On Merville groundwater extraction it’s deja vu all over again

On Merville groundwater extraction it’s deja vu all over again

Electoral area directors deferred amended application to a future meeting, want province to explain licensing rules

On Merville groundwater extraction it’s deja vu all over again

It was standing room only in the Comox Valley Regional District Civic Room on Jan. 9 as about 80 people squeezed into the Civic Room for the Electoral Areas Services Committee (EASC) meeting.

This is an uncommon turnout for such meetings, but many people have uncommonly strong feelings about protecting shared local water resources.

After the new EASC chair and vice-chair were acclaimed (Richard Hardy and Edwin Grieve, respectively), and Ed Hoeppner made a presentation on Hornby Island’s composting toilet residuals, the committee heard from Bruce Gibbons, the tireless leader of the Merville Water Guardians, opposing yet another iteration of Scott MacKenzie and Regula Heynck’s application to extract groundwater at 2400 and 2410 Sackville Road.

“It was, and still is, obvious that the residents, farmers and elected officials of the Comox Valley do not want the water from the Comox Valley aquifer to be extracted and sold for commercial profit.”  — Bruce Gibbons, January 9

As we reminded you last week, way back in 2017 MacKenzie and Heynck received a conditional license from the province to extract water for bottling. Their 2018 zoning amendment application to the CVRD board, requesting that the Board add “water bottling” to the list of permitted uses on the property, was denied.

The initial conditional license was supposed to expire Dec.31, 2020, if the project wasn’t up and running by then. As Gibbons explained, “On January 4th, 2021, … I was told the licensee would be given 30 days notice and then the cancellation process would commence.”

However, it was never cancelled. As noted in the CVRD staff report on the matter: “In 2022, the applicant applied to the province to amend the above-noted conditional water licence to change the purpose of the water use from ‘industrial (fresh water bottling)’ to ‘waterworks (water sales and water delivery).’”

The CVRD staff report prepared for the meeting recommended that the amended application, which would essentially accept this enterprise as a “home occupation” under OCP bylaws, be accepted: “The activities of bulk water treatment, storage, transport, and sales are permitted on the subject property, under conditions of a Home Occupation which is a permitted accessory use within the subject property’s Rural Eight (RU-8) zone.”

“We can’t live without water”

Gibbons reminded the committee of the recent droughts experienced on Vancouver Island:
• Total rainfall from July 4th to Oct 22nd was 7.8 mm; normal is 155 mm.
• A Stage 4 drought was declared for East Vancouver Island again from mid-September to mid-October 2021, and a Stage 5 drought from mid-October to early November.
• Total rainfall for October was 22.2 mm. The normal is 122.8 mm. October is historically one of our wettest months of the year, so 18% of normal rainfall should be a serious concern.

“Combine these drought statistics with the rapidly and significantly receding Comox Glacier, and water security in the Comox Valley is at risk,” he said.

He wrapped up by imploring the committee to deny the application for the amendment to the original water license, which drew a standing ovation from the audience.

“The CVRD has been transparent, thoughtful, respectful and thorough” in handling this case, which has generated much interest from the public, said CVRD CAO Russell Dyson, after reminding attendees that the CVRD has jurisdiction only to regulate use and development on the surface of land; groundwater extraction and water licensing are a provincial matter.

What is a home occupation?

CVRD senior planner Jodi MacLean explained that the zoning bylaw doesn’t prohibit bulk water treatment, storage, transport, and sales on the subject property if it is designated as a home occupation.

Edwin Grieve stated that “We have an obligation to follow our own zoning,” but questioned why the K’ómoks First Nation had not been consulted on this latest amendment. “I’m very underwhelmed by the [lack of] support we’re getting from our provincial government,” he said, referring both to this matter and the issue of ship-breaking in Royston.

Director Daniel Arbour questioned whether staff were taking too broad a view. If carried to extremes, he wondered, “Could a nuclear facility be considered a home occupation?” under this kind of interpretation.

He was being facetious, but the point was made. He listed a number of activities that are explicitly acceptable on RU-8 properties like MacKenzie and Heynck’s: agricultural use, plant nursery and greenhouse, riding academy, etc. “I see water processing as a much more industrial/commercial kind of activity that has broader impacts,” he commented.

Dyson noted that a home occupation is general in nature, and that the CVRD could get a legal opinion on the matter.

MacKenzie allowed to speak

Toward the end of the discussion, Scott MacKenzie, who was participating remotely, was invited to speak, to the initial displeasure of Gibbons and the audience (MacKenzie had not made an official delegation request).

MacKenzie’s remarks included the words “bias and slander,” “defrauded,” “coercion,” “lynching,” and “outraged,” as well as a demand for Edwin Grieve to recuse himself.

The committee voted unanimously to defer the matter to a future meeting of the EASC to obtain a legal opinion regarding the definition of home occupation and to request the province of BC to come before the committee to explain its role and responsibility regarding water extraction. The EASC directors also want to confirm the position of K’ómoks First Nation on the amendment.





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Comox Valley local government elections ramping up for Oct. 15 vote

Comox Valley voters will elect new councilors, mayors, regional district representatives, school board members and Island Trust reps on Oct. 15. Find out who’s running for what … and why. Decafnation returns to shine more light on local government issues and candidates

Mack Laing goes to court today and, have spies infiltrated local government?

Mack Laing goes to court today and, have spies infiltrated local government?

Hamilton Mack Laing, a man who gave his house, property, many possessions and money to the Town of Comox, who took it and then snubbed him.

Mack Laing goes to court today and, have spies infiltrated local government?


It’s a shame the Town of Comox waited almost four years before finally taking their petition back to the BC Supreme Court today (Wednesday, Sept. 7) to vary the town’s trust agreement with Hamilton Mack Laing to tear down his heritage house and spend the money he gifted for purposes other than his original intentions.

The Town Council could have collaborated to find a win-win with the Mack Laing Heritage Society and those community members who have volunteered to preserve some form of the house, called Shakesides. Instead, the Town Council stopped listening.

And they also stopped going to court for the permissions they need.

The court dates this week fall just 37 days before the 2022 municipal election, making it unlikely the Justice hearing arguments will rule before voters go to the polls. Win or lose, we would have preferred that those incumbents seeking reelection had to account for their voting record on this issue.

As an intervenor, the Mack Laing Heritage Society has asked the court in public filings to dismiss the town’s application to vary the trust, and instead order a forensic accounting of the Trust Fund, an independent assessment of the viability of the Shakesides structure and to direct the town to include the rental income it derived from Shakesides into the trust fund or a related separate fund.

“In breaching its obligations as trustee and allowing waste and neglect of the culturally valuable and irreplaceable trust object (Shakesides), Comox has manufactured the very crisis it now claims as justification to vary the trust; Comox does not come before the court with clean hands and is the author of a delay of several decades,” the society says in its written submission.

The society goes on to assert that the town has “willfully ignored all evidence, offers of assistance and reports that do not contemplate the demolition of Shakesides, or that require a proper accounting of the Trust Fund.”

If the court agrees with the MLHS and orders an accounting and structural assessment before ruling on the town’s application, it could be another year before the matter is finally settled.

Of course, the Town of Comox has had about 40 years to atone for their neglect, so what’s another dozen months?

What’s important for this election is that only one incumbent candidate in the race for Town Council, Nicole Minions, had the ethical integrity to vote against proceeding with this petition and for continued collaboration. Stephanie McGown voted with Minions, but she is not likely to seek office in Comox this year.

Jonathan Kerr no doubt would have joined those two in doing the right thing, but he only joined the council nine months ago.

Stay tuned, as Decafnation will file additional reports on the court case later in the week.


Candidates coming out of the woodwork

Former Courtenay mayor Starr Winchester has filed again for City Council, and so has Deana Simkin. They both ran in 2018 and missed the cut by about 10 percent. Brennan Day, who failed to get elected provincially, is now trying local government again. He fell short by nearly seven percent of the vote last time. Nobody has filed for mayor except perennial candidate Erik Eriksson.

Incumbent Arzeena Hamir will have at least two challengers in Area B, Richard Hardy and Keith Stevens. And Tamara Meggitt will challenge incumbent Daniel Arbour in Area A.

Big news, Don Davis has filed again in Comox, as he has every election since, well, forever.

Bad news, Courtenay resident Peter Gibson has filed in Comox. The last time a Courtenay resident filed in Comox, to our knowledge, was when former Comox councillor Tom Grant moved to Crown Isle and tried to keep a seat in Comox. That ended badly as it should have and as it should again.


American political creep

The four or five people who are behind the vacuous website, Comox Valley Mainstream, are either rebranding themselves or they’ve gained partners.

A new anonymous website has cropped up called Take Back Comox Valley. Take back from whom, we wonder? The people who built a plant so we wouldn’t have regular boil water advisories? The people who have kept governments going during the pandemic and kept taxes reasonable while doing it?

The people who have taken the backroom dealing out of local politics and put their work transparently into formal policies to deal fairly and consistently with everyone concerned?

It seems these folks are dragging a little right-wing conspiracy tendency across the southern border. Even their name sounds a little like Make America Great Again.

Based on their website, the Taker Backers are going after some group they won’t name that wants to “to stop the expansion of our business community, disrupt our industries, and defund our police.” Holy Moly, who are those evil people?

Frankly, I haven’t heard anybody around here calling to defund the police. Anyway, wouldn’t that be the RCMP? Good luck with that.

And what industry is being disrupted? Even if we stop cutting old-growth timber, the logging industry will remain robust. The Alberta oil industry? Whether the Comox Valley allows 1,000 new gas stations or zero, it won’t send chills down anybody’s spine in Calgary.

But, these concerned citizens claim a righteous fight, “to keep American money and foreign activists out of our local politics.” That’s right, American billionaires are so concerned with issues like garbage and kitchen waste pickup in the rural areas that they are paying undocumented secret agents to infiltrate our local governments.

Sorry, Taker Backers. When you try to get QAnon-style conspiracy thinking going outside the American South, it just doesn’t roll so easily as it does in Alabama.


Heads in the sand

There is always a small element of the public that wants our municipal councillors to do nothing more than fill potholes and make the toilets flush. They may be the same people that want schools to do no more than teach students to read, write and add numbers.

The basics are important in every aspect of life but don’t people want, even demand a quality of life that goes far beyond that? Where would we be without music and art in our lives? Without hobbies? Parks and trails? Access to all the things that people are passionate about? Visionary thinking?

Those aren’t the basics, but they enrich our basic lives and in the Comox Valley it may be the single most common reason that people live here.

Councillors who only think about sewers and potholes won’t lead us toward a more vibrant, interesting and rewarding community. Such stunted thinking will do the opposite. And who wants to live in a town without any charm or soul?



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On Merville groundwater extraction it’s deja vu all over again

CVRD initiates discussions about Economic Development Society reforms

Comox Valley Regional District offices now located on Harmston Avenue in Courtenay  |  George Le Masurier photo

CVRD initiates discussions about Economic Development Society reforms


Directors of the Comox Valley Regional District have initiated discussions to explore new models for delivering economic development, destination marketing and Visitor Center operations that could potentially realign the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, or even replace it.

It will be the first time in the society’s 32-year history that regional directors have considered reviewing the original model of an arms-length society governed by an independently chosen board of directors.

The consideration was reached toward the end of a two-day workshop held Oct. 13-14 at the regional district’s new offices on Harmston Avenue in Courtenay. The session was facilitated by an outside consultant after conflicting visions for CVEDS’ future had brought the board to a stalemate.

The CVRD created the Economic Development Society in 1988 and continues to fund it. In recent years, CVEDS has received more than $1.2 million per year from Comox Valley taxpayers.

But it had become apparent over several years that CVEDS had lost the trust of some elected officials as well as individuals, nonprofit organizations and businesses across sectors of the Comox Valley. 

CVRD directors seeking change from CVEDS have mentioned the need for more accountability, transparency, especially in financial matters, and whether the society’s recent activities still remain relevant and consistent with the Comox Valley community’s environmental and social values.

During the workshop, Area A Director Daniel Arbour noted that four out of the five Comox Valley jurisdictions funding CVEDS had “at one time or another” considered reviewing or withdrawing their participation, for various reasons.

FURTHER READING: Go to our local government page

He was referring to his own electoral area, Area B, the Town of Comox and the city of Courtenay as those who have at least thought about withdrawing. Electoral Area C is the fifth participant currently funding CVEDS.

Any electoral area or municipality can opt-out of CVEDS participation by giving six months notice. That is still an option under the new contract signed in July. But it is less likely in the near future considering the new agreement expires in two years, on Dec. 31, 2022, and the possibility that regional directors might agree on some reforms.

