Thursday, March 30, 2023
March 30, 2023

LTC votes to support another year of SSIWPA at reduced funding level

After a public consultation process and lively discussion among trustees, an alliance tasked with coordinating work between various entities responsible for fresh water on Salt Spring Island will likely retain its special tax requisition funding, for the moment, at least. 

The island’s local Trust committee (LTC) will request the Islands Trust Council once again include the tax requisition in its upcoming budget to fund the work of the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance (SSIWPA), a decision made at the LTC’s Feb. 9 meeting. The dollar amount will be smaller this year — $43,500 instead of $75,500, thanks to a $32,000 surplus from the previous year’s requisition, according to trustee Laura Patrick — but trustees were divided on the continuing value of the program.

Since 2014, SSIWPA has enjoyed a delegated authority to provide a planning forum “for the sustainability and protection of freshwater resources on Salt Spring Island.” It required a single part-time contracted staff person and essentially a meetings and materials budget to coordinate outreach and communication between the various agencies with jurisdiction over the island’s fresh water, those that provide it, and community members interested in it. Patrick said most areas of the province have regional districts that have created drinking water and watershed protection services. 

“That’s what we see at the Cowichan Valley Regional District and the regional district in Nanaimo,” said Patrick. “That’s exactly what (SSIWPA) is doing, coordinating all these different entities and the work that needs to be done making some hard decisions. It needs to be either us or the CRD. One of us has to be taking the lead and coordinating this work, and it’s been the Islands Trust.” 

But trustee Jamie Harris felt any continued requisition for SSIWPA was a waste of taxpayer money on an issue that was “not as complex as what it’s being made out to be,” and suggested defunding it altogether. 

“I see it as an exercise in more regulation being brought down upon the community in the guise of this ‘complex’ water issue,” said Harris, “where we’re all going to die of thirst as we’re crawling our way through the desert with one drop of water left in the canteen or something.” 

Harris argued Salt Spring builders “already know” what parts of the island have water, and what parts don’t. 

“We have areas where we know there’s a shortage of water, and it has [still] been developed there,” said Harris. “And people made out just fine. They have water delivered, they know how to conserve water because they don’t have the groundwater in that area, and traditionally never have.” 

In the meantime, Harris said, funding a coordinator between freshwater providers wasn’t necessary. Patrick disagreed, and trustee Tim Peterson decided to err on the side of continued funding, despite an upbraiding from Harris after the Lasqueti Islander admitted gaps in his knowledge of Salt Spring’s eccentric water systems.  

“You just stated you’re not clear on what’s really going on with the water,” said Harris. “How can you possibly vote in favour of something you’re not clear on?” 

“I’m happy to see that trustee Patrick has found a way to reduce [the tax requisition] substantially,” said Peterson, who chairs Salt Spring’s LTC, “and just from a precautionary point of view, I’m inclined to support it.” 

Patrick pointed out the LTC’s recommendation was just that; the final decision would be made by the full Trust Council during the budget process at the March 7 to 9 meeting. The resolution passed 2-1, with Harris voting against.  


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