Town supports ‘in principle’ local control of Cowichan Watershed

Momentum building towards local control of our watersheds

Last week, Parker Jefferson of One Cowichan, spoke to Mayor Ross Forrest and town council on behalf of the Cowichan Watershed Board and concerned citizens requesting the town’s support for more local control of the Cowichan Watershed.

At this week’s Regular Council Meeting mayor and council took considerable time to discuss the request, but in the end did decide to support it in principle.

After Forrest excused himself from the discussion because he is a member of the Cowichan Watershed Board, the table had a few concerns that they feel need to be addressed by the board when it comes to initiating the proposed pilot project for local watershed management.

“First off, the Cowichan Watershed is not a designated watershed,” says Coun. Jayne Ingram. “It doesn’t have a designation legally in the province. So, how can we do all this?”

“The issue that I thought of was the fact there’s a group being called the Cowichan Watershed Board that [is] going to be responsible for governing this whole issue,” says Chief Administrative Officer, Joseph Fernandez. “Based on looking across the island there are different watersheds, but there’s no one group that’s responsible. Most groups fall under the umbrella of the regional districts.”

For Fernandez, the larger issue that stems out of this above point is that the Cowichan Watershed Board is not a legal entity.

“So who, in fact, is really running this whole thing?” asks Ingram.

The table did agree that they would like to support more local control and management of the Cowichan Watershed, but decided that their letter of support would contain two main recommendations: that the Cowichan Watershed Board seek status as a legal entity, and that they also seek out having the Cowichan Watershed anointed as a designated watershed.

Other questions or concerns the table had, focussed around some of the language used in the request, such as what the writers mean by provincial and federal governments transferring “stewardship and resources relating to the Cowichan Watersheds” to the Cowichan Watershed Board. The term they got stuck on was “resources” and they wanted to know exactly what that meant.

Jefferson, for his part, did state at the meeting on April 16, that there were many details that would need to be figured out along the way.

“We obviously don’t have all the answers here,” says Jefferson. “We don’t have all the legal terms and conditions that would be surrounding this. That is something that is going to have to be worked on.”

In addressing the resources that would be needed to maintain such a pilot project, Jefferson says, “We are not looking to download a tax burden onto the local communities. This is something that will have to come from other levels of government.”

One Cowichan is pleased with the town’s support, however. In a recent email, they state, “Momentum keeps building towards local control of our watersheds. This week we’ve had the great news that Cowichan Tribes and a CVRD committee passed resolutions in support of local control.

“The Town of Lake Cowichan is also coming on board and we’re optimistic that Duncan and North Cowichan will also join.

“This is great leadership from our local elected officials, and we’d like to thank them.”

 

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