McNeill Lake Watershed Reserve

January 28, 2013 - Letter to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (pdf)

July 23, 2007 - Presentation to the Sunshine Coast Regional District: Chapman and Gray Creek Watershed Reserves - Board of Health Hearings (pdf)

Extracts from the 2006 book, From Wisdom to Tyranny: A History of British Columbia's Drinking Watershed Reserves, by Will Koop
Link to B.C. Tap Water Alliance section on the Sunshine Coast Watersheds Page

Link to Elphinstone Logging Focus website, for info on McNeill watershed and more:

Photo by Ross Muirhead

McNeill Lake - Recent media articles

McNeill Lake Logging Plan Latest to Stir Controversy

Friday, January 18, 2013
By Sean Eckford, 91.7 COASTFM

There could be another logging controversy brewing on the Sunshine Coast...

The group Elphinstone Logging Focus has been raising the alarm over plans by BC Timber Sales to auction cut-blocks in the McNeill Lake area near Madeira Park, including three within the watershed that supplies one of the Sunshine Coast Regional District's systems.

The SCRD's Planning Committee was looking at that and BCTS auctions in the Homesite Creek area at their Jan. 17th meeting.   As well as airing concerns about the potential impact on the water supply, Directors and staff say they're growing increasingly frustrated with a lack of timely information from BCTS.

Planner Teresa Fortin told the Committee staff are asking the Board to request a meeting with the minister, because the usual lines of communication seem to have broken down. "We have asked BC Timber Sales in the past, and the (Ministry of) Forests District Manager to improve our communication and that seems to have not gone anywhere, so I think they need to have direction from the minister."

Area A Director Frank Mauro praised the efforts of ELF in bringing the issue to their attention, but also decried the need saying, "It's got to be time for us to have to stop posting a sentry on top of the hill to warn us what's going on.  We have to have a communication protocol (with BCTS). I cannot possibly make a stronger comment."

It's not clear how much success the SCRD might have in an approach to the minister.  At that same committee meeting they reviewed a letter from Steve Thomson rejecting the idea of a comprehensive land use plan for Mount Elphinstone, the site of controversy in the past few months over logging by the Sunshine Coast Community Forest.

ELF launches campaign against McNeill Lake logging - BC Timber Sales

January 18, 2013
John Gleeson/Staff Writer, Coast Reporter

Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF) is raising concerns over a plan to log a portion of the McNeill Lake watershed south of Madeira Park, but B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) said the proposed harvest has been in its operating plan since 2008 and will not alter water quantity or flow in Haslam Creek.

On Jan. 15, ELF issued a news release saying BCTS was planning to “log an area of 42.4 hectares directly in the McNeill Lake community watershed,” which provides the source of potable water for about 2,300 residents in the Madeira Park and Frances Peninsula areas.
“Logging in the McNeil Lake community watershed should be of great concern to the residents who rely on the water for their domestic consumption,” ELF said in the release. “BCTS is setting the low price of the timber sale at $500,000. The long-term damages to the drinking water could exceed the gross revenue of the timber sale.”

However, when contacted by Coast Reporter, BCTS said only 10.8 hectares will be logged in the community watershed under its harvesting plan, while two other cutblocks spanning about 22 hectares are situated outside the watershed.

“Wildlife tree retention areas covering 7.5 hectares are linked to the proposed 10.8-hectare harvest area — an amount well in excess of the legislated retention requirement of 10 per cent,” BCTS said in a written response.

“The retention areas would buffer McNeill Lake and tributary streams from the proposed harvesting.”

BCTS is currently advertising a timber sale in the Haslam Creek/McNeill Lake area, with Feb. 7 set as the closing date for tender submissions.

Consultations with Sechelt First Nation began last summer and were concluded last month, BCTS said in its response, adding that its forest stewardship plan was approved on April 1, 2012, following consultation with the public, First Nations and the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).

“The areas where BCTS is proposing to harvest timber are considered low-risk,” BCTS said. “They are located away from important local creeks, they have no inherent geotechnical instabilities, and roads can be safely constructed and managed to avoid any perceived risks.”

BCTS also noted:

• It commissioned community watershed assessments in 1997, revising them in 2004 and 2009. “The most recent assessment found that this watershed is in good hydrologic condition and the proposed timber harvesting levels carry negligible risk.”

• The Haslam Creek/McNeill Lake watershed comprises more than 1,600 hectares, with the 10.8 hectares proposed for harvesting in the community watershed representing less than one per cent of the total forested area.

• A sediment hazard assessment addressing water quality identifies best management practices (BMPs) for road construction and harvesting that are specific to the geology of the area. The BMPs recommended in the assessment have been incorporated into the harvesting plan for the timber sale and “will ensure that the soil displacement and sediment migration hazard potential remains low.”

“The magnitude of the proposed harvesting,” BCTS also said, “falls well within the most conservative limits outlined by traditional watershed assessment recommendations.”

Regarding the economic return, BCTS confirmed that the upset stumpage rate is $20.39 per cubic metre, but said it expects higher bids will be received.

Since the SCRD assumed ownership and operation of the South Pender Harbour water system in 2008, ELF is asking the SCRD to hold an emergency meeting in Pender Harbour to discuss the proposed logging in the watershed.

SCRD staff contacted Jan. 15 said they had just been made aware of BCTS’s harvesting plans and were still in the information-gathering stage.

