Watershed protection debated by Nanaimo council

NANAIMO – City staff members will look into procurement of the watershed as part of a new report to council.

Nanaimo will look into better protection of its watershed.

City council has called for a staff report that explores a strategy around better protection of the watershed in consultation with the regional district, as well as possible procurement.

Council began talk about establishing a new board to oversee the watershed in March and asked staff members to look into how the new body would be formed. A city report presented Monday, however, suggests councillors carry on with support for initiatives that already exist, including the regional district’s Drinking Water Watershed Protection program.

While councillors agreed to the ongoing support, they also asked for a report outlining issues for a strategy to protect and procure the watershed in a 6-2 vote.

Coun. Gord Fuller and Mayor Bill McKay were the only politicians opposed to the report. Fuller was prepared to pitch the creation of a water board, while McKay took issue with the idea of procurement, pointing out that the city has spent $140 million on water and has been told the watershed has a value of $400 million. He cannot vote in favour until there’s a conversation with the community, he said.

But Coun. Wendy Pratt said exploration and steps are needed and there could be alternatives to spending money, like a land swap.

“I just want to start the conversation. I want to start gathering the possibilities around this and see what we can do,” she said. “We might come to the final decision that it is not within our reach right now to do anything, but we might find some creative solutions to some of the issues.

“Personally, I think we need to start somewhere.”

Coun. Diane Brennan was absent from the meeting.