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  • Gayle Baker

A Conversation with Your Local Community Commissioners About Air Quality, Sludge, and Worker Housing

October 13

Ten gathered for a conversation with our Electoral Director, Gary Holman, and Local Commissioners Brian Webster, Earl Rook, and Gayle Baker. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, a participant began by asking what was actually happening with reconciliation on Salt Spring. We learned from Gary that local governments are legally obligated to consult with First Nations on projects and initiatives. There have been a number of local opportunities for engagement, recently including the North Ganges Transportation Project on Rainbow and Lower Ganges Roads and the under-discussion Islands Trust Bylaw 530 proposing to legalize accessory dwelling units. First Nations engagement will also be undertaken regarding our proposed HarbourWalk.


Gary reminded us that First Nations are being barraged by requests for engagement and are have very limited capacity to address all requests for collaboration. He also noted that the BC courts have recently been acknowledging First Nations’ rights in a number of court cases.


The first question to Local Commissioners concerned the LCC’s mandate to address air quality. We learned that Salt Spring has three air quality monitors, called Purple Monitors (https://www2.purpleair.com/?campaignname=Pmax-new&adgroupid=&creative=&matchtype=&network=x&device=c&keyword=&gclid=CjwKCAjw-KipBhBtEiwAWjgwrMtJ2wfTGkiJ-3xE5Ly2o8bPauWVlYB3eLiA0rFOAKTnd7LZdmzGvhoCo20QAvD_BwE). While this participant promised get the locations of these monitors as well as who is collecting the data, it appears from the map that at least one Salt Spring location is currently being monitored: (https://map.purpleair.com/1/mAQI/a10/p604800/cC0?select=138100#6.31/50.173/-124.714).


A few participants recommended collecting Salt Spring air quality information as a baseline for future actions. At a cost of just over $200, it was suggested that it might make sense to install more monitors as well as developing a consistent system of reporting this data and comparing it with other jurisdictions. It was unclear whether volunteers from local nonprofits or government should do this suggested monitoring and data analysis. One participant, a relatively recent arrival from the lower mainland, remarked that Salt Spring air quality is better than that of his former community.

What could the Local Community Commission (LCC) do to improve air quality? It was agreed that, as a last resort, the LCC could, theoretically, try to get CRD Board approval to seek authority from the province to pass bylaws prohibiting certain actions determined to harm our air quality, like open burning of yard waste and wood stove home heating. It was also agreed that regulation and prohibition should only be considered after many other incentives and options had been put into place to encourage voluntary reductions. Some examples already in place are:

  1. Transition Salt Spring (TSS) has a wood stove replacement program offering rebates to replace old, inefficient wood stoves with new, more efficient ones: (https://transitionsaltspring.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Eblast-TSS-Newsletter-April-2022.pdf).

  2. It also matters how you use your wood stove. Burning dry wood very hot is significantly less damaging (and dangerous) than slow burning of wet wood (or other garbage you may be tempted to add to your fire).

  3. CRD has recently amended its building code to achieve its Zero Carbon building goals (https://www.cagbc.org/our-work/certification/zero-carbon-building-standard/). While Bylaw 4564 (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/building-inspection-pdf/bylawno.4564.pdf?sfvrsn=c2ede4ce_1) While multi-faceted, of special interest to participants was the regulation that new homes are not allowed to use fossil fuel as its main source of heating, requiring electric heat instead. While wood stoves are not banned by this new bylaw, they are intended to be used only as supplementary heat, especially during outages and other severe weather conditions.

  4. Provincial regulations regarding outdoor burning are becoming more and more restrictive. Some funding is available from the province for Fire Smart initiatives, including chipping. Using this potential funding, local communities have a role to play to establish alternatives.Our CRD Emergency To date, CRD has helped secure funding for our Fire District to help fund chipping opportunities for homeowners. Some farms are also being offered matching funds through the province to purchase their own chippers. However, it was generally agreed that the great need for convenient chipping for yard waste far exceeds our current capacity. Gary will confirm a report that one farm has purchased a large, commercial chipper that could be available on a fee for service basis. As our long-awaited composter at Burgoyne Valley Farm nears operationalization, the need for wood chips as feedstock for this facility creates synergistic possibilities. Stay tuned.

  5. While the LCC currently has no authority regarding burning regulations, it does have responsibility for services that do impact air quality like the Transportation and Transit service. This service funds the buses and pathways that support folks to leave their cars at home by walking or using the bus to get to their destination. A participant expressed strong disappointment with our bus system, especially the discomfort of being tossed around in poorly-maintained buses on poorly-maintained roads. Although it was announced that Salt Spring would receive nearly-new replacement buses in April 2023, Local Commissioners realized at this gathering that they were not sure that all these buses arrived. They will get this information as well as endeavouring to understand why BC transit is now charging $60,000 more each year for the lease and maintenance of our buses.

Switching gears, a participant wanted to discuss three issues: Portlock Park, our liquid waste, and worker housing. Concerning Portlock Park, he expressed deep gratitude to Local Commissioner, Ben Corno, for his work collaborating with park users to develop a solution that works for all.


