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Irrepressible Howe Sound

An enigmatic fjord swirling with the after-effects of industrial activity and shining with remarkable comebacks of nature



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Project manager Derek Holmes says Burnco is engaging in a provincial and federal harmonized environmental assessment review, and as for addressing pollution concerns, Holmes says the company aims to reduce its impact on nearby streams.

"Streamside protection is really well-defined in the province and has been for many years, and all projects, whether they are gravel, urban development projects or otherwise, need to adhere to a strict set of guidelines set forth by DFO," he said.

"The mining and gravel business in particular, are quite good at doing that now, and we accomplish that through set-backs and project design elements like berms and barriers from the streams."

FHSS urged citizens from the region and beyond to weigh in on the public comment process, which ended in February this year. The project is still awaiting a decision from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

A new chapter

Gau says that efforts to clean up the sound have started to pay dividends, but FHSS recognizes that this recovery is at a fragile stage and needs protection from future abuse and inappropriate land use.

"To do this effectively, a water and land use plan driven by all levels of government and in concert with surrounding communities needs to be developed," he says.

The lack of such a plan is a risk to the economy, states Gau, adding that tourism is a significant revenue, tax and job generator in the B.C. economy, contributing $13.8 billion in revenue.

"There is much potential in Howe Sound to continue to grow the tourism industry with significant economic multipliers that could accrue to the local economy."

Meanwhile Buchanan says he likes the direction that Howe Sound is going in terms of its recovery, but points out it is a work in progress.

"It's an oil spill in the middle of a recovery," he says by way of illustration.

His wish?

To see the public have more respect for the waters.

He adds that he has heard it said before that if Howe Sound was in any other part of the world it would be a national treasure, and the entire sound would be made a marine park.

Not that he promotes that idea.

"I come from an industrial background," he says. "Industry puts food on my table. I don't want to be a Not-in-My-Back-Yard person."

He believes a managed reserve is the way of the future.

"Let's welcome industry, but let's do it right this time — let's not have a re-make of Woodfibre, Britannia Mine and the acid mine drainage, or Hooker Chemicals and the 40 tonnes of mercury they lost in only a three-year period."

To learn more on the current issues facing Howe Sound, visit futureofhowesound.org.