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General · 26th August 2015
Jim Abram
Sun, sun and more sun!.. Hope you are all conserving as much water as possible..The long range forecasts don’t look great as far as replenishing our supplies. But, hey, I have to admit, I love the sunny weather and the heat!

Just so everyone knows that there are issues beside BC Ferries and all of their nonsense going on in my life, I am going to try and give you a “short list” of the major topics that I am dealing with pretty much every day of the week

Hydro truck for Quadra!

I’ll start with the best news first. I have been negotiating with BC Hydro managers in Nanaimo, Vancouver and Campbell River for the past two years on an idea I had way back then to actually have a dedicated, full-blown BC Hydro bucket truck stationed on the island permanently. The answer started at “No!” And with much badgering (sorry, “lobbying”), they gradually entered the conversation and considered the possibilities. About six months ago it started to look really good. They had conference calls with me and my next task was to find a building and a site. I went through many iterations from purchase to build, from Emcon to Fire Dept. Without boring you with the extensive details I will say that it came down to getting permission from the Fire Dept. Trustees to a lot a space and build a building that would meet Hydro specs. I consulted with the Chief who then took it to the Board of Trustees and a decision was made about two weeks ago and they have said “Yes”!. I have now turned it over to Hydro and the Trustees to negotiate the terms and build the building. Shouldn’t take long and we will then have a Hydro truck here for possible inclement weather. I am very excited about this. We will then be able to have the Hydro truck deal with outages and make sure that it is safe for Emcon to clear trees and for emergency vehicles to get through as needed. A dream come true! And no ferry for the truck to deal with!

Safe bike paths and connecting the island

I have been working with the Quadra island Pathways Committee and the Trails Committee to look at the process that we will need to go through to get their dreams (and mine) of safe ways to get from A to B on a bike and on foot and to actually make it easy to connect our neighbourhoods and institutions. I have been talking with the Pathways people for some time and will be able to help them out with some Community Works funding as a grant from Gas Taxes.

I am very pleased that we were able to meet with some of the group representatives here on Quadra with Regional District staff and actually look at some of the areas (more on this in another section). I am also very pleased that the various groups are finding that they each have similar goals and that they are working together as a loose coalition to help make this happen. Very exciting for all of us.

Proposed Regional Park area

I hope that people will not see the heading and react negatively before reading the proposal. This area is around the area of Morte Lake and Chinese mountains and Mt. Seymour. It takes in existing trails and recreation areas that are already being used for this “park” purpose. Yes, it takes in some forest and TFL. Those parts will get considerable attention and will not be left out of the discussion.

I will note here that back in 1990 - ish, I asked the Province to establish a Map Reserve (a tool to restrict activities that may harm the area) around the Morte Lake watershed, to protect the values there and to also protect the lake as a possible (long way into the future) water supply for the south island. As it turns out, this may come true with the weather that we are experiencing. Have you thought about what we will do as a community if our aquifers run out of water??? It may be a long shot and may (hopefully) never happen. But the Map Reserve is there just in case. I spoke with our local Emergency Preparedness folks last week and there is no plan at this time to deal with a water shortage. To be developed!

Anyway, the area is being looked at as a logical protective measure for one of our largest industries - Tourism. We are on the map and have been discovered. So now we need to make sure we manage our resource to the fullest. Part of the staff visit I spoke of earlier had to do with taking a look at different sections of this proposal. It will hopefully become part of next year’s work plan which will be established at the end of this year.

This park proposal is conceptual at best, right now, but it is worth considering, proactively, if we are to retain the beauty and the recreational attributes that we, as well as the tourists, all enjoy .

Quathiaski Cove Sewer expansion

This is an item that has been ongoing for a very long time, consuming an incredible amount of energy and time on my part as well as a great deal of staff time. The staff put out the request for proposals and have now had them all come in and the deadline has passed. I am not able to discuss details at this time until the Board considers the mater on Thursday (27th). I am not happy with what I am seeing, nor is our staff. We have some work to do and are working daily on the issue. More to follow when I can speak publicly about it. Sorry I cannot say more at this time.

Beach access inventory

This project started about two years ago while Beth Rees was still at the SRD. She retired and it went dormant for a time until we got a new Parks planner. It is basically a mapping exercise at this point and we toured the island for a full day last week and have another one scheduled for this week to do the other half of the island. We are basically ground-truthing the existing Beach Accesses that were created by subdivision over the years. The accesses are already there. Some are roads that actually go to the beach and are kept clear by the Ministry. Others come close to the water and then a trail leads to the water. Some are grown over or have never been developed. This information will be an incredible asset to our Emergency Preparedness group and Emergency service providers. So the first step is to inventory them and that is what we are doing. This has already been completed on Cortes and in Area D, south of Campbell River. So, it is nothing new. I will keep you updated as we know more.

Connectivity / Internet / Cell - Data

As you are all aware this has been one of my most active files for a number of years and we have gotten some improvements in some areas. But it is nowhere good enough for you or for me. It is an issue that plagues all rural areas and small municipalities. Our Board has finally seen the light as a full Board and we are hiring a consultant to quantify what we have and map it all and also provide the needs assessment that we must have in order to apply for various grants and apply “appropriate” pressure where needed. I cringe at the mention of this file almost as much as that of BC Ferries. Both are a pain in the backside. But at least we are moving on it as a Board and I don’t have to carry the entire load which I have been doing for many years. Those of you who have poor or no service think you are frustrated! Step into my shoes, my friends. I have to deal with these intransigent providers and I cannot believe that they will not provide a service that is so basic in this day and age. They just don’t seem to get it.