This participant told us that it was his high priority to finally use our Burgoyne Valley facility as it was intended rather than paying hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to truck the largely liquid septage and sludge off-island for further treatment and disposal. We learned that the LCC received the Analysis for Wastewater Treatment at the Burgoyne Septage Facility at its August 22, 2023 meeting: (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/committeedocuments/salt-spring-island-local-community-commission/20230822/2023-08-22agenda.pdf?sfvrsn=f65908ce_12). Sorry, folks. . .it is a very long agenda and you will have scroll down a bit for the presentation and nearly halfway down for the actual study.


The LCC supported the recommended option in this report to dewater the majority of our septage and sludge as well as exploring thermal processing of the remaining solids to create biochar. While some questions still need to be answered, and detailed designs and costing completed, Salt Springers will soon be receiving information about the recommended option and, ultimately, asked for their support to borrow the estimated $2 million to implement these recommended options. The good news about this proposed borrowing is that the current costs of trucking our waste off island (approximately $600,000 each year) will be significantly reduced with this more efficient process, allowing rapid repayment of this loan as well as significantly reducing future taxpayer and user costs.


Discussion of the third priority of this participant - worker housing - took much of our remaining time together. This participant was frustrated by the seeming lack of progress addressing our clear need for worker housing. Acknowledging that a significant number of housing units have been created that range from shelter and subsidized rates to market-priced rentals, many our housing workers, the need for worker housing is still an extremely serious gap in our community.


Despite progress with the Dragonfly Commons proposed affordable purchased housing (https://dragonflycommons.com/), the Hospital Foundation housing at the Seabreeze Inne, Salt Spring Solutions’ work as a housing information source (https://saltspringsolutions.com/housing/) and the renewed focus of the Housing Council (https://saltspringhousing.ca/) upon worker housing, this participant was frustrated that too little seems to be happening to create worker housing.


This participant asked why we couldn’t build worker housing on a number of PARC lands acquired from developers seeking to subdivide their properties. As property owned by our community, he did not understand why CRD couldn’t simply build and manage housing on these properties. He was told that a referendum would be required to sell those properties and that they would have to be sold at market value.

Local Commissioners spoke of their efforts to help create this worker housing:


  • With authority for the Economic Development service (allocated an estimated $95,000 annually), Local Commissioners have resolved that worker housing is Salt Spring’s number one economic development priority. They are committed to move housing initiatives forward with dispatch. To help with this objective, the LCC has directed staff to expand the Economic Development service bylaw to the limits allowed by the provincial Local Government Act. Local Commissioners expect a report this fall outlining recommendations for expanding the scope of this service.

  • Local Commissioners will convene a meeting of Capital Region Housing Corporation managers and local leaders this fall to determine next steps.

  • Local Commissioners are also meeting with the Southern Gulf Islands Tourism Partnership (SGITP) (https://southerngulfislands.com/about-us/), the recipient of the 2% accommodation tax, an annual sum in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to explore using significantly more of this funding for worker housing. The SGITP has already made some significant funding commitments for affordable housing, such as support for Salt Spring’s new landlord-tenant matching service, Housing Now Registry, (https://www.sgicommunityresources.ca/housing-now-home/) and a commitment for ongoing funding to the CRD rural housing program.

  • The LCC is also awaiting with interest the CRD Board's fall 2023 discussion of the implementation of the CRD rural housing program that could include dedicated funding, a coordinator, and incentives for development of affordable suites.


And, hopefully this is just the beginning of the LCC efforts to take a major role leading our efforts to create desperately-needed worker housing for our community.

As we prepared to leave, several participants acknowledged their pleasure with the LCC accomplishments so far as well as an appreciation of the enormous amount of work required of our Local Commissioners. (Thanks Gary, Ben, Earl, Brian, and . . . Gayle!)

Would you like to learn more about BC Ferries from CEO Nicholas Jimenez? Please join us this Friday, October 20, 11-1, at the Lions Hall to welcome him, ask him questions, and listen to those of others.


What would you like to ask him?

  • How will BC Ferries combat the recent system-wide staff shortages?

  • What other factors contributed to recent service disruptions?

  • Do you predict 2024 BC Ferry challenges will be as severe?

  • Concerning Salt Spring, what do you hope to accomplish in 2024, and how will you proceed?

  • What do you see as the biggest challenges for BC Ferries in the next few years?

  • How will you address them?

  • And?

Please join us this Friday, October 20, 11-1 at the Lions Hall to Talk BC Ferries!


Big News:

ASK Salt Spring now has ongoing funding! A heartfelt THANK-YOU to the Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA) and its Executive Director, Peter Allen !!!


***New fundraising option***

You can now give the Return It change you earn from your bottles to ASK Salt Spring: Account #230.


Any questions, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com


Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings,

monthly schedule of upcoming gatherings? Asksaltspring.com.

Want to listen to interviews of our special guests?ASK Salt Spring Answered

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


Our Partners. . . .

Institute for Sustainability, Education, and Action (I-SEA), Country Grocer through Save-a-Tape and Gift Cards and Island Savings' Simple Generosity grant.

A heartfelt Thank-You!



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