Contacted Jan. 16, ELF’s Ross Muirhead said the SCRD’s reaction proved that BCTS did not properly consult the public.

“Our main point is that there wasn’t adequate consultation, from the SCRD down to the water users in the area,” Muirhead said.

On the discrepancy between ELF’s and BCTS’s figures for the proposed size of the cut within the watershed, Muirhead said ELF based its number on the BCTS harvest plan.

“I have to conclude that what you were told by BCTS is questionable and contains spin,” Muirhead said.

SCRD calls for halt to planned logging in watershed - McNeill Lake

January 25, 2013
John Gleeson/Staff Writer, Coast Reporter

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is calling for B.C. Timber Sales (BCTS) to immediately cancel its plans to allow logging within the McNeill Lake watershed.

The board is also asking Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson to address two long-standing issues — why BCTS consistently fails to notify the regional district of timber sales within the SCRD, and why the board’s objection since 2000 to harvesting in community watersheds has been ignored.

“I want to voice extreme concern about the process with BCTS,” Pender Harbour/Egmont director Frank Mauro said at the Jan. 17 SCRD planning and development committee meeting.

With McNeill Lake/Haslam Creek serving as a community watershed for more than one thousand homes, Mauro said he found it “distressing” that there was no consultation with the SCRD before the cutblocks went on sale.

“These non-consultative methods that they’ve employed make it extremely difficult, even for people who support a reasonable, productive forest industry, such as myself, to remain supportive,” Mauro said.

Directors gave special urgency to their resolution, bypassing the normal board ratification process so that staff could take immediate action.

At the meeting, planning staff said they had found no background paperwork on the proposed timber sale, which had been publicized days earlier by the environmental group Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF).

“It took us a little by surprise,” planner Teresa Fortin said.

Thanking Ross Muirhead of ELF for alerting the SCRD to the timber sale, Mauro said it’s time for BCTS to get serious about following a communications protocol.
“We can’t keep posting a sentry on top of the hill to warn us what’s going on,” Mauro said.

BCTS, however, told Coast Reporter — for the second time in two weeks — that consultation with the SCRD had taken place before its forest stewardship plan was approved on April 1, 2012.

“The Sunshine Coast Regional District reviewed and provided comment on the proposed BCTS community watershed strategy,” BCTS said in a written response on Jan. 22. “Follow-up meetings were also held where this particular strategy was discussed. In the case of McNeill Lake, BCTS is applying the necessary due diligence assessments to ensure that proposed harvesting plans are crafted with an abundance of caution and present a low risk to water quality.”

In its response, BCTS said it “will be proceeding with the McNeill Lake timber sale,” noting the auction date is Feb. 7.

“The area is within the timber harvesting land base and contributes to the allowable annual cut recently set by the chief forester for the Sunshine Coast timber supply area,” BCTS said. “This timber sale is an important component of the BCTS coastal sales plan to deliver logs to the market in 2013.”

The proposed cutting area for the timber sale spans 32.8 hectares, but BCTS said only three small cutblocks covering 10.8 hectares lie within the watershed.

Originally engineered in 2009, the timber sale area was redesigned in 2012, said BCTS, “and 38 hectares that were previously proposed for harvesting in the community watershed were removed from the plan.”

Asked if BCTS was aware of the SCRD’s current water treatment plant development in the area, BCTS said it was “aware of the poor water quality in McNeill Lake and understands why the regional district would want to build a water treatment plant.”

McNeill Lake was heavily impacted in the 1970s when the outlet on the lake was dammed, BCTS said.

“This raised the water level in two smaller lakes to form the present lake. Natural and artificially created wetlands around the lake are major sources of unwanted organic compounds. The SCRD road to the intake on McNeill Lake is a significant source of sediment source and fecal contamination adjacent to the actual intake.”

Compared to the management of these and other issues, BCTS said, “the proposed harvesting plans are considered to pose a negligible incremental risk” and are “well below the threshold of concern for community watersheds.”

SCRD staff reported at the Jan. 17 meeting that one cutblock corner lies within 50 metres of McNeill Lake, but BCTS said the boundaries of the timber sale area were not set arbitrarily.

“They were located within the context of a soil hazard displacement and sensitivity assessment and a sediment hazard assessment. The sediment delivery potential and erosion potential were assessed as ‘low’ and the corresponding overall sedimentation hazard rating for this particular cutblock was assessed as ‘low.’

“Other factors considered in this assessment include: climate precipitation, topography, depth to water restriction, surface soil texture, surface coarse fragments, subsoil texture and proximity of adjacent streams. The implementation of ground-based harvesting guidelines and wet weather shutdown guidelines are also prescribed to protect the area’s soils.”

Also at the Jan. 17 SCRD meeting, directors passed a second motion to be acted on immediately by staff, informing BCTS of concerns over a proposed timber sale in Halfmoon Bay near Homesite Creek, as the site is adjacent to the Suncoaster Trail and an SCRD water tank.

Homesite Creek, Halfmoon Bay director Garry Nohr pointed out, is a growing recreation area with recently built campsite amenities, and plans for a future expansion of the Suncoaster Trail are also in the works.

Directors invited Mark Anderson, Sunshine Coast district manager for Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, to next month’s planning and development committee meeting to respond to the SCRD’s concerns over the two timber sales.