Water quality and quantity has been a longstanding issue of concern on Salt Spring Island, and all islands in the Salish Sea.
That’s why it made sense five years ago to create a governmental organization to coordinate efforts to improve freshwater quality on Salt Spring. The aim of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Authority (with “Authority” switched to “Alliance” last year) was to provide a framework for management of freshwater resources by bringing together various agencies that deal with water on the island.
However, like all initiatives that require cooperation and participation from different groups, the road forward has not been smooth. It’s also been hard to see exactly how much benefit has been derived from the $100,000 per year paid by Salt Spring taxpayers to the Islands Trust for SSIWPA. One positive outcome is facilitation of a Golder Associates study and report on Salt Spring’s groundwater resources that will be released at a public meeting next Friday.
But otherwise, much time has been spent drafting terms of reference and guidelines for itself and its committees, while other activities, like promoting a rainwater harvesting tour, had been undertaken by volunteer groups in the past. One thing Salt Spring is not short of is freely shared environmental expertise, which in years past has been used to create two St. Mary Lake watershed management plans and one for Cusheon Lake, for example.
With major partner North Salt Spring Waterworks District withdrawing its participation a couple of weeks ago, it suggests the SSIWPA experiment may not have proven as valuable as hoped.
Some people may view the $100,000 special tax requisition paid by Salt Spring property owners for SSIWPA costs as chump change not worth worrying about. But so many other initiatives are waiting to demand our tax dollars, such as transit and pathway improvements, recreation facilities, a new fire hall/emergency services centre and liquid waste management. Costs for those items will all add up and the $100,000 for SSIWPA could perhaps be better spent on one of those projects.
While the previous Salt Spring LTC already gave its support to continuing with SSIWPA, we encourage the next LTC and Islands Trust Council to carefully examine whether SSIWPA is still needed. Use of on-island volunteer expertise may be preferable, along with maintaining the Trust-wide freshwater specialist employee role that the Trust agreed to fund last year.