Provincial government needs to get involved in Oyster River water issue

The Strathcona Regional District appears to be playing public relations games with respect to their refusal to allow access to the site of the proposed new well for the Black Creek Oyster Bay (BCOB) water system (Mirror Aug.19).

RELATED: Strathcona Regional District rejects well out of concern for Oyster River watershed

The Oyster River aquifer is a vitally important resource – not just for the nearby residents but for the related ecosystem as a whole. Claiming that the proposed new well will threaten that system, when it clearly will not, diminishes the whole concept of resource preservation.

The proposed new well project was designed to alleviate the critical shortage of water for both household use and fire protection for the residents of the present BCOB system (from Black Creek to the Oyster Bay rest area). The new well for that purpose would require no new water licence. That is to say there will be no need to draw more water than specified by the present license. Also, the stipulated provincial minimum flow requirements for the Oyster River must always be met. These requirements exist to ensure various species (including cutthroat trout) have sufficient water. As well, the CVRD has committed to maintain the integrity of the park at the well site. Hence, claims of environmental risks from the project are not accurate.

The press release also states that the SRD doesn’t wish to “facilitate additional development” in the area. As it turns out, the Local Area Plan for the Miracle and Saratoga Beach area already specifies low growth. What seems very confusing is that the SRD board has denied the CVRD’s request to send a delegation to a board meeting to further explain the issues and answer any questions.

Considering the above, it is difficult to understand why the SRD seems intent on blocking BCOB system users from having their water system made sustainable and secure. However, as this issue seems always to be left off the public agenda at SRD board meetings and relegated to closed sessions it is impossible to know for sure what has motivated this project access refusal.

So the SRD’s stance looks less and less like valid environmental concerns and more and more like old school politics. Regardless of whatever agendas may exist, it is very clear that without provincial involvement the two regional districts are not able to arrive at a solution that allows the system users to have a sustainable supply of water for household use and fire protection. The need for immediate involvement of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing seems no longer in doubt. And time is of the essence.

Neil H. Ross

Black Creek