find that many of their clients have a lot of questions about ground water quantity and quality. To address this issue The Regional District of Nanaimo developed an excellent programme called WellSmart. Part of their programme has been to hold evening workshops in various communities where public and private experts are in attendence to present information and answer questions. North Island Labs would take the lead and reproduce RDN-type work shops in areas of the SRD with high concentrations of private drinking water well water ownership.

The first go at this, is going to be on Quadra Island, Saturday July 6th, 2013 at the Quadra Community Centre. They will be working together with Anne Milne (Last Drop Water Systems), Red Williams Well drilling and maybe a few other local businesses. They will also be contacting the Campbell River VIHA office to see if they are interested in participating. I have forwarded all of this information to our planners at the SRD to ensure that we are a participant in the process.

Q. Cove Sewer User Fees
The last few months have been spent trying to resolve the irresolvable regarding the huge and unacceptable increase to the user rates for the Q. Cove Sewer. After many meetings with users, the SRD staff, the SRD Board, The Ministry and even the Minister, I was able to secure a one time contribution of $40,000.00 to defray the costs of the user fees, from the Ministry. The official words that I am allowed to use are:
“We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.”
And I do gratefully acknowledge this contribution as it will help lighten the burden for this year. The removal of $18,500.00 from contribution to reserves should further reduce the user fee.
The challenge now will be to add more users to the system so as to eliminate this ongoing problem. We are running at about 10% capacity and there is lots of room for additional properties to join in the service, such as the 50+ properties that were proposed last year. The next proposal that comes forward to add properties will be hard to refuse since the one time cost of joining has been approximated at around one third of the original proposed amount, due to the availability of Community Works Funds (Gas Tax Grants) which we are actively pursuing as a way to bring down the cost of adding properties to the system. We are also looking at proposals for development in the Local Area Plan (the Q. Cove Village proposal). Every additional user of the system brings down the cost of running the system.

We have come a long way on this file and we still have work to do. It is my hope that we will have it done in the next few months and we can then concentrate on other issues that need solutions. Lots of problem solving going on these days and it pleases me to be a part of the solution.

Forestry practices throughout the islands
A great deal of publicity has been generated recently by tourism operators concerning forest practices that are effecting their businesses throughout Area C. I have worked with one of the operators, the TFL holder and the Minister on one issue in one area about changing plans so as to not effect the tour operators and their long time business. Moderate success was achieved but now others are having the same type of problems and there needs to be a comprehensive review of the practices and the effects on existing and future business opportunities. Compromise can be achieved. View-sheds can be protected. Old growth stands can be preserved. Forestry operations can continue. We just need to put the right people in a room and understand the issues and then come up with the solutions. It can be done although it all takes a lot of energy to make it happen. One thing we are not short of on these islands is energy.

I am going to stop here for this report. Hopefully you will have read some of it! Feel free to call me between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0... Lots of choices.

Please do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!

Respectfully submitted,

Jim Abram
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD