Canfor taps into Radium water quality concerns

Village of Radium Hot Springs does not believe that Canfor’s plans to work in the Forster Creek area will impact the water quality

The Village of Radium Hot Springs does not believe that Canfor’s plans to work in the Forster Creek area will impact the water quality in the community, according to chief administrative officer Mark Read.

“We have been closely involved with Canfor’s plans to operate within our watershed and we are satisfied with their operational plans and contingencies,” he explained by email. “Canfor has identified protection of the watershed as their primary policy, and this priority has guided the development of these operational and environmental protection plans.”

The Village of Radium Hot Springs has used Forster Creek as its primary source of drinking water since 1981 for approximately 800 year-round residents with up to 2,000 weekenders during the summer season.

As a result, the total raw water supplied in 2011 was 435 megalitres (1 megalitre equals one million litres).

Canfor has plans for forestry development over the next three years for summer, fall and winter harvesting as well as road building in the south and north portions of mid-Forster valley.

According to the Forster Creek Source Assessment report prepared for the Village of Radium Hot Springs, Forster Creek is a tributary to the Columbia River that enters from the west side of the Columbia Valley opposite Radium.

The Forster Creek watershed and source water areas has a 167 square-kilometre basin with sub-basins including Irish Creek, Welsh Creek, Upper Forster Creek and Forster Creek residual.

There is an emergency agreement between the Village of Radium Hot Springs and Parks Canada in place, which would allow Radium to alternately draw water from the Parks water system that supplies the hot springs facility in Kootenay National Park on the eastern side of town if it loses access to the Forster Creek water supply.

The Columbia River is being evaluated in a preliminary concept to be considered as an alternate water supply in the future.

“As plans are firmed up, updates will be provided through our detailed public consultation processes,” said Corinne Stavness, Canfor director of external affairs. “To date, Canfor has undertaken extensive consultation with local governments, stakeholders and the general public.”

Read added the proposed logging not only meets requirements, but could also benefit the popular recreation area in the future.

“The continuance of an active logging operation within the watershed will reduce the threat of wildfire,” he explained by email. “Simply allowing forest in-growth and increased fuel loading would only increase the threat of watershed devastation from wildfire.”

But there could be some unexpected challenges to cope with, he explained.

“We acknowledge that the area is a multi-use destination and we have actively involved ourselves in facilitating shared use of the area,” said Read. “We expect that logging will have an impact on the recreational uses, but exactly what those impacts may be are difficult to assess.

“For example, there may be beneficial impacts with the road being maintained further up the drainage, thereby reducing snowmobile travel distance to access the alpine. This shorter distance will certainly reduce wear and tear on the Windermere Snowmobile Association’s groomer.”

Canfor has confirmed that some existing roads will be upgraded and new sections of road will be constructed, but insists that they have met the requirements to operate in the area without hampering or hindering the water quality for residents in the Village of Radium.

“In terms of water quality, Canfor completed a Hydrogeomorphic Assessment (hydrological assessment) in October 2012 and shared information and strategies with the Village of Radium Hot Springs,” wrote Staveness by email. “Canfor also participated in the Village of Radium Forster Creek Source Assessment process as part of an anticipated Drinking Water Protection Act requirement. Road building and forestry operations will follow required assessments and professional recommendations to reduce the risk of any impacts to water quality and