Work on updating Chilliwack's Official Community Plan is nearing its final stages. Results of community surveys and other community engagement activities by the City have consistently shown that residents place protection of water in its various forms and uses among their highest priorities in planning for the community's future. However work is needed to ensure this wide-spread community value is entrenched within the future plans for our home town.
WaterWealth would like to encourage Chilliwack residents to continue to impress upon the City that the health of our home waters is central to our local economy and our quality of life and that the OCP must develop bylaws to ensure our water wealth is protected as it should be.
Some things with regard to water and our community that you might want to bring up:
The Kinder Morgan Pipeline
The 60 year old Kinder Morgan pipeline passes right over the protected groundwater zone of the aquifer Chilliwack uses for its drinking water. The city's website describes the aquifer as “particularly vulnerable to contamination” due to the shallow depth of the water table and the nature of the soils above it. Kinder Morgan is seeking approval to twin this pipeline, adding a second, larger pipeline along the existing route, while also transporting the heavy and extremely toxic diluted bitumen.
There were two leaks reported on the pipeline near the Coquihalla Summit in June 2013. Since then Kinder Morgan has been excavating the pipeline in multiple locations on either side of the Coquihalla highway and doing repairs. This month they are doing hydrostatic pressure testing on a 35 km section of the pipeline along the Coquihalla River from near Coldwater River Provincial Park to a point near Portia Gate.
Chilliwack residents are understandably concerned about the condition of the pipeline where it crosses our aquifer, and about the plans to add a second pipeline for a heavy oil product that will sink in water if it were to spill. The city has stated that if "an aquifer becomes polluted, it is difficult, or sometimes impossible, to restore its original quality." How will the new OCP address protection of our drinking water from the risk of oil/bitumen pipeline leaks?
The recent chlorination of Chilliwack's water by order of the Fraser Health Authority is no doubt fresh in the minds of Chilliwack residents. There is no question that we have world-class water flowing down the mountain sides, so it is important that the OCP is taking steps to preserve the quality and supports a source water protection plan. We all know that now we have a water system permanently chlorinated by a standby chlorination system. How will the new OCP address upgrading or replacing the chlorination system and get us back to world-class drinking water?
Riparian areas and Agricultural Run-off
Agriculture is a vital part of Chilliwack's economy and identity. One of the impacts of agricultural development has been the channelization of life bearing streams into “ditches” throughout Chilliwack. These channelized streams are still vital habitat for salmon and other species. In many areas lack of riparian plantings and misuse of herbicides along and even into waterways contributes to soil loss from fields, excess nutrient loading in waterways from agricultural run-off, overgrowth of invasive species such as canary reed grass and warming of unshaded waters to temperatures too high for fish to withstand. These problems cost us money. Soil erosion and overgrowth due to nutrient loading results in expense to the city to dig out these waterways to maintain flows but it fails to ensure we have thriving, beneficial waterways for the long term. How will the new OCP address these problems? Is the city considering ways to prevent these problems from occurring and eliminate this maintenance expense?
Groundwater Protection Plan
The OCP 2040 Backgrounder refers to a 1997 Groundwater Protection Plan. The Groundwater Protection Plan is not available on the city website. Thinking of the recent Chlorination Order that continues to be imposed on Chilliwack, is the 1997 Groundwater Protection Plan still adequate for the purposes of the OCP 2040? In addition to groundwater quality protection, we might also consider groundwater extraction. Nestlé Waters took a lot of heat in the media over their entirely unregulated and free extraction of 265 million litres per year of groundwater in Hope, BC. Flying under the radar of that media storm was another local water bottling company, Vancouver Water Enterprises Canada Co., Ltd on South Sumas Rd, in Chilliwack. Operating under their Red Leaf brand, Vancouver Water Enterprises Canada Co. exports bottled water to the world. New provincial legislation is expected to address groundwater use in some fashion later this Fall, however what steps could Chilliwack's new OCP take to steward local groundwater and ensure that we do not overdraw this water wealth?
Land Use Planning
The OCP is used as a guideline for development and growth within the city, however it lacks a clear priority to ensure our home creeks, streams and rivers are protected. For example a recent proposal to build a new condo development which would fill in the headwaters of Luckakuck creek is accepted under the existing land-use plan within the OCP for Chilliwack. Local residents have had to organize to ensure the bylaw amendments were stopped. How will the new OCP ensure a priority on the protection of our home waterways and ensure land-use development is done responsibly?
Have your say!
Water is Essential to the identity of those of us who call Chilliwack home. Speak up to ensure it is protected within the creation of a new OCP bylaw! Also please don't hesitate to raise other water issues that are important to you and feel free to share them with us at the WaterWealth Project.
Click here now to take advantage of the City's consultation on PlaceSpeak.com where you can provide text, images or videos to express your concerns or ideas, or contact the project team directly at email@example.com or 604-793-2906
Following the public presentations of the Draft Chilliwack OCP 2040 in April, 2014, WaterWealth sent a letter with comments to the City of Chilliwack. See the text of that letter on our blog.