The Village of Cumberland withdrew support for CVEDS in 2015 and hired its own economic development officer. That became a trend on Vancouver Island as other regional districts and municipalities moved toward new models that separated destination marketing activities from economic development services. 

The CVRD’s consideration of new models would presumably explore whether to handle the three key functions of CVEDS — economic development, destination marketing and Visitor Information Centre management — with in-house staff or to contract for them with an external entity, or some hybrid combination.

Workshop facilitator Gordon Macintosh, the former Islands Trust executive director, urged CVRD directors to decide soon if they want to explore new models for delivering the services provided by CVEDS.

It was important, he said, for directors to reach consensus and to have preferred options in mind before having to give CVEDS notice of the regional district’s long-term intentions next December.

Directors did not take any formal action or vote during the workshop. It’s expected that will happen after CVRD Chief Administrative Officer Russell Dyson presents a staff report with recommendations to the board.



While the second day of the workshop focused on developing a process for reconsidering the strategic future of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, the first day was designed to give clarity to CVEDS’ 2021 work plan and how regional district directors would measure their success.

Meeting by themselves in the morning, CVRD directors created a list of topics directors would like CVEDS to consider adding into their 2021 work plan. A few CVEDS board members and Executive Director John Watson joined the workshop in the afternoon.

Most of the topics were related to a feeling that CVEDS activities should acknowledge the Comox Valley community’s values, and weave the regional board’s four core values into their business relationships:

  1. Reconciliation and First Nations relations;
  2. Financial responsibility;
  3. Climate change action; and,
  4. Community partnerships. And that they should weave these into their business relationships.

Asked to imagine their ideal economic development function, CVRD Board Chair Jesse Ketler said she envisioned a current and forward-thinking group that “was on top of the shift in societal values.”

“CVEDS was created in the 1980s when everyone was talking about deregulation and free-market capitalism. The only goal then was short-term profit and the result was social/wealth inequality and environmental degradation,” she said. “People now realize that we have to look at the long game and that sustainable businesses are those that consider environmental and social values.”

Ketler said businesses that included social and environmental values into their business model were doing better through the COVID pandemic than those that didn’t.

“People want to be a part of something good. If we try to apply ‘80s style solutions to COVID-era problems we are doing the businesses in the Comox Valley a great disservice,” she said.

Courtenay City Councillor Wendy Morin added that “the polarization on the board, although appearing along political lines, is a simplistic view. Many of us see that economic development practice is shifting, regardless of the politics of the day.”

CVEDS has about six weeks to respond to those requests — either to agree to do them, ask for more resources in order to do them, or to defer them — before its 2021 work plan and accompanying budget receive final approval from the CVRD board.

The topics included: Childcare, event guide and promotion, E-marketplace feasibility, destination infrastructure, co-working spaces, green industry, an arts and culture plan and an agriculture plan.



Although the perspective on CVEDS differs among all 10 of the regional district directors, at their simplest they break down into two groups: those who are happy with the current CVEDS structure (Town of Comox, Area C) and those who are less happy (City of Courtenay, Area B and Area A).

Courtenay City Councillor Wendy Morin wondered how the board could overcome entrenched positions based on geographical self-interests.

“How do we get to some common ground when there is such a disconnect between the experiences of Comox and Courtenay in the level of response on pet projects,” she said at the workshop. “Why are some areas getting what they want (from CVEDS) and others are not? How are we going to satisfy all these interests on a regional level?”

Differing perspectives based on territory emerged clearly during a discussion on the importance of mountain biking to the Comox Valley economy.

Comox Councillor Ken Grant said he had trouble with CVEDS spending tax money to promote mountain biking because it benefits Cumberland, which doesn’t help fund CVEDS.

But several other directors said mountain biking benefits businesses across the whole Comox Valley, yet Cumberland bears the burden of maintaining and improving the infrastructure of the most popular trails that bring tourists to the community.

“I have trouble with that. Our marina is the biggest economic driver in the Comox Valley,” Grant said. “So we could ask for money for that, too? Not sure we want to go down that road.”

But Area B Director Arzeena Hamir pointed out that Comox is seeking help from CVEDS and other jurisdictions to build out more parking infrastructure at the Comox Airport.

