Concerns around the increasingly limited funding senior levels of government are providing for watershed issues in the Cowichan Valley Regional District were raised at the committee of the whole meeting on Aug. 31.
During an update from the district’s senior environmental analyst Keith Lawrence on the progress of coordinating surface-water quality monitoring in the CVRD, Klaus Kuhn, director for Youbou/Meade Creek, said he would like to see a breakdown of exactly which levels of government are responsible for what aspects of water strategies and initiatives in the region.
He said it troubles him that it seems with the CVRD’s water function, the district is treading more and more into territory that is not really its responsibility.
“It bugs me because we’re making it so easy for senior levels of government to just slough this off when they don’t want to do something because they don’t have the funding available or whatever,” Kuhn said.
“It’s like they’re saying that if they don’t want to do it, local governments will look after it. We seem to be willing and able to do it because we can always increase taxes on our property owners. It bothers me to no end and I would like to see some sort of a breakdown where we can actually see what are their responsibilities and what are our responsibilities.”
Lawrence said there are multiple jurisdictions with a role in water management in the region; including federal and provincial agencies, local governments and First Nations, and that he could provide that information at a future meeting if required.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said he agreed with Kuhn and reminded committee members that when the CVRD’s watershed function first came before the board for discussion in 2018, he said the CVRD was taking over a provincial responsibility.
A successful referendum that was held in the CVRD during the last municipal elections in 2018 allowed the district to establish a water service function that would take a regional and collaborative approach to local drinking water and watershed management issues, at a cost of $750,000 annually.
“At a minimum, we should go to the province and say that somewhere in your budget is a line item for the Cowichan Valley watersheds and we want that money, but that was never done so there’s some issues with that,” Siebring said.
Board chair and director for Cowichan Bay Lori Iannidinardo said she’d also like to see an organizational chart outlining who is responsible for the various parts of local water management.
She said she thinks the province should be stepping up a lot more on these issues, but over the years that she’s been on the board, the government has been stepping up less and less.
“But the taxes keep going up on both sides, so this double-dipping and not having clarity on who is responsible for what roles has been a challenge for me over the years,” Iannidinardo said.
“I think clarity on these things when making decisions is important.”