Tolko logging could have 'catastrophic' impact on rural Vernon drinking water: report - InfoNews

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Tolko logging could have 'catastrophic' impact on rural Vernon drinking water: report

Undated photo of Duteau Creek.
Image Credit: Regional District of North Okanagan
August 10, 2019 - 10:30 AM

NORTH OKANAGAN - A plan by Tolko Industries to log an area of land close to the drinking water source for rural Vernon could have "catastrophic" consequences says a scientific report.

The after-effects from logging so close to the water intake could result in hundreds of millions of dollars worth of economic impac, according to the Regional District of North Okanagan report.

The report says Tolko Industries has proposed to clear cut an area of land 500 metres upslope from the Duteau Creek water intake. The water source provides drinking water for 17,000 residents as well as agricultural lands. It also provides backup to the City of Vernon's water supply supplying a total of 58,000 people when needed.

On Aug. 8 the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee passed a unanimous motion to refer the file to the Regional District of North Okanagan directors asking them to write to the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development concerning the issue.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee director Akbal Mund said the Regional District currently had no control of where the logging could take place.

"We have no problem with some logging happening in the area, we just want to have control of where that logging is going to occur, so it doesn't affect the water supply," Mund said.

Mund reiterated the Regional District had no issue with logging, but this site was too close to the drinking water intake.

Along with the Regional District report, a second study was conducted by a third party company  that rates the consequences on water impacted by the logging at "very high."

Both reports paint a bleak picture of what may happen if the site is logged.

"Potential impacts from logging the proposed block range from 'minimal impacts' to potentially 'catastrophic' if a debris flow or landslide were to be triggered," says the report.

The report says Duteau Creek intake experienced extreme rainfall in 2013 and 2017 which led to a 10-day boil water notice and is estimated to have created a financial burden of between $2.5 to $3.5 million. The report says the event even caused all surgeries to be cancelled at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

"These events demonstrate the vulnerability of the site and the potential significance of extreme weather events," says the report.

According to the report Tolko has been a stakeholder member Duteau Creek Watershed Technical Advisory Committee since 2009 and the Regional District has developed a good working relationship with them.

However, Regional District staff met with Tolko June 26 and outlined their opposition, but Tolko "clearly indicated that they still intend to proceed with clear-cutting the block."

The report also says Tolko has conducted several studies regarding the site but under the Forest Sustainability Act do not have to provide the studies to either the Regional District or the Ministry of Forests.

The report also says if Tolko does allow the Regional District to see the reports they have to do it at their office and are not allowed to take pictures or copies of the documents and Tolko will not provide a copy.

Tolko Industries did not respond to questions regarding the issue.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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