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Logging won’t increase Duhamel slide risk, report concludes

A local logging company
A local logging company's activities in the Duhamel Creek watershed should not increase the change of landslides or floods, the Forest Practices Board concludes in a report out this week.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

The Forest Practices Board is satisfied logging in the Duhamel Creek watershed on Kootenay Lake’s North Shore will not increase the risk of landslides.

In a report released this week, the board said it accepted the opinions of geoscientists that the chance of flooding or landslides resulting from Kalesnikoff Lumber’s road building and logging activity is low.

“Primarily because of their location, the three specific cut blocks that were the subject of this complaint should not increase the risk to residents,” board chair Tim Ryan said in a news release. “However, the watershed has a history of natural flooding and slides, and previous reports have identified a high risk to residents on the Duhamel fan, so it’s understandable that they are very concerned about any forest development in the watershed.”

Ryan added that in the board’s view, a local planning process involving the province and regional district would be a good idea, and in the very least, government should inform residents how it responded to the earlier reports.

The complaint to the Forest Practices Board was filed by residents in 2012. Harvesting wrapped up about three weeks ago, but the company is seeking another cutting permit in the area. The board acknowledged “the issue has not abated locally.”

“Many local residents have little confidence in the results of the professional assessments, as assessments have been conducted in the past in this watershed, as well as others, and yet landslides have still occurred,” the report reads, adding that professionals and professional associations may need to build trust locally.

The report also acknowledges that while license holders assess risk and benefit from logging, residents have to live with the risk.

Lee Rushton, one of the complainants, said he was disappointed with the findings and perplexed that logging occurs in watersheds at all.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that in a few years [a slide] will come down. I’m not a hydrologist, but I have common sense, which isn’t being used here. Why log a block from someone’s water collection box when there are other areas they can log? The only reason is it’s cheap because it’s a mile or so from the highway.”

However, Kalesnikoff woodlands manager Tyler Hodgkinson told 103.5 The Bridge the board’s report confirmed what they always believed and he’s pleased it looked at the broader picture.

“Throughout the process, we’ve advocated taking a whollistic approach to this very complex issue,” he said. “We maintained the investigation required a balance given the stakeholders involved and multitude of issues including building restrictions, regional district bylaws on alluvial flans, compliance with the Drinking Water Protection Act, and the genesis of the complaint itself.”

Hodgkinson said that they have a good relationship now with the Duhamel Watershed Alliance and hoped that by keeping residents involved, things will move more smoothly as the company seeks further permits.

Kim Green, the geoscientist Kalesnikoff hired to identify risks in Duhamel Creek, said it was important for residents to know what’s going on upslope from their homes and in their drinking water supplies. Taking an active role in the process and being informed should prevent “the fear and anxiety” that many residents experienced last summer, he said.

“I am really pleased that the board recognized the need for the provincial and regional governments to address the issue of identifying natural hazards and informing residents who are potentially at risk,” said Green, who has been writing to  agencies with the same message since the Johnsons Landing slide.

However, regional district director Ron Mickel said he didn’t understand what the Forest Practices Board expects them to do since they don’t have authority over Crown land. “Right now the regional district gets nothing from venture tourism leases or stumpage. We don’t therefore have the resources to deal with this,” he said. “The only thing we can do is raise property taxes.”

Mickel also said any increase in turbidity to drinking water is unacceptable  because residents shoulder the extra costs of filtering or replacing water tanks. “It shouldn’t be the homeowners’ responsibility. Somehow that should come back to whoever’s making money off that resource. It doesn’t.”

Nor did Mickel think the report adequately dealt with oversight of geoscientists, who are regulated by a professional association. He doesn’t think locals agree with the system and is “a little hesitant” to accept it himself.

On the positive side, Mickel said he’s happy Kalesnikoff and the Duhamel Watershed Alliance have forged a working relationship, even if it took “a lot of sleepless nights” to get there.

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