Archive for the 'ferries' Category

Texada’s solid waste conundrum

By Tom Read

Texada’s forests, streams and lakes are notably pollution-free, and I hope we keep ‘em that way by dealing responsibly with our solid waste. Here's a 2007 photo I took of Case Lake, which feeds Rumbottle Creek, which in turn empties into the sea at Raven Bay.

Texada’s forests, streams and lakes are notably pollution-free, and I hope we keep ‘em that way by dealing responsibly with our solid waste. Here's a 2007 photo I took of Case Lake, which feeds Rumbottle Creek, which in turn empties into the sea at Raven Bay.

On Monday evening, Linda and I and about 20 other Texadans attended a presentation in Gillies Bay about the future of solid waste in our region. Officially it’s called the draft Powell River Regional District Solid Waste Management Plan and its duration is 2009 to 2019. Now, I know that’s not a sexy topic for many readers, but it has serious implications for Texada Island and the Powell River region. So I hope you’ll bear with me for at least a few paragraphs.

The plan’s goal is “working toward zero waste,” a realistic recognition that eliminating waste is desirable but not easy to achieve. Just so you know what we’re talking about here, the term “solid waste” refers to lots of things, including household garbage and trash, construction debris, all sorts of recyclable materials, and organic matter, especially food waste. In fact, food waste alone accounts for about 30% of our region’s total solid waste, and it is fairly shocking to realize that this is the single largest category of waste that we produce.

The presentation didn’t break out food waste for Texada, but I doubt that the 30% regional figure applies to us. My sense, based on being an active member of the community here for nearly 10 years, is that Texadans do a lot of composting and feeding of kitchen scraps to domestic animals. So I believe that the amount of food waste is less here than in “urban” Powell River. Since the plan’s overall goal is to eliminate waste, and since food waste is the single biggest category of waste in the region, it should come as no surprise that the plan recommends more backyard composting if it can be done without attracting bears (not a Texada problem, since we don’t have bears here), along with possible construction of a centralized $2.6 million composting facility.

Texadans will be expected to help pay for the feasibility study for this regional facility, since it’s claimed that Texada could benefit. How? Well, the consultant on Monday evening proposed that Texada, since it has no bears, might be a good location for the region’s centralized composting facility, “transportation notwithstanding.”

Ah, yes, transportation. Leaving aside the question of whether Texada makes sense as a possible location for a regional composting centre, there’s no denying that our island is quite dependent on ferry transportation for nearly everything, including moving our waste off the island. And that’s where the plan worries me. During the next 10 years, the plan calls for greatly reducing export of waste from the region as a whole, but it assumes that Texada will continue to export its solid waste to Powell River. Given what we’ve heard from Texada’s Ferry Advisory Committee members about potential increases in ferry fares during the next few years, let alone by 2019, we islanders could see a significant increase in our waste disposal costs.  More illegal dumping could be the result.

Ferry fares, and transportation costs in general, tend to parallel the price of oil. It’s way beyond my expertise to forecast the next oil price spike, but I think we’ll need an on-island solution for processing our solid waste sometime in the next 10 years.  Why? Because oil can increase in price much faster than new, strictly regulated solid waste management solutions can be implemented. This poses a conundrum for Texada and likely the region, too.

Fortunately, Texadans have a long history of creative problem-solving. I can envision a cooperative effort whereby Texadans consolidate our transport of solid waste to Powell River, perhaps starting informally among immediate neighbours. Just to be clear, I’m fully aware that Sunshine Disposal runs a reliable and affordable household waste collection service for Texadans who happen to live along its route. But the waste volume any one household can put in the tagged bags is limited, and there are times when a special trip to the Powell River transfer station (aka “the dump”) becomes necessary.

Some of us live off the beaten path altogether, so our only legal choices are to burn our waste or take it to Powell River. I tried burning household waste years ago and found it a smelly, polluting and time-consuming experience, so now we make the dump run to Powell River a couple times a year. There’s no reason islanders couldn’t cut transport costs by coordinating trips with friends and neighbours, which is now easier than before thanks to this website recently created by a Texada community volunteer, Tom Scott. Cooperation builds community and avoids raising our taxes to pay for consultant-driven solutions.

We might also learn something from our neighbour, Lasqueti Island.

Lasqueti already has a landfill exclusively for its local residents. Unfortunately, that landfill wasn’t built to present BC standards, and it might be prohibitively costly for upgrades to conform with provincial regulations. I’m told by our Regional District staff, however, that a new solid waste management plan for Lasqueti is pending but not yet ready for public release. Texada is considerably larger than Lasqueti in population, transportation services and physical size, but we might benefit by observing how our neigbours resolve their waste disposal problem.

