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Support pours in as Tofino-Ucluelet animal shelter faces water crisis

“It was an unbelievable answer to the call to action”
Generosity rained down on the Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network as an emergency water supply came together after fears the water supply to CARE’s animal shelter was about to be cut off. (CARE photo)

The Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network is howling the West Coast’s praises after scrambling to find a solution to an incoming water crisis at their animal shelter last week.

CARE co-founder James Rodgers told the Westerly News that the network was told by the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District on Thursday, June 16, that the shelter’s water supply would be cut off indefinitely the next day.

“What was a frustrating and disappointing reality of water getting shut off, with the exclamation point of 24 hours (notice), turned into a pretty positive experience where we felt very supported and excited that we can move forward with a pretty cutting-edge plan where we can take the animal shelter to another level of self sufficiency,” he said.

Rodgers said CARE was aware of the ACRD’s ongoing water upgrade work, but had always expected their facility would be hooked up to the new system being put in place.

“It really was out of left field for us that we weren’t going to actually get connected,” he said.

He suggested he and his team felt “shock and disbelief” by the water deactivation notice, but quickly turned their attention to possible solutions and reached out to their communities for help.

“Folks came out of the woodwork with hoses and pumps and expertise and labour with a plan to put together a pretty robust system so that we can have enough water storage and enough of a catchment area to survive without water access from the ACRD,” he said.

“It was a matter of hours. Literally, by Thursday night we had 3,000 litres stored thanks to the community, so if the water did get turned off as we were told it would, we would have been OK because the community stepped up…And, we’re actually able to go forward with a long term, sustainable, self-sufficient solution because of the community. If we can be self-sufficient as much as possible and stay focused on what we’re here to do, which is care for animals and their guardians, then that’s great, it’s a win.”

The ACRD announced on Friday that the shelter’s water supply would not be shut off and that solutions are being hashed out.

The shelter is located within ACRD lands near Long Beach Airport and the ACRD’s announcement explains that the water line CARE is accessing is being deactivated because it is “an old military water line” that is “leaking and unstable.”

It adds that the old water line that’s being deactivated connects to a derelict building near the animal shelter.

CARE had hoped to take over the lease for the derelict building and had raised funds to replace the roof and revilitze it to expand its shelter space but that plan was nixed by the ACRD last fall.

“The Care Network connection to the derelict building is unauthorized, and the cost to replace the old military water main is approximately $20-30,000,” the ACRD’s announcement states.

It adds that the cost to replace the water line is not within the scope of CARE’s lease, though ACRD CAO Daniel Sailland suggested alternative solutions are being worked out. “Short-term solutions are available and have been discussed with the lease holder,” Sailland said through the announcement. “We will not be turning his water off today (June 17), and we will continue to try to work together to find a solution that will work.”

The announcement adds that CARE’s three-year lease is up for renewal on July 1 and that “The lease holder has not renewed its lease with the Regional District.”

“We will continue to keep lines of communication open with the lease holder and hope to come up with a temporary situation to fix this issue,” it states.

Rodgers said that despite the ACRD agreeing to keep the water running for the time being, CARE still plans to move ahead with the plans it set in motion on Thursday to put together a rain catchment system to make the operation more self-sustainable.

“Anyway you slice it, I think that’s just good insurance. Being more self-sufficient and green is a positive that can come out of this very frustrating, out of the blue kind of situation,” he said. “We can’t be in limbo for such an essential component to keeping animals alive and in good care, so we just need to take this opportunity to become self sufficient and we’re fine with that, we’re not crying about that, it’s just that 24 hours (notice) is a little bit crazy.”

He added CARE was heartened to see the West Coast step up and turn “lemons into lemonade” as the water crisis was unfolding.

“It was integral, I don’t even know a big enough word for it. We could not do what we’re doing without not only the support, but the rapid support,” he said. “It was an unbelievable answer to the call to action. It was just unbelievable how many people came forward…We can’t thank the community enough.”

More information about CARE and how to support the network’s efforts can be found at

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