Friday, March 24, 2023
March 24, 2023

Trustees ask for assessment, public engagement

Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee weighed in last week on a resource project’s request to expand its aquatic lease, joining several municipalities in officially expressing concern about the potential for contaminated soil to spill into Saanich Inlet.  

A unanimous motion passed Tuesday, Dec. 13 was among the new committee’s first, as returning trustee Laura Patrick was joined by newly elected trustee Jamie Harris and newly appointed LTC chair Tim Peterson in their first public meeting — the last of 2022. Salt Spring’s resolution closely follows one passed last month by North Saanich and Central Saanich’s councils, and asks the province to more closely examine long-term environmental impacts before issuing permits to the Malahat Investment Corporation for that company’s plans to expand its foreshore lease near Bamberton.  

The lease expansion lies within the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Area’s coastal and marine shoreland boundaries, and as such the Crown referred the matter to the LTC for comment. Regional planning manager Chris Hutton referred to a submitted management plan, which noted the existing lease had been in place since 1989; proposed uses for the expansion included the loading and unloading of “barges of contaminated soils, creosote piles, cement powder, scrap metal, aggregate and fuels.”   

“As this is a referral from the Crown, there’s no public input process to follow here,” said Hutton. However, he added they had received a “fair bit” of unsolicited correspondence. Committee members agreed to hear from long-time area diver Frank White, who was in favour of a letter from the LTC.  

“What they want to do is to expand the mine by 47 per cent,” said White. “To be expanded by 50 per cent, you have to have an environmental study. They’ve increased [the size of the lease] this way twice.”  

White said Islands Trust, and specifically Salt Spring’s LTC, was in a unique position to ask questions, due to its mandate as a steward of the natural environment.  

“You have the mandate to say, ‘hold on, are you going to hurt the environment?’” said White. “Or, ‘so, what is the contaminant? How are they going to store it? Is it going to be on that slope above the water and wash into the ocean?’ There are a whole bunch of questions.”  

“One of the things that stood out for me was hearing that [the project] expanded a couple of times, always in amounts just below the threshold of causing a public engagement process,” said Peterson. “So it’s clearly been done at least a couple of times to try to expand as much as possible without having to hear from the public.”  

Harris pointed out the complexity of the situation, noting that while the applicant was a numbered corporation, it was owned by Malahat First Nation — and activity there had been going on for several years.  

“They are following the rules,” said Harris. “Is it something we could ask, something along the lines of, ‘can some sort of solutions be put in place to ensure that the environment will be harmed as little as possible?’”  

“My suggestion is that we respond,” said Patrick, “and recommend that potential longer-term environmental impacts be understood and mitigated before permits are considered.”  

“That’s pretty reasonable,” said Harris.  

The LTC’s resolution ultimately also requested additional public consultation be conducted. 

More information is available through the Environmental Assessment Office website.


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