CVRD needs to reassess Cowichan estuary plan and more
I know many of you CVRD directors and several of your senior staff, and I deeply respect the dedication you all show and the sacrifices you make in your service to our communities. I know that you are informed and intelligent people who understand the science of climate change and see the steady degradation of the ecological support systems and biodiversity that have allowed us to thrive in this beautiful region. I believe that you understand the value of parks and protected wild places like forests, and wetlands. Not just the value they add for beauty and recreation, but the priceless services they provide to filter our water and nurture our wildlife.
But there are a few things I don’t understand. Why would you continue to rezone the Cowichan estuary in a way that permanently enshrines business and industry, when our collective long-term vision should be to see this vital piece of this watershed returned to its original form and function over the next 20 to 50 years? A process that needs to start now.
What could be better for our entire region and economy than a healthy functional watershed, from lake to shore with Cowichan Bay and the surrounding waters teeming with fish as they did 50 years ago when I was a boy? A time when people flocked from afar to catch the huge and plentiful salmon right in Cowichan Bay.
We know that estuaries are always changing and are unstable by nature. We know that they sequester more carbon per acre than old growth forests. We know that they are barely above sea level and prone to flooding, that climate change predictions indicate that we will have more frequent and severe storms and flood events and that the rate of sea level rise is expected to accelerate, potentially rising by more than two metres over the next 80 years.
I have lived my whole life in this region and although I have seen devastating impacts on our natural resources, I continue to have hope that we will chart a different course for the sake of our grandchildren. I was thrilled when the CVRD introduced its 12 Big Ideas in 2015, (https://www.12things.ca/12-big-ideas.php) a document meant to guide our decision makers towards a better future. But these forward-looking guiding principals now seem to be largely ignored. Another CVRD visionary move was the creation of the Parks Acquisition Fund, approved by referendum in 2008. This allowed the CVRD to assess up to approximately $5 per $100,000 of property value annually which today would raise $1.4 million. An amount that could preserve and protect significant land in the public interest every year, at a cost of less than $25 per year for most property owners. In 2019 they lowered that number to just $0.67 per $100,000 and raised only $150,000 which we all know could purchase almost no land at all.
Between myself, business interests and family, we pay taxes in six different electoral areas and municipalities. As a taxpayer, I plead with you to assess the full amount that we taxpayers approved. Use that money to invest in our grandchildren’s future and chart a new path towards a region that has at least a shot at sustainability. And perhaps some “outside the box” thinking could find ways to use some of that money to buy up foreshore leases and/or find other ways to help businesses already located in sensitive estuaries or other fragile environments, relocate to places more suited to industry and commerce. This could be a win for business, a win for the fish, a win for First Nations, a win for tourism and the economy and most importantly a win for our grandchildren.