Forest Practices Board says logging not a major factor in Peachland water issues

BC’s Forest Practices Board says it has conducted an investigation into the impacts of forestry activities on drinking water from the Peachland and Trepanier watersheds and has found that forest licensees did a good job of minimizing the impacts of logging on water and that natural process played a much larger role in the boil water advisories that Peachland has experienced in recent years.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices.

Their investigation was conducted in response to a complaint from a member of the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance and follows a letter sent back on June 26 by Mayor Cindy Fortin to Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development Minister Doug Donaldson requesting a pause in forestry activities until a comprehensive watershed assessment had been conducted.

In her letter, Fortin expressed concern that the cumulative effects of harvesting, droughts, fires and climate change are having negative effects on Peachland’s water quality and the quantity of flow in its watersheds. Fortin wrote, “Our elected officials and the Healthy Watersheds Committee do not support any additional approvals for cutblocks in the Peachland watersheds until a complete watershed assessment has been conducted and a stakeholder engagement plan for future logging activities in in place.”

Peachland gets its drinking water supply from the Peachland and Trepanier watersheds, along with Okanagan Lake.

In a press release issued today, Kevin Kriese, chair of the Forest Practices Board, attributed water quality issues primarily to spring runoff activity.

“There was high snow accumulation and significant rainfall events during the spring snowmelt of 2017 and 2018 that led to increases in the amount of sediment in the water,” Kriese said. “The investigation also confirmed that a landslide that led to a boil water advisory was the result of natural stream dynamics and saturated soils and was not caused by forestry activity.”

However, Kriese also said other factors played a role – including logging.

“In addition to natural processes, the investigation found other developments and activities that may be contributing sediment to streams and potentially affecting water quality. These include roads built prior to current road construction standards, logging, ranching, mining and agriculture, as well as commercial and public recreation, private properties, a power line and Highway 97C”, Kriese said.

Kriese also pointed to the auditor general’s recent report on drinking water that identifies “systematic gaps in accountability and coordination for drinking water protection.”

“While forestry and range activities are regulated by the Forest and Range Practices Act to minimize impacts to water quality and quantity, no one is responsible for managing the cumulative impacts of all activities in these watersheds,” said Kriese.

The Forest Practices Board say they commend the District of Peachland for initiating a technical advisory group to coordinate and manage uses in the watershed.

By Joanne Layh

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