Ladysmith Councillor Steve Arnett says he is feeling optimistic about the resolution on watershed protection the town will present at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference next week.
The resolution, prepared by TOL staff, calls on the provincial government to assist communities in acquiring ownership of their watersheds by gifting them the land or providing the funds to purchase them.
“It is officially a resolution to be reviewed, discussed and debated and a choice made to endorse or not or refer by the body of all of the communities that belong to the UBCM,” Arnett said. “I’m hoping for a majority vote at the least, if not unanimous.”
The resolution also calls for the Ministry of Environment to monitor the activity of all watersheds used for drinking water and maintain levels and quality control.
According to Arnett, other municipalities have put forward similar resolutions regarding watershed protection, such as pesticide spraying, logging activities, and more local authority over watershed activities. However, none have gotten to the heart of the issue.
“None of them were comprehensive and said it all in one fell swoop,” he said. “They are all symptomatic of the broader public issue.”
A watershed is defined as an area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. As such, the land is always environmentally sensitive, and the only way that you can maintain public security of that resource is through ownership, Arnett said.
“It’s a very expensive proposition for a small municipality, or even a larger one, but most particularly the smaller ones like ourselves,” he said. “In the end, you’d always have to make choices about how much money you’ve got coming in, and where your priorities are, well water is a number one priority, but you’d like to be able to drive from your house to the school over top filled-in potholes.”
Members of council are preparing a presentation to deliver to UBCM members before it is open for discussion.
A failure to initiate a broad public policy across the province, where every community owns and controls its watershed would be a failure of public policy, Arnett said.
“If water is life and it’s fundamental to everything we do as human beings, then it seems to me that a community has not only an obligation but a right to own and control its watershed,” he said. “If you don’t have full ownership you don’t have control.”