Janne Perrin (centre) looks over the map outlining the proposed Wildlife Management Area during a public information meeting held last week at Harrison Mills Community Hall.

Resistance mounting against management area

District and others strongly opposed to provincial interference

Resistance continues to build against a proposed Wildlife Management Area for the Harrison-Chehalis river and surrounding lands.

The District of Kent is most notably opposed to the plan to designate more than 1500 hectares as a WMA, a provincial government initiative that has been in the works since at least 1997. As recently as this January, the District informed the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources that they were not in support of the WMA designation, citing numerous concerns that such a designation will make their efforts at ditch maintenance and river management even more difficult. And now, an open house held last Friday, which kicked off a 45-day consultation process, has done little to quell the worries of detractors of the initiative. The government has seemed to ire people right off the bat, with short notice for the important meeting. “The notice was very short,” Councillor Lorne Fisher said at this Tuesday’s council meeting. A letter was sent on Oct. 25 from Jeff Juthans, the regional initiatives officer in charge of the project, for the Nov. 7 meeting.  “And it seemed to be selected, who knew about it. It was mostly supporters (in attendance),” said Fisher, who attended the open house at the Harrison Mills Community Hall.  One woman at that open house spoke angrily to Juthans, stating that Chief Andy Phillips of the Scowlitz First Nation was not informed of the meeting. Phillips was away this week, and did respond to a request for an interview by The Observer. However, the map includes land that abuts Scowlitz reserve, and includes a beach area that the woman stated is Scowlitz land. Another woman who asked not to be named said that the people of Harrison Mills are frustrated with the water that seeps into their land. “We were the canary in the coal mine,” she said, when they stopped dredging the Fraser River regularly. “But we are a small but powerful community.” The District of Kent’s main concern will be the level of control that the provincial government will have over any activities in a WMA, if it were to be put into effect. Most concerning for the District of Kent, and those who live on the land abutting the Harrison and Fraser confluence, is river maintenance. “If we can’t dredge the river, our feet get wet every spring,” Fisher said. In the letter sent to Juthans in January, Mayor John Van Laerhoven stated “the District’s primary concern is the additional regulatory requirements that may result from the Harrison-Chehalis WMA designation, which may further obstruct our ability to conduct regular drainage and dyke maintenance operations.” He underlined that the District’s “annual drainage maintenance program is already significantly compromised due to excessive environmental permitting requirements.” Resident and Rod and Gun Club member Kelvin Scott said the community rallied against the proposal in 2002, for the same reasons. “If this proposal is allowed to proceed, what will be the effects to current and future community planning, lifestyles, privileges of land usage, zoning developments, user groups and compliance issues?” he asked council on Tuesday. At the open house, Juthans conceded that discussions between local government, First Nations bands and the province have not been positive in the past. “I admit that historically, relationships have been difficult,” Juthans said. But he said the WMA is meant to give everyone “shared stewardship” as the province writes a management plan for the area. “Anyone will tell you this is a special area,” he said. Well known biologist David Hancock attended the open house, and said the Harrison is the “most important river in Canada.” He said the idea of taking gravel out the rivers to mitigate flooding “are only the words of someone wanting to take gravel out. There’s enough gravel. They don’t need it from here.”Next week, a special event will take place to designate the Harrison River as a Salmon Stronghold. The Harrison Chehalis flats have already been named a preserve area, through the help of Hancock’s Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society. Signage is being put up through the area to remind people to stay off the flats, and a large group of locals are going through interpretive training, so they can pass knowledge along to visitors. The 45 day consultation process ends on Dec. 21. Individual written submissions related to the WMA should be sent to Jeff.Juthans@gov.bc.ca. Council and staff are hoping that many people will take the time to write in, to again defeat the WMA. Scott echoed that feeling. “The clock’s ticking hard on us,” he said.

Just Posted

UPDATE: Fuel truck hits train in Port Coquitlam, causing massive fire

CP Rail reporting no injuries, driver of truck is safe.

UPDATE: Pioneer Ave filming to include snow effects, stunt driving and fire arms

Pioneer Avenue to be backdrop for scenes set in 1950s

UPDATE: Rockslide keeps Coquihalla northbound lane closed

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

UPDATE: Brother of teen killed by stray bullet in Vancouver says the death left a void

Alfred Wong, 15, was gunned down while on his way home from dinner with his family

UPDATE: Wind warning ends for Metro Vancouver after thousands lose power

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

Week in Review – January 19

Movie filming, water upgrades and more

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Man lives despite malfunctioning defibrillator at B.C. arena

A middle-aged man went into cardiac arrest after at game at Pitt Meadows Arena last Wednesday.

Cause of Northern B.C. seaplane crash released

TSB releases report on seaplane crash during a water landing in 2016 near First Nations community

Vancouver police crack down on pop-up pot vendors

Officers raided merchants’ tables on Robson Square late Sunday

Bell Media, NFL take appeal over Super Bowl ad rules to top court

At issue is a ban on substituting American ads with Canadian ones during the game’s broadcast

Crown seeks 4.5 years jail for B.C. woman convicted of counselling tax evasion

Debbie Anderson the latest from group to face jail for teaching debunked ‘natural person’ theory

Movie filmed in Castlegar B.C. opens Friday

Hollow in the Land starring Dianna Agron will be playing in select cinemas.

Semi rollover on Highway 3

Highway 3 is reduced to single-alternating lanes

Most Read