The public comment period on a proposed water use plan for the Cheakamus River closed on Tuesday, Sept. 21, but not before a group of motivated anglers, recreational boaters and other concerned citizens took the opportunity to make their point.
According to Dave Brown of the Whistler Angling Club, he knows of up to 40 other people who submitted letters that were opposed to the water use plan, which would see B.C. Hydro reduce outflow from the Daisy Lake Dam into the Cheakamus River by up to 80 per cent from April to October. Brown says that would severely affect everything downstream of the dam, from fish populations to recreational opportunities.
"Im encouraged by the number of letters weve seen so far, and were still encouraging people to write letters even though the deadline is past," said Brown.
The letters are now in the hands of Pieter Bekker, the Deputy Comptroller for Water Rights and Land and Water B.C., who will consider the input before making a decision. He does not yet know how many letters he has received or what percentage is for or against the B.C. Hydro plan, but he says its less than a hundred letters at this point.
"We review them and we look to see if there is new information, or new issues that we werent aware of and that we need to consider before issuing a decision," said Bekker. "And if there are new issues raised and if there is information that we feel we need to have before making a decision, we need to go out and get that."
Bekker says opinions dont matter at this point, and only facts are relevant to the process.
The source of the letters will be considered, especially if the source has a direct stake in the decision as an owner of a riparian area or the holder of a valid or pending water license.
Guiding companies that take anglers and boaters on the water may have some weight in the process if they have tenures to use the Cheakamus River.
The timeframe for a decision will depend on whether Land and Water B.C. feels they have enough information to make a decision. "The sooner, the better, but the decision may be that we need more information to make a decision," said Bekker.
If the information is in order, he added, a decision could be made within months.
According to B.C. Hydro, their controversial water use plan is not set in stone, but will be open to changes and modifications.
"I want to emphasize that within the plan itself there is a monitoring program that identifies ongoing studies that may be necessary if it is approved by the comptroller and implemented, we know there will be a monitoring program in place as well as a review period," said Charlotte Benister, the public relations co-ordinator for B.C. Hydro.