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Water governance questions raised as RDN works on strategic plan

Regional District of Nanaimo directors creating strategic plan for their current term
Regional District of Nanaimo’s administration building on Hammond Bay Road in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)

Questions about water governance were raised as Regional District of Nanaimo directors plot out their latest strategic plan.

The 2023-26 strategic plan, a “high-level” document, will inform RDN decisions. A draft was presented in July and the conversation continued at the Sept. 11 committee of the whole meeting, with Brian Carruthers of BD Carruthers and Associates, a consultant assisting with the plan, on hand to answer questions.

Lehann Wallace, French Creek director, said language related to collaborating on water security needed amending. Considering drought, fragmentation of water sources and multiple improvement districts competing with municipalities for water sources, she wants to explore alternative governance structures.

“The Cowichan Valley Regional District board, they have a watershed management board,” said Wallace. “They co-chair that board with the First Nations and regional district [chairperson], and they have an actual business plan as to what the priorities of that board are and it is a regional exercise … it’s more of a regional governance model for the issue of water supply and water security.”

Carruthers said Wallace’s comments were “indicative of the complexity of water governance,” but developing a governance structure dealing with all stakeholders, including improvement districts, is inherently difficult.

“You actually have a service that allows you to do a lot more than most regional districts do in terms of studying your water, understanding the water resources that you have,” the consultant said. “If this is a road the [RDN] wants to go down around watershed governance, I can tell you it’s a big piece of work. It’s complicated, it’s going to take time, you have multiple jurisdictions around the table.”

Carruthers also said he understood Wallace’s concerns, stating that profound water issues, particularly on the south Island, require organizations to have more say on what happens.

“If this is something the board wants to explore, you need to task your staff with doing some research and bringing some scenarios forward…” he said. “What you’ve got in your plan is reflective of what you can currently do in terms of a board and if you want to do more, I think you need to be explicit about that and advancing that through your strategic plan.”

In addition to water security, the strategic plan also focuses on protection of vital lands and ecosystems, managing impacts of climate change, planning and managing for growth, and more.

Directors voted to have a report brought to the Sept. 26 board meeting, reflecting the discussion from the Sept. 11 meeting.

Carruthers held a series of workshops with RDN directors in July to aid them in formation of the strategic plan.

READ ALSO: RDN sees below-average water levels in several aquifers

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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