The transportation issue remains my overall reservation about the plan, even though as noted above there are potential ways we could cope with it. I’ve also got a few quibbles regarding the plan’s treatment of illegal dumping and its view of glass as mere trash. But on the whole, the proposed plan looks quite positive. I like its emphasis on reducing waste in the first place, especially from over-packaging. In our household we’re already starting to do that by removing excess packaging in the store in Powell River, taking home only the product. Another positive approach is to reuse containers, such as re-filling our pharmaceutical prescriptions in the same bottle (adding a new label each time).  One of the reasons we support Pharmasave in Powell River is because its owner, Wanda, encourages such re-use and recycling wherever possible.

Solid waste is a constant fact of modern life. Thus, the plan’s provision for an ongoing volunteer monitoring committee staffed by a part-time “waste coordinator” will keep this un-sexy but vital topic continuously visible in our region and allow new solutions to be developed more quickly. Maybe it’ll even help solve the Texada solid waste conundrum.


Claire’s film Lily

By Tom Read

It's just "Claire's film Lily" because we all know this particular film-maker quite well -- she's one of us!

It's just "Claire's film Lily" because we all know this particular film-maker quite well -- she's one of us!

Last Saturday we attended the Gillies Bay premiere of a special film, one made on location on Texada Island last August. Lily is a 15-minute short film written and directed by Claire Sanford, who is about 22 years old and just graduated from university last week. Claire grew up on Texada, and though her film isn’t specifically about our island, she told the 100 or so people at the premiere that this community, and the beauty of Texada Island, have inspired her for years.

I won’t give away the story. But the film convincingly portrays an unresolved conflict in a small island community, especially a prominent local citizen’s tormented conscience. The ending is startling, if not happy, and includes one of Texada’s icons, the North Island Princess (our ferry). Claire intends to put her film on DVD for a wider audience, and I’ll let you know when it becomes available.

Claire also showed us five other short student films, most of which featured her distinctive and captivating camera work. It turns out that one of Texada’s own has grown into quite a skilled cinematographer. For Lily, her first effort as a writer-director, Claire could barely stand to let someone else operate the camera. Now she’s off to Montreal to learn French and find work in the independent film industry there, where she hopes to direct more films.

We arrived on Texada when Claire was 13, and I still vividly remember her performance that year (in the same Texada Community Hall where we just viewed her film) playing back-up trumpet for Gary Fjellgaard and Valdy. Through the years I’ve seen this young woman volunteering at community events, playing piano and singing at the Texada School and singing with a group of her peers at the first Jazz on the Rocks concert in 2004.

So it’s only natural that the Texada community went crazy supporting Claire Sanford last year when she asked us to help her make Lily on location far from the urban film centres of Canada. The list of people and organizations who contributed – and literally took part – in the making of this film would take up more space than I normally devote to a Journal entry.  I’ll just proudly say that this film, and the young woman who wrote, directed, and yes, produced it, truly belong to us, too.

The island as bio-region

By Tom Read

The bio-region of Texada Island is characterized by lots of fresh water. Here’s a springtime view of Case Lake, a favourite of ducks, geese and swans, and even the neighbouring humans. Like the birds, some people come and go, but others have settled in for the long haul.

The bio-region of Texada Island is characterized by lots of fresh water. Here’s a springtime view of Case Lake, a favourite of ducks, geese and swans, and even the neighbouring humans. Like the birds, some people come and go, but others have settled in for the long haul.

Texada Island is politically a colony of Powell River, British Columbia and Canada, but the only reality that really counts in the long haul – which is Mother Nature’s reality – firmly tells us that we’re our own 100-square-mile bio-region. What’s a bio-region? Answer: a biologically consistent geographical area, like a watershed, or a mountain range or… an island. Physical boundaries are essential to identifying a bio-region, and islands know all about boundaries.

But there are more subtle boundaries that matter, too. Soil types and water flows make a difference within the limits set by our island’s shoreline. Texada’s geology particularly stands out because there is nothing on the entire BC coast that can match the rich mineralization of this place. That’s why we’ve got three active quarries, hundreds of mineral claims and many old underground mines. That is also why seemingly every inch of ground on the island has a hundred-year history of geological research behind it.

When it comes to water, Texada’s story is equally dramatic. Whereas many other islands are comparatively dry, our island’s half-a-dozen or so year-round streams flow from springs in the hills and mountains of Texada, then run down to the sea, passing through dozens of lakes, ponds, bogs, creek valleys, lush second-growth forests and remnants of old farm fields along the way. Given its special geology and hydrology, it’s not surprising that Texada has evolved a large population of rare and even unique plants and animals.  From Mother Nature’s perspective, therefore, this island is the very model of a bio-region.

