There were long lines of people waiting to talk to the board at the Cowichan Valley Regional District at its meeting on Feb. 27, with many wanting to discuss a controversial rezoning application for Cowichan Bay. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Controversial Cowichan Bay rezoning application goes to public hearing

Environmental group wants application rejected

The debate around a controversial rezoning application for a section of Cowichan Bay may be just heating up.

In a tight 5-4 vote on Feb. 27, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board of directors gave the first two readings to the rezoning application for a number of Crown leases on properties where the Westcan Terminal is situated.

The application will now go to a public hearing, the time and place to be announced, and judging from the large crowd of both supporters and critics of the application that attended Wednesday’s board meeting, the public hearing promises to be a lively affair.

Western Stevedoring, a diversified stevedoring, terminal and logistics company with operations throughout B.C. controls the properties and stated when it first started the rezoning process more than two years ago that its main purpose is to amend the current zoning to allow its tenant, Pacific Industrial Marine, to continue the operation that the company has had in place for decades.

Pacific Industrial Marine, which currently employs more than 50 skilled workers at its site in Cowichan Bay, specializes in all aspects of marine and bridge construction.

Ant the beginning of the rezoning process, PIM received a letter from the CVRD notifying the company that its current zoning doesn’t comply with all of its activities at the site, which led to the rezoning request.

The current zoning for the site is mainly intended for log storage and log shipping.

But members of the Cowichan Estuary Restoration & Conservation Association and other environmental groups are taking issue with the rezoning application fearing that the doors could soon be wide open to a lot more heavy manufacturing and its related pollution in Cowichan Bay, which could play havoc with its fragile ecosystem.


Several speakers at Wednesday’s board meeting shared that view.

Carol Hartwig said, to date, there has been a refusal during the process to see the rezoning as a significant change for Cowichan Bay.

“It’s being seen as a land-use issue that doesn’t need any environmental studies,” she said.

“If we allow this rezoning, we’ll be further endangering the area’s animal and fish populations, and we’ll never eat another shellfish from Cowichan Bay again.”

Paul Rickard said the rezoning has the potential to change the ecological balance of the bay and estuary, and interrupt the chain of life there.

“One of the key estuaries in B.C. is located there, and there has not been any science-based proof indicating that it would be safe and sustainable if this rezoning is allowed,” he said.


But Brian Thacker, owner of Pacific Industrial & Marine, said there are a lot of falsehoods about the area of Cowichan Bay where PIN operates circulating through social media.

“Many people see things on social media sites and believe it,” he said.

“That’s really a shame because I think that industry can work well with environmentalists on common goals. The problems in the estuary are common all over B.C., with salmon disappearing and pollution coming into the bay and estuary from the river, but no one ever talks about that.”

In fact, Thacker said it’s his understanding that chinook salmon are actually increasing in numbers in the bay and the proliferation of eel grass has doubled since PIN began operations.

“A dive survey indicates that in areas where we are working, eel grass is flourishing, and we’re been there for years,” he said.

“No one has ever come forward saying that anything that we have done is wrong. We’ve been at this rezoning process for two and a half years now and we still don’t know where we are headed.”

In a discussion before the vote, Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora director Alison Nicholson said she sees the proposed rezoning as high risk and short sighted.

“I’m not comfortable moving ahead with a rezoning that could expand the contamination in a fragile ecosystem,” she said.

“There is no sound scientific information on the impacts of the rezoning and I would prefer this application goes back to staff until all this information has been received.”

Youbou/Meade Creek director Klaus Kuhn said delaying the vote appears to be a stalling tactic.

“We can’t kick this down the road,” he said.

CVRD board chairman Ian Morrison said he is keeping an open mind on the rezoning application.

“I can’t wait to hear more from the public on this issue,” he said after the meeting.

“I’ve read all the emails received on the subject but I’m not sure where some of the authors get their information from. Much of it is not related to the facts, including that we’d be authorizing a smelter for the site if the rezoning goes through. Nothing is further from the truth and I have no idea where that rumour comes from.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cowichan 49ers return to Tony Grover Cup final

The Cowichan 49ers are back in the Tony Grover Cup final after… Continue reading

Nanaimo rink wins Duncan mixed bonspiel

Many local teams in the mix

Flu outbreak at Cowichan District Hospital

42 people diagnosed at facility since March 15

LEXI BAINAS COLUMN: Bikers, dreadlocks, and all that jazz

From happenings down on the farm to how to hang your self: get it all here

Protective human chain forms around Victoria mosque for Friday prayer

Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Coming up in Cowichan: World Water Day

Shawnigan Lake marks World Water Day Got clean local water? “The ability… Continue reading

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

Most Read