Gabriola Trustees and RDN Director file objections to log storage proposal

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, January 17 2017

The Gabriola Local Trust Committee has asked the provincial government to reject the proposal for a log storage facility to be built in Northumberland Channel between Gabriola and Mudge Islands.

The Trust was sent a referral request from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (MFLNRO) with regards to the application.

In its response, the Trust staff pointed out that the proposed storage area is to be put in a water zone that does not allow an industrial Log Handing/Storage Use. 

The [Gabriola] Official Community Plan (OCP) contains a “Marine Resource” objective (6.2.4) discouraging expansion of log storage or booming areas. A land use bylaw amendment and possibly an OCP amendment application would need to be approved by the Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee prior to this type of use to take place.

Trust staff point outs that the OCP supports the “importance of the existing log storage areas in the foreshore of the planning area as important to the forest industry, but to discourage a further expansion of major log storage or booming areas.”

In addition to the parts of the application which are contrary to the OCP requirements, the Trust pointed out that “the applicant notes that they have only contacted forest industry companies about their proposal, and that First Nations have not been contacted. 

“We strongly recommend that the applicant and/or FLNRO contact all relevant First Nations with an interest in the marine area in and around the proposed site, to allow them to comment on this application.”

The Regional District of Nanaimo Board did not go so far as the Trust, asking that the Ministry consider the potential impact the sorting and storage may have on island residents’ transportation to and from Green Wharf.

However, Howard Houle, the RDN Director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy), wrote in his own response to the Ministry expressing his opposition for the file, saying his biggest concern was for public safety.

The proposal from Quadrant Towing is for a storage area approximately 900 metres long by 130 metres wide.

Many of the crossings made between the islands are, according to Houle, “made under stormy conditions and poor lighting conditions. Having a working log storage and sorting area operating 24/7 in the middle of this traffic....is a significant threat to public safety in the Percy Anchorage area.”

Houle also cited the same weather concerns expressed by residents last week, saying that the channel can be “very challenging especially in the winter. The log storage areas next to the cliffs on Gabriola are placed to avoid some of that weather but still two tug boats have gone down in that area while working. 

“The area of the application would have none of the benefit of protection the cliff offers and be subject to nature’s storms on regular bases as dock owners on that part of Mudge Island bear witness to each year.”

Houle was concerned that there has been no environmental study done to look at the impact the storage area might have on the sea floor as well as the sea life which uses the channel.

He added, “The process has not been very transparent, with no public notice in the local Gabriola island newspaper which serves the communities that are the most affected by this application. The communities of Mudge and Gabriola Islands only became aware of the application seven days before the application closed to public comment. This short time frame has left residents confused and wanting to have more of a say in the application.

“I encourage you to not approve the application.”