Draining a Wetland
Save the wetlands and then we can think about saving the entire earth.
In 2018, the Insurance Bureau of Canada called for “urgent action” when it comes to preserving Canada’s wetlands as a way of limiting flood risk!
So why do we see attempts to drain this local wetland in October 2022?
Is this OK?
“Hotel Creek” originates on the north side of Hotel Lake and meanders northward on its course towards Mixal Lake. Hotel Creek is approximately 1.3 km long and along its course it passes under Irvines Landing Road and later under Camp Burley Road. Hotel Creek is also fed by several tributaries labeled on SCRD maps as “Hotel Creek Tributaries”. Hotel Creek and its tributaries contribute water to several designated wetland areas along its course; both the creek, its tributaries and wetlands are designated as protected under BC's Riparian Areas Protection Regulation (RAPR), as well as by certain SCRD permit requirements, that will appear below.
The northernmost Hotel Creek Tributary drains high terrain to the west and downstream, it spreads out into a fine and beautiful wetland of exceptional importance to the natural environment and the wildlife that live there. Located just south of Camp Burley Road, the expansive low-point of this wetland can be characterized as a shallow lake which, despite the long fall drought of 2022, did not dry up completely. At the south end of this wetland lake is an exit which is the continuance of the tributary to the point where it meets Hotel Creek flowing northward towards Mixal Lake.
During the 3rd week of October, 2022, local residents on Camp Burley Road were alarmed to see heavy machinery digging a trench along the Hotel Creek water course. Into that trench was laid large sections of “plastic” culvert-pipe. The pipe was then covered with rock and gravel.
Local residents realized that this work had destroyed a section of natural creek and altered a wetland-lake water depth and shoreline. Local residents also knew both the creek and the associated wetlands were protected areas in which unauthorized development or the alteration of of a watercourse or wetland were not permitted without first conducting studies and obtaining necessary permits.
The local residents contacted the SCRD bylaw office and shortly thereafter bylaw officers issued an order to stop work. The details of that order and exactly which bylaw infractions were enforced are not known, but the local residents were pleased that the work did actually stop and the heavy machinery was removed.
Shortly after the bylaw officers left the site, workers were observed moving sandbags in and around the intake area of the newly installed culvert. Residents are worried that if the sandbags are removed the wetland and its lake would be completely drained. Local residents estimate the wetland-lake level dropped about “20 centimetres” during the course of the work before the pipe entrance was sandbagged off, slowing the runoff to a trickle.
The exact details of the bylaw officer intervention and who carried out the sandbagging remain unknown, however local residents indicate they will not be happy until there is a “full restoration including the removal of the culvert, crushed rocks and the fine gravel.”
The local wildlife would be radically affected by a serious drop in lake and creek water levels with a consequent loss of natural habitat and because they cannot speak for themselves, the local residents have made a point of doing so by listing some of these natural neighbours so that they are at least acknowledged. This is just a short list; there are many more: herons, turtles, sticklebacks, vast numbers of frogs, beaver, Red-winged Blackbird, Cowbirds, Roosevelt Elk (in transit), even a pair of wolves, etc.
This unauthorized alteration of a wetland-lake begs the question: do we live in the “wild west” or do we live in a regional district community which values the environment, has an up to date Official Community Plan and strives to protect it while overseeing development? The answer is really up to you to discover in the section below:
The following guidelines are taken directly from the SCRD website at:
Planning on developing your property? Near a creek , shoreline or in a hazardous area? You may need a development permit.
If your property is located within one or more Development Permit Areas, you may need a Development Permit before obtaining your building permit or subdivision preliminary layout acceptance. To find out if a property is in a DPA, download a Property Report for a specific address or PID.
Development Permit Areas (DPAs) and the corresponding requirements are outlined in each electoral area's Official Community Plan. DPAs serve various purposes including:
Protecting the natural environment, such as creek or shoreline areas
Ensuring development considers hazardous site conditions, such as steep slopes, rockfall or flooding
Ensuring the form and character of commercial, industrial, or multi-family development follows relevant design guidelines.
As there are some exceptions, staff help determine if you need a DP.
In most Development Permit Areas, a permit is required before any land alteration begins. Commencing work without a permit is subject to doubled permit fees, added process, extended project timelines and bylaw enforcement action.
RIPARIAN DEVELOPMENT PERMIT. SSCRD’s Development Permit for Riparian Areas assists property owners in meeting the obligations of BC's Riparian Areas Protection Regulation (RAPR) . If development is proposed within 30m of a watercourse (creek, lake, wetland, pond or other freshwater) on private property, please contact planning staff to discuss.
A Development Permit for Riparian Assessment includes a report completed by a Qualified Environmental Professional, who follow the provincial Riparian Areas Regulation after a site visit and evaluation of your proposal. The riparian report is submitted to the Province for review and decision, as well included in the Development Permit application submitted to SCRD for review."
To learn more about the subject of Wetlands and the science behind efforts to save them, we encourage you to visit our "Wetlands" in the "About Hotel Lake" section of our website.