Similar differences of opinion occurred during discussions on other topics.

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott said Comox business owners had no lack of confidence in CVEDS.

“I guess it depends on who you talk to,” he said.

Area C Director Edwin Grieve said he was troubled by the undercurrent that “something untoward is going on.”

“These people (CVEDS board members) stepped up as volunteers. It’s disrespectful. It’s why directors have resigned. We owe them an apology,” he said.

Chair Ketler talked about the need to “relocalize” the Comox Valley economy.

“One way to do that is through social procurement and supporting social enterprise,” she said.











When CVRD directors failed to find agreement in March on what they wanted from their $1 million-plus funding of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society, regional district staff suggested a workshop designed to break the logjam. But the provincial lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID virus derailed those plans.

Board Chair Jesse Ketler revived the workshop idea this fall and Gordon Macintosh, president of the Local Government Leadership Institute and the former executive director of the Islands Trust, was hired to facilitate it.

It’s possible that Macintosh would return to help CVRD directors navigate through the process of exploring new models for providing economic development and destination marketing services, and how to manage the Visitor Information Center operations in the future. But directors have only initiated discussions so far and have not taken any official actions.




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Comox Valley local government elections ramping up for Oct. 15 vote

Comox Valley voters will elect new councilors, mayors, regional district representatives, school board members and Island Trust reps on Oct. 15. Find out who’s running for what … and why. Decafnation returns to shine more light on local government issues and candidates

$52.6 million Dementia Village planned on former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site

$52.6 million Dementia Village planned on former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site

Providence Living’s rendering of its planned Dementia Village in the Comox Valley

$52.6 million Dementia Village planned on former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site


Island Health announced a project development agreement with Providence Living today to build and operate a 156-bed dementia village on the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital site.

“Our government continues to take action to ensure seniors, especially those with complex care needs, are receiving the best care possible,” Minister of Health Adrian Dix said in a press release this morning. “Friends and family should be confident knowing a loved parent or grandparent with dementia is in a safe environment, which is why I am pleased to see this project take another step towards meeting the needs of seniors in the Comox Valley.”

Read more about long-term care issues in the Comox Valley

Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair said she was”excited to see Vancouver Island’s first publicly funded dementia village be built in the Comox Valley.”

The dementia village will feature 148 publicly-funded long-term care beds and eight publicly funded respite beds. It will be built on the site of the existing The Views long-term care home and the former St. Joseph’s General Hospital. Once completed, the dementia village will replace the existing beds at The Views.

“We are very pleased to take this next step in fulfilling our mandate to provide innovative seniors care by building a long-term care home modelled on the concepts of a dementia village,” said Jane Murphy, President and CEO of Providence Living, and the former CEO of St. Joseph’s Hospital. “The Views at St. Joseph’s has a long history in Comox, and we are committed to seeking community input to ensure we best meet local needs. We look forward to continuing our work with Island Health to advance our shared goal of helping seniors in the Comox Valley live to their full potential.”

The dementia village will include:

• Small, self-contained households of 12 residents where each resident will have their own room and bathroom, leading to heightened infection control in a modern space
• A social model of resident-directed care for people with dementia
• Fostering free movement of people with dementia within a home and village setting
• Ensuring resident involvement in everyday activities within the household or the wider, secure village
• Focusing on individualized smaller groupings; cultural bonds, friendships, social activities
• Emphasizing daily life and sense of belonging – involving residents with food preparation, cooking, laundry
• Amenities for residents and community that include community gardens, child daycare, Island Health-funded adult day programs, and a community space, art studio, bistro and chapel

Construction of the dementia village is estimated to cost $52.6 million. Island Health will provide annual operational funding to meet the province’s target of 3.36 direct care hours per resident day. Providence Living has already begun the redevelopment planning process, with a goal of starting construction in spring or summer 2021.

“As a resident of the Comox Valley for the past 30 years, I’ve seen the increased need for seniors’ care, and I’ve heard from people looking for choices in long term care homes to meet their specific holistic needs,” said Ronna Rae Leonard, parliamentary secretary for seniors and MLA for Courtenay-Comox. “This innovative dementia village will help seniors experiencing dementia continue to have a good and dignified quality of life.”

