Recent changes to a property on upper Neva Road could have devastating consequences for the fish hatchery in Lake Cowichan, says the qualified environmental professional who discovered the development and reported it to authorities.
On Aug. 10, Bob Crandall, a QEP and a member of the Cowichan Lake Salmonid Enhancement Society, was checking the Beadnell Creek system for any fish that may have gotten trapped in small pools as the water dries up, when he discovered a section of the creek that had been filled in almost completely by sand and gravel. The fill came from a Neva Road property that the stream crosses and which is being partially cleared.
“I was just stunned that someone can dump this much earth and fill into a water course,” Crandall said. “Especially a water course that feeds the hatchery creek… To see it really hit home. I was extremely angry.”
Beadnell Creek runs down from between the Hill 60 summit and the Steamy Mountains, branching off into east and west arms that pass around and through The Slopes subdivision, move beneath Youbou Road and then merge back together before continuing on and eventually providing water to the fish hatchery. East Beadnell Creek runs alongside upper Neva Road before cutting westward through a private property and into The Slopes subdivision.
Crandall said this time of year it’s normal for East Beadnell Creek to be dry, but in the fall and winter it fills up substantially. Without that flow from the creek, there might not be enough water for the hatchery to function properly.
“If we lose flow then the eggs dry. They can’t be dry, they have to be wet in their incubation trays. So that is a big concern of our group and our hatchery operations,” he said. This would have a direct impact on the educational activities the hatchery offers, such as the classroom incubation programs at LCS and Palsson Elementary.
But that’s not the only potential human impact.
“I shudder to think if they continue to completely close off this part of [the creek]… the water that comes down Neva Road isn’t going to come down here anymore,” he said. “It’s going to go down Neva Road and flood the basements and the houses down the hill from that property. So there will be flooding in the residences.”
The province’s Riparian Areas Protection Act protects riparian zones, which are the areas where land and water come together. A streamside protection and enhancement area assessment paid for by The Slopes developers determined that 15 metres on either side of the creek must be protected, and they have been careful to maintain that protection area.
“They followed all the rules. They hired biologists and QEPs and they covenanted the areas that were protectable,” said Crandall. “And then you look over here [at the neighbouring property] and wonder, ‘What are these guys doing?’”
Robert Blackmore, manager of building inspection and bylaw enforcement at the CVRD, confirmed that his division received Crandall’s complaint about the creek on Aug. 10 and opened an investigation.
“We are currently still investigating the case and as such can provide no further comment, other than it is ongoing,” he said in an email to the Gazette.
A representative from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations confirmed that they also received and are looking into the complaint filed by Crandall, but cannot comment further for the same reason.
The Gazette was unable to reach the property’s owner for comment by press time.
Crandall said he would like to see the materials removed from the protected habitat area and the water course opened again. He said culverts should be installed there at the very least.
“Having knowledge of riparian areas is important,” he said on the subject of how this situation could have been prevented.
“You obtain permission to alter or change a creek and you have to have a darn good reason for doing that… Private citizens and companies can’t do this. There’s a process you have to go through.”