The picture changes when we take a human-only perspective. Our daily consumption of imported products and services reminds us constantly that we’re dependent on the mainland if we choose to live a “normal” lifestyle.  By “normal” I mean using more energy, water and food and just plain consumption of stuff than the populace of anywhere else on the planet, notably including the Europeans and Japanese. North Americans have long taken for granted our over-consumption, and it seems to me that many Texadans, myself included, habitually, if not sometimes blindly, practice the typical North American lifestyle even though we live on a quite unusual island.

But underneath the din of daily consumption I feel a haunting awareness that life here really is fundamentally different from mainland places, and even other relatively nearby islands. The remote aspects of life in this place would certainly become more obvious to people if Texada went back to a five-car ferry, which served the island from 1955 to 1969, rather than the 49-car, 10 runs per day (every day) cruise line that we know as our ferry service today. Count me as one who wouldn’t mind a severe curtailment of BC Ferries services, because remoteness appeals to me. But I’m probably an odd duck that way, because others of my age seem to have different ideas.

Lately I’ve detected, among certain long-time residents, a restlessness about island life. When they first moved here many years ago, the ferry was a lot smaller, the population a lot larger (and younger), and if you lived here you tended to remain on the island for unbroken stretches of many weeks or even months. So why have some of those who have grown into middle age here seemingly become fixated on mainland life? Perhaps the mainland attraction takes the form of a locally unavailable urban pleasure, or maybe it’s grandchildren who live in some suburb, or maybe it’s just a free-floating urge to head out in one’s motorhome and be able to go someplace without having to wait in a ferry line-up. Thus, to some, our island’s remoteness has become confining.

As for me, I’ve seen enough of the urban/suburban world in my 56 years on the planet. Living on this natural jewel of an island holds endless fascination for me, and I consider it a privilege to have found a home here. The scale of this place is perfect for learning and living over the long haul, and I am hopeful that there’s still a possibility we might evolve a local human economy and political awareness to match the splendor that Mother Nature has created here.

DNEWS: follow the money

By Tom Read

This familiar-looking island is known as "Electoral Area D" to the Regional District, Province of BC and Government of Canada.  The image above, labelled only "Electoral Area D," came from the Federal census website, where you'll not easily find the name "Texada Island."  Instead, you have to search on "Electorial Area D of the Powell River Regional District" to get information about our island. 

This familiar-looking island is known as "Electoral Area D" to the Regional District, Province of BC and Government of Canada. The image above, labelled only "Electoral Area D," came from the Federal census website, where you'll not easily find the name "Texada Island." Instead, you have to search on "Electorial Area D of the Powell River Regional District" to get information about our island.

Texada Island is known merely as “Electoral Area D” to local, provincial and federal governments. Several interesting government and corporate actions that affect Texada have surfaced in recent weeks. In a former life I was educated and worked briefly as a journalist, so I thought I’d put on my “citizen journalist” hat and share some Texadafied news and views. Welcome to DNEWS:

Davie Bay is a beautiful stretch of Texada shoreline. Of course, almost everywhere on the island is beautiful, but there’s good reason why some friends of ours chose a spot next to Davie Bay for their wedding last summer. It’s got charming little islands just off-shore and spectacular views of the Georgia Strait, including Lasqueti and Vancouver Islands. Texada’s Official Community Plan (OCP) considers Davie Bay a potential park site, plus lots of rockfish reportedly live there.

Texadans learned in March that Lehigh Cement Ltd, an American-based subsidiary of a German multi-national corporation has applied to the BC Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB) for a lease on Crown land at Davie Bay for “light industrial” development. If we follow the money, this proposal appears to lead directly back to federal “stimulus spending” in Canada and the USA. The company wants to start quarrying aggregate rock for anticipated road-building projects next year in western North America.

Lehigh owns mineral-rich land just up from the bay. A map submitted by the company to ILMB shows a proposed conveyor and barge-loading system running from Lehigh’s land out across the publicly-owned bay onto those previously mentioned charming little islands, thus providing easy deep-water access for barge loading. According to its submitted plan, the company wants the facility up and running by next spring and plans to employ up to a dozen workers depending on demand from its clients.