Island Health and Providence Living will be consulting and engaging with stakeholders and the community as the project moves ahead.

Providence Living is a new faith-based, non-profit health care organization established by Providence Health Care to redefine our collective expectation of seniors’ care in British Columbia. The formation of Providence Living came from a deep desire to be part of a global movement to completely rethink and reimagine the experience of seniors and others in need of care, replacing care homes with genuine communities.

The organization was formerly known as Providence Residential and Community Care, and supported by St. Paul’s Foundation, Comox Valley Healthcare Foundation, and Auxiliary Society For Comox Valley Healthcare.


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Town Hall to explain how VIHA’s cuts have hurt North Island patient care

Town Hall to explain how VIHA’s cuts have hurt North Island patient care

Town Hall to explain how VIHA’s cuts have hurt North Island patient care


For more than six years, Campbell River and Comox Valley doctors and other medical professionals have tried to stop the erosion of laboratory services performed on the North Island, but both the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the Ministry of Health have continued to allow the transfer of critical lab functions to Victoria area doctors.

“​It’s time for the community to speak up – for the services that we were promised when the new North Island hospitals opened, for our doctors and lab staff, for all of us,” said Barbara Bailey, a spokesman for Citizens for Quality Health Care.

READ MORE: Our series on pathology services in the North Island

To get the BC healthy ministry’s attention, the citizens group has organized a Town Hall meeting from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Campbell River Sportsplex. They hope people will attend to show their support, share experiences and sign a petition that demands the return of onsite clinical pathologists’ services to the Campbell River Hospital laboratory.

Speakers at the Town Hall will include Dr. Chris Bellamy, one of the Comox Valley’s three General Pathologists who still do clinical pathology onsite at the Comox Valley Hospital. But VIHA (also known as Island Health) also wants to take all clinical pathologists’ services from the Comox Valley Hospital laboratory and move that work to the same group of Victoria doctors.

That happened to Dr. Aref Tabarsi, one of two General Pathologists in Campbell River.

​After VIHA moved clinical pathologists’ services from the Campbell River hospital to Victoria, there has been a significant delay in test results, especially for urgent cases, which has had a negative impact on patient care and clinical outcomes.

It has also created a breakdown in working relations because hospital lab staff and local doctors can no longer consult with the pathologists on site to provide optimum services to patients.

“I will absolutely guarantee that this shift will result in the further erosion of technologists locally and will be bad for patient care in this area,” said Dr. Chris Bellamy, who has practiced general pathology in the Comox Valley for 30 years.

​Despite letters of support for reinstating onsite clinical pathologists’ services to Campbell River laboratory technologists and assistants, as well as 70 North Island general practice physicians, have written letters detailing the problems centralization has caused for their work and for patient care, and expressing their support for reinstating onsite clinical pathologists’ services.

But the Vancouver Island Health Authority has so far dismissed their concerns.

VIHA has not responded to the laboratory staff or doctors. The Ministry of Health has not respond to the Campbell River City Council or the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital Board, both of who have asked for the return clinical pathology services to the Campbell River Hospital.​ ​

“​Come to the Town Hall on February 9. Learn from the senior pathologists at the Campbell River and Comox Valley Hospitals, lab staff and doctors in the community, share your own experiences.,” Bailey said.

​For more information, call Citizens for Quality Health Care: 250-287-3096 or Council of Canadians Campbell River Chapter: 250-286-3019.



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Maps will detail impact of sea level rise on Valley coastline

Maps will detail impact of sea level rise on Valley coastline

Flooding of the Courtenay Flats during previous heavy rainfalls

Maps will detail impact of sea level rise on Valley coastline


It could be argued that climate change hasn’t yet impacted the daily lives of people in the Comox Valley. Yes, it has been drier for longer periods and a year ago the smoke from forest fires dimmed our skies and filled our lungs. The Comox Glacier is disappearing before our eyes.

These are minor events, however, compared to the torrential rains, flooding, droughts and intense super-hurricanes inflicting damage to other parts of the world.

But the serious consequences of climate change will soon reach our idyllic part of the world in the form of sea level rise.

Sea levels have risen by almost eight inches since the 1890s, an annual rate of about 0.06 inches per year, an amount barely noticeable except to those paying close attention.

