TimberWest has forest operations in many watersheds on the BC Coast. Over the last century, many of our working forests have become drinking watersheds as demand for water has increased with nearby population growth. TimberWest continues to manage these forests for timber products while safeguarding water quality within its operations. A suite of Federal and Provincial regulations, along with decades of experience, have resulted in the tools and knowledge that ensure forest harvesting activities respect water quality as a top priority.
Regulations Related to Water:
- Federal Fisheries Act
- Water Act
- Drinking Water Protection Act
- Fish Protection Act
- Private Managed Forest Land Regulation (Private)
- Forest and Range Practices Act (Crown)
Managing for water quality starts with a broad understanding of the watershed system. TimberWest conducts ongoing assessments to help understand the hydrology of the watershed in order to guide our activities in pursuit of excellent water quality over a long term planning horizon.
We apply our forest hydrology knowledge through several tools to keep sediment out of streams in our forest operations. Detailed terrain stability assessments are completed during the planning process; Professional Foresters carefully consider road and harvest location, stream riparian, and soil sensitivity in their harvest plans; and field crews and equipment operators are trained to ensure our Environmental Management System processes for onsite environmental management are implemented. Additional experts are consulted to assist in unique situations. To follow up and ensure our plans are carried out successfully, we formally inspect all of our completed harvest areas and use specialists to conduct ongoing monitoring of water quality throughout our operations.
In addition to planning our harvest areas, we are also constantly upgrading our infrastructure throughout the working forest to ensure it meets our standards for safety and protection of the environment. For example, we continually upgrade bridges and culverts, resurface or redirect roads, and deploy sediment management techniques such as cross drainage, sediment traps and rock armouring.
These infrastructure upgrade and maintenance techniques enable TimberWest to proactively prepare for major storm events and climate change. Extreme storm events result in the natural geological processes associated with transporting sediment from mountain top to lower valley water bodies. In these rare storm events that transport a lot of sediment, we work with our partners to determine the source, whether or not it was related to any particular human activity, and if remediation is possible. Significant rainfall and/or snowmelt can naturally generate sediment by causing landslides or forming new stream channels. One in 50 year storm events, like those that occurred through December 2014 and early January 2015, can also cause reservoirs to reach extremely high levels and stream flow rates that move sediment into water intakes. Banks and stream channels can be eroded, regardless of human activity in the area, and deposited downstream in slower moving water (such as a lake). These “flash” situations usually clear up quickly as the storm passes.
TimberWest and water providers work proactively together on a regular basis. We maintain transparent communication on our activities and support the water providers in their role in the watershed. See our news blog post on the Corporate Citizen’s Award we received in 2014 for our work with the Shawnigan Lake Round Table. We are partners in drinking watersheds.
Local water providers are prepared for these events. They have the controls in place to monitor the sediment in the water and determine the effectiveness of their treatment. If sediment amounts in the water reach a certain level drinking water providers must recommend boiling the water until the system is clear again. The sediment level for triggering a boil water advisory is a metric of 1 NTU (a measure of the amount of particulates or sediment in the water). Such a measure of sediment in water is not visible to the eye, but is used as a “zero risk” precaution by Island Health to ensure the health of the community.
TimberWest values community partnerships, and takes many measures to ensure water quality is maintained. Communities in BC can continue to enjoy water direct from the mountains in their community while at the same time experiencing the benefit of a renewable forest industry to support local economies.