Residents of Ymir say they’re alarmed by plans of BC Timber Sales to allow logging in their community watershed.
They’re concerned that their tiny community water system could be damaged by forestry operations in the area.
“It’s our only source of drinking, consumable and firefighting water,” says Jay Leus, a resident of Ymir who opposes the idea of logging the area. “It could very well put us into a water crisis, as our community watershed is incredibly small.”
BC Timber Sales told locals in April it was looking at developing a section of the watershed for logging, with an eye to begin leasing timber stands in 2020.
However, “logging is not imminent,” an spokesperson for BC Timber Sales told thenelsondaily.com. “[It] is still in the preliminary stages of planning and will be continuing to consult the community before a final development schedule is made.”
But the watershed is too small, says Leus- only about six square kilometers in area- and that means any other activity could easily affect the systems’ 400 users.
“The supply water from Quartz Creek in that watershed has equalled demand by the Ymir treatment plant,” he says. “During hot and dry summers it is a perfect balance. What’s coming in, is being used. So if we lose the volume of water the watershed is able to capture and supply to our treatment plant, we’ll be in a water crisis.”
The BCTS plan would see logging in about a third of the watershed area.
“We don’t have a reservoir. It is a surface water collection system, so we rely solely on water from rain and snow,” he says. “We don’t have a well… if cutblocks or big open areas are cut out of the canopy, then we lose the shading the canopy provides, and evaporation will happen more readily, so the whole watershed area will become drier in dry years.”
Residents have formed the Ymir Community Watershed Action Team, says Leus, and they’ll meet with BCTS officials on May 15th to outline their concerns and look for solutions.
“The community supports responsible logging, but these BCTS plans to log within the Ymir community watershed just seems like a mistake,” he says. “That impression has been generated because the watershed is so small, with steep, challenging terrain, and the fact we have a water supply issue.”
Leus says a letter writing campaign has begun, and the community’s not going to give up pushing back against the plans.
“The message from the Ymir Watershed Action Team is that we want to work with BCTS in order to find a solution that will benefit all parties involved,” he says. “Our hope is to convince BCTS that another area would be far more suitable.”
BC Timber Sales says it will address residents’ concerns “before any further forestry development planning will occur”.
Meanwhile, the Area Director representing Ymir at the Regional District of Central Kootenay says he’s drafting a motion for the board’s next meeting, opposing the timber development.
Hans Cunningham says the RDCK runs the water system, and doesn’t want to see forestry operations affecting the system’s capacity or its quality.
“The water is known for its purity, it’s really, really pure” he says. “We only need to change our water filters twice a year because the water is so clear.”
Cunningham, who lives in Ymir, says forestry operations could disrupt a finely-balanced system.
“What goes in and what comes out is almost exactly matched,” he says. “You cut down on what goes in, and we’re in deep doggie-do.”