By Matthew Peterson, Ladysmith Chronicle, April 11, 2011
The Town of Ladysmith is taking a resolution straight to the UBCM they hope will be making some waves.
The town is hoping the government will either gift watersheds to local municipalities or help provide them with funds to buy them from private companies.
Ladysmith Coun. Steve Arnett said they were planning to take the resolution first to the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities, but the resolution was sent straight to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“Our belief is we should put forward a motion that asks for government to commit itself to assist with the financing legislation policy to help small communities like ours purchase the land and or be gifted crown land … so that a community like ours has full ownership and control and the ability to protect our watershed.”
There are only two municipalities in B.C. Arnett is aware of that owns it own watershed, one of them is Vancouver.
Arnett said there were previous resolutions going back at least a decade, but were not specific or needed some policy or legislation to regulate watersheds.
“Some of them have been endorsed,” said Arnett.
Arnett said the government often leaves watershed regulations up to Vancouver Island Health Authority, but he would like to see more specific, detailed and enforceable guidelines.
Arnett said watershed protection was the issue that spurred him into running for public office.
“I thought that was one of the biggest failures of public policy,” said Arnett.
Concerns about Canada’s water supply have been growing over the decades, with Arnett pointing out 30 years ago, most people never thought of B.C.’s fresh water supply as being finite.
“And significantly finite.”
Arnett understands the price tag attached to some of these watersheds might leave some towns with sticker shock, which is why Arnett doesn’t want to see taxpayers get stuck with the tab.
“If our town had to go buy the land, it’s a significant increase in taxes.”
“We have to have a long-term commitment and policy to do so.”
Since the E.Coli outbreak in Wackerton, Ont., drinking supply around 10 years ago, it has been legislated municipalities must provide fresh, clean drinking water to the local population.
The increase in standards pushed the Town of Ladysmith to hire another position to monitor water quality.
Arnett said the town recognizes he has been furthering the work of other, but said it is rewarding to know council is working together on the issue.
As far as he is aware, Arnett said, the people and companies who currently own land surrounding local watersheds are responsible. However, this may not be the case with any new owners. Arnett recognizes people have rights to do what they please with their property, but the use of harsh pesticides and other contaminants can have affect on the wider population.
Arnett said he does not want to see the world reach the point water is a full commodity instead of a right.
“That would be a worst-case scenario because water is essential to life.”
Arnett said he is expecting wide-spread support at the UBCM, which is normally held in September.