But the rate of sea level rise has accelerated to 0.14 inches per year since 2006, and scientists predict it will continue to speed up as global temperatures climb.

The latest dire warnings suggest sea level could rise by as much as 1.3 feet by 2050 and up to 8.2 feet (2.5 metres) by 2100, depending on the success of global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.



To determine how rising sea levels will affect the Comox Valley coastline, the Comox Valley Regional District is undertaking detailed mapping of the regions 200 kilometres of coastline, from the Oyster River to Fanny Bay, including Denman and Hornby islands.

With a $500,000 grant from the National Disaster Mitigation Program, the CVRD hired Kerr Wood Leidal consulting engineers to assess the coastline from a geological perspective. They will produce maps and supporting technical data for five scenarios of sea level rise in the years 2030, 2050, 2100, 2150 and 2200.

The report will be a helpful planning guide for emergency management as well as for new development. And, the information will inform the CVRD how to make corresponding policy and regulatory changes, such as floodplain construction levels and setbacks.

The data will also help the CVRD predict how much flooding will occur and how long each flooding event will last.

“Sea level rise is coming whether we think it is or not and governments are being asked to act,” Alana Mullaly, the CVRD’s senior manager of the Regional Growth Strategy and sustainability, told Decafnation. “This will create a lot of hard conversations.”

With rising sea levels pouring over portions of our coastline, how close to the foreshore should building be allowed? Where should local governments put new infrastructure? How should local government manage its assets, such as parkland and archaeological sites? Who will pay for the restoration or relocation of assets?

Sea levels most certainly will have an effect on future land use planning.

“The CVRD may get a request to put a park here or a development there, but that property may be underwater in 20 years,” Mullaly said. “I’m thinking about the weighing of values that we, as a community, will need to do in dealing with climate change.”



To do this coastal flood mapping, the consultants will use LIDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) to survey land remotely and produce high resolution topographic contours. The province has already flown LIDAR equipment over our area to collect the raw survey data and the consultants will process the data for use in the development of hundreds of maps.

Right now, communities that do not have coastal flood mapping generally rely on the requirements set by the province, which are based on mapping from the 1970s and 1980s.

Those maps did not account for any sea level rise, and neither does the current CVRD floodplain bylaw.

But by professional code, once engineers know something they have to consider it, and they have been taking sea level rise into account based on limited information. This report will give engineers richer local data.

Coastal flood mapping will put the CVRD in compliance with the Coastal Food Hazard Guideline, which is the main resource for engineers designing construction projects.



After the report is delivered by March 31 next year, the CVRD will hold public engagement events to inform citizens of its findings, which will ultimately lead to
recommendations for bylaws and other relevant regulations and guidelines.

“Sometimes it has been difficult for citizens to pinpoint the source or motivation when government rules change,” Mullaly said. “This won’t be one of them. This is not an arbitrary change. Sea level rise is coming.”



The provincial government’s official prediction for sea level rise is a half-metre by 2050, one metre (just over three feet) by 2100 and two metres (about 6.5 feet) by 2200.

But that’s too low by at least half, according to recent scientific studies and the consulting engineers who did a similar mapping project for the City of Campbell River.

Northwest Hydraulic Consultants told Campbell River that the province’s projection “might be conservative.” One of the firm’s engineers, Grant Lamont, said it depends on future greenhouse gas emissions and how quickly ocean warming expands.

The loss of polar ice will accelerate in the second half of the century, Lamont said, and force people to cope with larger changes in shorter periods of time.

He recommended planning for two metres of sea level rise by 2100, as the states of California and New York have done.

Campbell River’s report suggests flooding will threaten downtown streets and buildings, and that local governments purchase coastal properties and turn them into pre-flooded parkland.








There will be 13 million climate refugees in the United States by 2100. This report tells the story of a Lousiana town being relocated before sea level rise makes it uninhabitable. It portends to be the first of many retreats for existing coastlines.

The tiny village of Newtok near Alaska’s western coast has been sliding into the Ninglick River for years. As temperatures increase — faster there than in the rest of the U.S. — the frozen permafrost underneath Newtok is thawing. Now, in an unprecedented test case, Newtok wants the federal government to declare these mounting impacts of climate change an official disaster. Villagers say it’s their last shot at unlocking the tens of millions of dollars needed to relocate the entire community.



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