CVRD’S chair, Jon Lefebure, and CAO, Brian Carruthers, spoke to Lake Cowichan town council about water.
“We have a process we’re intending to go through,” CVRD chair Jon Lefebure said. “Depending on the reaction from the public. We’re already involved in watershed issues. However, we do not have a service or a function that allows us to do that properly.
“At the regional district level, we need to establish a function to allow us to participate in many of the issues that come up. We’re starting a program to inform all of our citizens, seek their support, and receive their comments on the creation of that function. One of the steps in that process is to come and talk to you as leaders in the community and people who will be making significant decisions as we move ahead.”
Brian Carruthers, CAO of the CVRD, said, “If you think back a year ago, I was standing in front of you talking about this exact same subject. That was when we were launching our consultation with the community around the potential service for the Cowichan. At that time we were faced with some pretty significant issues for the Cowichan watershed with regard to drought, with regard to flooding, and the board has directed that we consider establishing a service.
“As part of the board’s mandate we wanted to make sure we went out and did a thorough and extensive public consultation,” he said. “And we started that process here last year at this time.
“As we went out into the community, through PlaceSpeak, through public meetings, through interaction with the residents, it became pretty obvious that this was more than just a Cowichan watershed issue,” Carruthers continued. “This was a regional issue. And the same issues that we’re dealing with in the Cowichan, we are dealing with in Shawnigan, and in Stocking Creek and Holland Creek in the north. We decided that we needed to broaden the scope outside of just the Cowichan.”
There are slides on the PlaceSpeak site for the public to have a look at.
“We started this conversation last year,” Carruthers said. “We decided that water was our No. 1 priority in the region. We heard that the strategies we employ should be regional, not just local, that there is a desire for a modest level of taxation to support those activities, and that the CVRD can’t do this on its own. We have to collaborate with our partners, our municipal councils, our federal and provincial governments, and our stewardship groups that work hard in our communities.”
He said the issues facing the region and its water are complex, and they want to talk to residents about them.
“In the south the region is really growing, but we are seeing growth everywhere,” Carruthers said. “With growth comes the need to service the growth with water and water is a challenge. Water issues are complex; the current fragmented approach to water protection is insufficient. We have different agencies saying different things. Even the CVRD has limited mandates. We need a comprehensive approach to managing our water. A region-wide approach is more cost effective, rather than sub-regional services watershed by watershed. It’s more effective to do it on a regional level. And water quality and quantity are at risk, particularly down in the south where we are seeing significant challenges with our aquifer and with some of our surface water sources.”
They held a workshop in the summer or 2017 with several federal and provincial agencies to seek input on what the CVRD should be doing.
“Then there is the meat and potatoes of what this service would allow…which would include strategies around the Cowichan weir,” Carruthers said. “This isn’t about the weir, but this is a regional service throughout the regional district.”