Domestic Water-User Input in Forest Development Planning in the Nelson Forest Region
In August 1996, the Slocan Valley Watershed Alliance (the Alliance), an advocacy group for water-users, filed a complaint with the Forest Practices Board about the district manager’s approvals of operational plans in the Arrow Forest District. The Alliance asserted that the district manager should not have approved operational plans for at least 10 watersheds that supply domestic water because there had been no participation by water licensees in watershed assessments. A watershed assessment is an analytical procedure that helps forest managers anticipate water-related problems that may exist in a watershed. It identifies possible hydrological implications of proposed forestry-related development in a watershed.
The Alliance maintained that water licensees should have had the opportunity to participate in watershed assessments, regardless of whether or not the watersheds were designated as “community watersheds” under the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act (the Act). The Board investigated the complaint and acknowledged that there was some basis for such an expectation. However, there was no legal requirement for water-user participation. Nevertheless, the Board concluded that the issue of protection of domestic water supplies remains important, so the Board decided to examine the opportunities available under the Act and related regulations (the Code) for domestic water-users to have input into operational planning. The Board’s report deals specifically with the Nelson Forest Region, where the complaint arose.