A bit of good news on this front is that Telus says that they are going to make some “improvements” in the Q. Cove area. I have also had conversations with the owner of “Twincomm" communications and they are planning to provide service to the Heriot Bay area. Just how extensive that will be is an unknown at this time. Testing will need to be done, but he is working on it. So, some light at the the end of the tunnel.

And for those of you who are wanting better high speed and cell, think of your neighbours in Granite Bay / Kanish Bay. They are not even able to get dependable telephone lines! Their line is over 50 years old, buried and cut in so many places that nobody has the capacity to even document it. And Telus would rather send people up there weekly to try and “fix” it instead of hanging a new line on the new power poles that they own 40% of and just be done with it ! It makes no logical sense, but they won’t do it. Talk about frustrating! But I will keep working on the issue. It is not just a matter of convenience but a matter of safety - no 911 !!! Yet they pay for it like all the rest of us. The participation of the community in this lobby effort is much appreciated.

Community Centre seismic upgrade grant?

I am waiting for staff to let me know where we stand with the award of this grant from the Province. We applied months ago but have not heard yet. The Community Centre was determined to need about $350,000 worth of upgrading to meet Provincial seismic requirements. Since it is the Reception Centre for our Emergency Program as well as one of the SRD’s largest gathering places on the island we felt that we totally deserved the grant that was offered, since it meets all the criteria. But knowing the Provincial govt. this does not necessarily mean we will get the grant. Fingers crossed!

Dog Bylaw for Quadra

Well, from reading the Campbell River Mirror from last Friday, you would think we have been over run by wild dogs!. Some editors love to incite riots with their provocative headlines and sub-headlines.

The bylaw that is being explored is to deal with the few incidents of vicious dogs that have either attacked people or other animals. I believe all of the incidents took place within a very short distance of the owner’s property, so these are not “roaming packs” of vicious dogs as the headlines would suggest. The bylaw has the full support of the Safety Council and the RCMP and a lot of owners of dogs. It is only meant to deal with exceptional circumstances and to deal with dogs that bark 24 hours per day and injured or stray / lost dogs. No licensing is intended. The proposal that came forward last week was to address an urban environment and not a rural island situation like we live in. Our committee sent it back to staff to make it more suitable to our island life. It will come back to us to see where it goes. I have proposed that something as simple as having a person on Quadra that is a dog lover and equipped to keep a dog for a day or two until it can be dealt with would be a good way to deal with it very cheaply. The urban proposal was way too expensive and detailed. We would only need a very simple solution that would only need to be used on the odd occasion but would give the RCMP the power to do so. Please don’t over react to this exploration. Many have asked for it and I cannot ignore the request. I have ignored it for a number of years since I figured that islanders didn’t need it. Maybe times have changed. We will see.

Meeting with Ministry of Transportation (Area manager)

I had a good meeting with our new manager who replaced Sue Pauwels (she retired). We went over many of the issues that we face on the island and toured some of the hot spots. As you know, none of our roads are up to Ministry standards and never will be under the current government’s funding arrangement. All of the Ministry offices are underfunded and Emcon (the contractor) does not have enough staff or money to even approach doing the appropriate amount of work needed. She is very keen to help us out knowing the circumstances. She has moved quickly on issues on Rendezvous Island and wants to go to Read Island to look at their issues also. Of course none of this is in local govt. control, but I feel it is necessary to keep a good relationship with our service providers and to work with them. We will keep in close touch on our island issues.

Upcoming UBCM Convention

I am preparing for the Convention that takes place at the end of September and already have SRD staff scheduling meetings for me to meet with Ministers on issues of concern to us, such as connectivity, BC Ferries, roads, grants, etc. I will also be meeting as the Chair of the SRD along with the Coastal Regional District Chairs Group with the Minister responsible for BC Ferries and with the Premier. It will be a jam packed week and hopefully very productive.

Media interviews

I have done a number of media interviews in the past few days on CKNW and CFAX talk radio shows regarding the fares announcements by BC Ferries and on the changes to service in the gulf islands. They were great opportunities to keep our ferry issue alive and in the public’s face. You can listen to them as podcasts at https://soundcloud.com/terry-moore-cfax/august-21-4pm-1 (go to minute 6:06) and at http://www.cknw.com/audio-vault/ (go to minute 14:00) if you are interested.

Face Book postings

There seems to be some false perception out there that all I deal with is Ferries. I certainly could dedicate all of my time to that issue, but I am dealing with dozens of other issues at the same time. (see above!)

I publish issues that I am dealing with in the Discovery Islander, (print and web-based) and the Gumboot electronically, every two weeks. I go into great detail on most of the issues that are being dealt with during that two weeks and beyond.
It is critical that people read the Discovery Islander and the Gumboot if they want to know the details of the issues. I do not have enough hours in the day to deal with the issues and then post them on Face Book immediately after dealing with them.
What I will try doing for those of you who use Face Book to get your news is: I will post on Face Book prior to the release of the Discovery Islander and Gumboot reports, a notice telling you what issues are going to be talked about in those forums. Then you will see what I am dealing with on your behalf and can chose how you get your information. Hopefully this will keep you better informed.

I think that is about as much as I can get into this issue. Feel free to contact 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 jimabramxplornet.ca or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0… or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JimAbram…. If it is important, my cell is 250-830-8005… 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