Westward Independent

The Continuing Saga Of The Cowichan Bay Estuary

by Adrienne Richards
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As we continue our coverage of the Cowichan Bay Estuary narrative that unfolded in June 2023, new details are emerging.

The public was abruptly notified about the intention to remove dykes, a decision that would flood 70 hectares, including Dinsdale Farm. This action is expected to result in the flooding of productive farmland. There is also a risk of possible contamination of a reserve well with saltwater. Additionally, the removal of the dykes would establish a flood path for the river, potentially impacting reserve lands and properties adjacent to the farm.

Upon learning that Nature Trust and Ducks Unlimited planned to receive 3 million for flooding the bay, utilizing sketchy climate models and informal agreements with local First Nations, rather than investing $6-9 million in dyke repairs, controlled panic ensued. In response, a concerned neighbour established a society called Land Keepers, engaging legal counsel, submitting Freedom of Information Requests (FOIA), hiring a hydrologist, and organizing town halls in collaboration with COAP Inc.

Invitations to the Town Hall were extended to the local MLA (who did not attend), the local MP (who attended), and all local area directors (two of whom attended). An unreported aspect of the story involves the possibility that local directors were unaware of prior FOIA requests to the CVRD and Ministries when the town hall invitations were dispatched.

Land Keepers received a response from Area Director Sierra Acton, declining the invitation to the town hall with the statement, “This is not a CVRD matter.” “I respectfully decline”. Later when Land Keepers sent her proof of interaction between the CVRD and Nature Trust since 2022, asking for a reply, Ms. Acton did not respond. A second letter was sent as a follow-up, yet still no response. If Ms. Acton was so sure that the CVRD was not involved, surely new evidence would have urged her to check with staff and formulate a response.

Emails obtained through an FOI reveal multiple interactions involving Thomas Reid (Nature Trust), Jeff Moore (Senior Environmental Analyst, CVRD), Kate Miller (Manager, Environmental Services, Division Strategic Services Department, CVRD), and Brian Farquhar (Senior Manager, Parks & Trails Division).

May 11th, 2022 -To Kate Miller from Thomas Reid: “Hi Kate, I hope you are well. If possible I am hoping we can schedule a meeting to discuss some work that we have been doing in the Cowichan Estuary as part of our BCSRlF project”

What is BCSRIF?: ‘Fisheries and Oceans Canada – Eight new projects are receiving approximately $10.5M in funding through the British Columbia Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund (BCSRIF). This brings the total number of projects funded to 38, accounting for $66.9M of $142.85M in total funding allocated.’

2022 Thomas Reid:
“Now that we are entering Year 4 of our project we are starting to focus a significant amount of attention on the implementation of transformational restoration projects (e.g. Dinsdale Farm, Koksilah Marsh) and I would like to discuss with you the steps for engagement with the CVRD. Attached is a summary brochure of what is being considered in the South Cowichan Estuary. I would appreciate it if this attachment could be kept confidential at this time.I look forward to speaking with you soon”.

2022 To Jeff Moore from Thomas Reid: “Hi.Jeff -Who usually attends these meetings? We have been engaged with Cowichan Tribes and the Province (Brian Epps) on this potential project for quite some time. NHC is also our lead consultant in doing extensive modelling and engineering assessments on the project too. Thanks, Tom”

We can only surmise the NHC refers to the same company that the CVRD has been working with since 2009: “Since 2009, NHC has completed 15 flood management projects for the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) and its partners. These studies include the Cowichan Integrated Flood Management Plan (2009), the Risk Assessment of Floodplains and Coastal Sea Level Rise (2019), the Updated Cowichan-Koksilah Flood Mapping Project (2020) and the Shawnigan Flood Preparedness Project (2020).”

From Thomas Reid to Jeff Moore May 25th, 2022:
“Further to my note to Kate below please keep the attachment I originally sent to Kate confidential (see highlighted portion below). There are some project sensitivities that we need to work through before our planned project is made public; hence my question as to who attends your meetings. As an aside – at your upcoming meeting perhaps you may be able to ask the attendees if they would have time for a project-specific meeting on our proposed works via Zoom. teams, wehex etc .. ? Thanks, Tom”

2022 From Thomas Reid to Brian Farquhar:
“Cowichan Restoration Project Brochure.pdf. Fyi. It would be good to also discuss this with you as well as there will be potential implications to Maple Grove Park. As mentioned below I would appreciate it if you could keep this discussion/attachment confidential for now. Thanks, Tom”

The numerous emails from Thomas Reid requesting confidentiality and the non-disclosure of plans to the public, including, possibly, Area Directors like Ms. Acton, raise skepticism about the transparency in the decision-making process. The question arises as to why, despite being presented with evidence, there was no follow-up or response from Ms. Acton and others in similar positions.

*(Cow Bay Water Works Kidd well that serves Cowichan Bay residents and business, along with neighbouring properties with wells including the South Cowichan Grass Tennis Club a heritage site over 100 years old)
Thomas Reid’s emails came from two different addresses one with a ‘@naturetrust’ and another from a @bc.gov.ca address. An inquiry to Mr. Reid has been sent for clarification as to whether he holds two positions. As of the print date, we have not had a response to the inquiry.

Download the FOI documents here

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