City considers new watershed board

Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition spokeswoman "delighted" with city decision to look into new water board.

City politicians will consider spearheading a new board to oversee Nanaimo’s watershed.

It’s a start, according to Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition spokeswoman June Ross.

Ross, and Paul Manly, federal candidate for the Green Party, expressed concern during a council meeting Monday about the lack of written agreement for city access to its watershed, private ownership and the potential to sell and develop the land in the future. Manly called for the city to work with First Nations, land owners and senior levels of government to start a process of making the community drinking watershed publicly owned and controlled, while Ross encouraged the establishment of a new board to govern and protect the area.

Nanaimo city councillors agreed on the importance of protecting the watershed and a new board, but debated just how soon to start one up and when stakeholders should be informed.

Coun. Bill Bestwick, who initially called for establishment of a board, pointed out someone has to spearhead and bring people together, and Coun. Jim Kipp said it’s a good idea and council should move ahead if it wants it.

But city manager Ted Swabey encouraged a meeting with the Snuneymuxw First Nation before a new board is entertained – action echoed by Coun. Diane Brennan who said the First Nation would likely want a leadership role rather than to just be informed.

“I agree entirely with councillor Kipp, this is an incredibly important thing to do and it needs to be done right and if we get off to the wrong foot, if we get off on the foot that insults our neighbours, that doesn’t take into account the high priority that other communities and other interests place on water, then we will have taken the last four or five years of relationship building … and thrown it out the window,” she said.

Councillors Wendy Pratt and Ian Thorpe called for time to consider how the board will be set up and who’ll sit around the table.

City council postponed a decision on a water board and called for a staff report with recommendations on how to form the new body. Ross said while not surprised, she is delighted and will monitor the situation to make sure if a board is set up, the community has a place at the table.

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