Residents of the Chilliwack River Valley are expressing concern about a bulk-water extraction proposal for an agricultural property on Chilliwack Lake Road.
A standing-room only crowd of about 110 residents turned out to the public meeting held by the applicant at the Chilliwack Fish and Game Club on Feb. 21.
The water-filling station is proposed as a “non-farm use” at 56555 Chilliwack Road, by applicant Wilf Krickhan of Larson Farms.
“Implementation of the proposed project will generate resources required to initiate a revitalization of the agricultural and food production capability of Larson Farms,” according to an info board posted at the meeting.
The automated water extraction would pump water from the unconfined aquifer that covers the bottom of the Upper Chilliwack and be trucked away from the site in tankers.
The purpose of the Feb. 21 meeting was to: “share information and plans about the proposed development and receive input from the community,” according to a flyer sent to residents.
But the applicant also told attendees the meeting was just a “courtesy,” and that he was not required to hold it.
Some attendees said they were concerned about the precedent-setting aspect of a 30-year water extraction licence.
Opposition to the proposal also touched on long-term groundwater capacity, sustainability, tanker truck traffic, climate change, aquifer protection, and issues with the commercialization of water in general.
Audience members asked “Where is the water going?” and the applicant’s Environmental Farm Plan advisor replied, “that’s an excellent question, it’s going to people who want good, high quality water”…and some of the crowd erupted in laughter.
“The answer is, it’s not going to Saudi Arabia.”
The applicant was asked if he had a business plan. The response was no.
There was also some confusion about who “owns” the water. The applicant stated at one point said he did, while in fact it is the Province of BC, according to a consultant.
An online petition started by the CRV Waterkeepers had hundreds of signatures by Tuesday, and organizers felt heartened by the big turnout at the Feb. 21 meeting.
“We love this valley and want to protect its water in perpetuity,” reads the petition explanation. “We’re opposed to this application. Why?”
Commercialization of water, mainly.
“Climate change demands we start putting protection over profits,” wrote the Waterkeepers. “We are asking the Fraser Valley Regional District Directors to reject this application, and commit to true stewardship for our area water going forward.”
By Wednesday afternoon, a total of 835 people had signed the Change.org petition.
Amanda Den Braber said the reaction to the applicant’s pitch to residents on Feb. 21 was not a positive one at all, and many said they would be writing letters to FVRD. Some attendees said they were accused of being NIMBYs because they had serious concerns.
“My main concern is our water levels for the long-term,” said Den Braber. “I do not want to support transporting water as this has such a negative impact on our planet.”
Resident Richard Holmes wrote a letter to FVRD enumerating his concerns after the meeting, underlining that while the applicant was a sole proprietor “the risks are to the whole community.”
”The world absolutely does not need more plastic bottles,” wrote Holmes.
He also noted concerns about truck traffic on the road, water sustainability, long-term supply implications, communal rights to water.
“The whole notion of stewardship was absent,” Holmes added. “The line of accountability for such a project is neither clear nor transparent.”
Holmes concluded that the “absence of a detailed business plan” was “very troubling,” as was “the cavalier attitude he demonstrated towards it.”
“The bulk water filling station will provide a reliable and sustainable supply of high quality drinking water for citizens of British Columbia without impacting existing and future users of the water resource in this watershed,” according to one of the info boards at the meeting.
The estimated future groundwater withdrawal rate at 180,000 m3/year represents:
• 0.4 cent of the estimated annual volume of groundwater flowing down valley across the site
• 0.07 per cent of low flow of the Chilliwack River
A hydrologist’s report, based on a three-day window of testing in 2016, stated there was enough water to sustain the water extraction.
“Groundwater pumping at recommended flow rate is not expected to have any significant impact on aquifer water levels or Chilliwack River water levels and existing diversion licenses,” according to the background provided.
To offer feedback on the non-farm use application as a FVRD resident, fill out a feedback form