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SCRD stands firm on bottled water project

Allie Nichol, Coast Reporter, Feb 18, 2011

After refusing to support a bottled water project proposal at the end of 2010, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is standing firm with its decision — and going a step further.

At its Feb. 10 planning committee meeting, directors endorsed a new water bottling policy. The policy states, “The Sunshine Coast Regional District does not support the extraction of fresh water resources in gas, liquid or solid form from surface or groundwater for the purpose of bottled water sales.”

The proposed water project would have seen 700,000 litres of water, extracted yearly from streams flowing into Jervis Inlet, for bottling and resale.

The SCRD received eight Crown applications for water extraction in December. A numbered company, in partnership with the Kwaikah First Nation in the Campbell River area, is the proponent of the bottling proposal that the SCRD has not endorsed. Both organizations put forth the applications to the B.C. Ministry of Resource Operations and the SCRD was asked for comments.

The SCRD has numerous concerns regarding the proposed project, including potential environmental damage to the Jervis Inlet ecosystem by skiffs moving in and out of the area, its impact on tourism, the minimal economic benefit the project would provide to the community and the fact the project would consume more water for the making of water bottles, thus contradicting the SCRD’s water conservation goals for the region.

The importance of future demands for water was also an important part of the discussion.
Concerns have been raised by several other groups in the area including the Natural Resources Advisory Committee, the Area A Planning Commission and the Sechelt Nation. And several environmental groups have also raised alarm bells including the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association (SCCA), Friends of Bute Inlet, the Sierra Club Quadra Island, the Sierra Club Malaspina and the Campbell River chapter of the Council of Canadians.

All the environmental groups are calling on B.C.’s Environment Minister Murray Coell to authorize a formal environmental assessment covering all the applications.

SCCA executive director Dan Bouman applauded the water bottling policy by the SCRD. “They made the right decision, but where it’s going from here is a good question. It’s the heart of the question,” he said.

Bouman said the policy itself is not serious enough and has a “fluffy feel to it.”

“A screening project should be put in place, so proposals like this can be filtered and unable to go forward,” he said. “There also needs to be better formal environmental assessments. The public needs to know what’s going on.”

The proponents have also applied for water bottling licences in other inlets close to the area, including Bute, Knight and Toba, making this an issue that could affect many communities, in addition to the Sunshine Coast.

“This is a completely new dimension in water exploitation, unlike anything the public has seen before,” Bouman added.


Daniel Bouman's clarification

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your mostly excellent coverage of bottled water issues (SCRD stands firm on bottled water project, Coast Reporter, February 18). You have correctly quoted me as supporting the SCRD's diligence in this matter. However, in the next sentence, you have me saying that the SCRD's policy has a "fluffy feel to it" which is not correct. The statement was made in reference to the Province's lack of environmental oversight, not the policy of the SCRD.

Just to be perfectly clear, my opinion is that the Province needs to have genuine environmental assessment as well as a screening process to ensure that projects as ill-considered as this one are dismissed before taking up much of anyone's time.

Thank you,

Daniel Bouman, Executive Director
Sunshine Coast Conservation Association

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