Now for the other side of “charming little islands.” Texada proudly calls itself “The Industrial Island,” and our OCP views mining as critical to our local economy. Since last fall we’ve seen a growing number of layoffs at Blubber Bay Quarry and LaFarge Texada Quarrying. Is this a classic “environment vs. jobs” conflict in the making, or can we find some middle ground? Meanwhile, the Powell River Regional District is asking ILMB to put Lehigh’s proposal on “hold” until the company conducts one or more public meetings on Texada about the project. Stay tuned…

(2) Speaking of stimulus funding, we’re getting a piece of the action right here on Texada: approximately $57,000 in hastily-granted federal funds will be matched with about $19,000 in Texadans’ tax dollars for a total of about $76,000 to be spent on a shovel-ready project: resurfacing and fencing upgrades for the public tennis courts at Gillies Bay! No grumbling or snickering, please. We need those courts in good shape for the annual Sandcastle Weekend bed races. And if you’re going to have tennis courts, then you’ve got to maintain ‘em in top condition, right?

(3) Along with tennis, island living certainly includes ferries. Alas, Texada’s North Island Princess limped off to drydock Tuesday afternoon. I say “limped” because it had been operating on one engine since Sunday, and required the services of a $300-per-hour tug to maneuver into port. Let’s see, at $300-per-hour for two or three days that’s… probably one reason why ferry fares keep rising. Anyway, Mother Nature threw in high winds and a vicious chop all day Tuesday, causing the good ship NIP to give it all up for a refit. Meanwhile, the Tachek (originally known as Texada Queen when she was commissioned in 1969 for the local route, and fondly remembered as the Upchuck by a couple generations of Texada teens) steamed over from Hornby Island to rescue stranded travelers on both sides of Malaspina Strait, including us. Our normal six-hour trip to Powell River turned into an 18-hour day while we waited. And waited. But that’s island life, eh?

(4) Next-to-last, I think there’s a power play becoming visible in Powell River politics that could spill over onto Texada. It arises from the many run-of-river hydro-electric projects trying to run amok all over the back country behind Powell River — with enthusiastic support from several members of the Powell River City Council. But the rural directors who represent the lands where those rivers and overhead power lines flow within the Powell River Regional District are not so keen.

The minutes of several PRRD directors’ meetings during the last few years tell a story of deep concern about potential environmental damage from uncoordinated power line and road construction by different run-of-river companies. They also speak of trees cut down for right-of-way clearing and left to rot, when they might have been used by the local wood products industry. They tell of rural directors’ persistent and vocal refusal to support the run-of-river projects until these and other issues are addressed.

Now it’s become obvious that run-of-river power projects are getting caught up in campaign rhetoric preceding BC’s May 12 election (Powell River Peak, Wednesday, April 1 edition). The PRRD directors, whether intentionally or not, seem to be playing a part in that rhetoric while engaging in an entirely local drama, as well.

So here’s the power play as I see it, no pun intended: just last month, one of the two Powell River city councilors who sit on the Regional District Board wondered publicly why the city reps couldn’t vote on rural area land-use issues, such as the run-of-river projects. Quoting from the March 26 Minutes under New Business:

“Director McNaughton questioned why City directors do not participate in discussions on independent power projects [IPPs] or other similar proposals which have similar impacts. He also questioned whether controversial motions should be worded so that the Board as a whole is not perceived as being responsible for recommendations on which only some directors vote, e.g., motions pertaining to IPPs.

Director Brabazon commented on electoral area directors’ frustration with increased transmission lines, noting the Provincial government is running a gold rush on independent power projects with no serious consideration of potential impacts. Chair Palmer indicated the Board was not opposed to Plutonic but wanted the Province to recognize and respect certain values.

Director McNaughton stressed that, in his view, all directors need to be able to participate in dialogue on certain issues respecting the region as a whole. Further to this point, he questioned how a mega-project like the independent power projects got to be a planning issue?”

You may not be aware that the city directors sometimes get two votes each to reflect the larger urban population they represent. (Click here for an explanation of the unique voting system used by BC regional districts.) With their “weighted” votes, the city directors could come very close to outvoting the rural directors on any given issue. Texada is a rural electoral area. How would Texadans feel about Powell River City Councilors discussing and voting on island land use issues, or on any Texada issue they deem to have “regional significance?” Do we want our land use issues controlled by the City of Powell River?

(5) Finally, what’s DNEWS without a weather report? It is late afternoon on April 1 as I write these words, but when I woke up today the world had turned snow white. Ground, trees, chicken-coop, barn – everything covered in snow, with more falling. In a few hours the snow vanished under a steady rain, which is good because we’ve had a dry late winter and early spring so far. Then the rain stopped. Our island’s rainforest needs lots of rain, and that’s no April Fool’s joke. More moisture, please.

Post facto

July 2018
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