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Streamkeepers worried about changed rules for creeks in Township

Worries that streams could become vulnerable to nearby development
Laura Pandolfo clearing invasive species. Pandolfo and other local environmentalists and streamkeepers are concerned about proposed changes to a bylaw around stream classification and protection. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Proposed changes to Langley Township’s streamside development and classification rules are drawing the ire of local environmentalists.

At a public hearing on Monday, March 13, a number of locals, including members of several local environmental and streamkeeping groups, called on the council to scrap or reform the planned amendments.

“I ask why are these changes deemed necessary, and what are the motivations for them?” said Marlee St. Pierre, one of the first speakers.

Some of the changes repeatedly singled out by the speakers included a change that would appear to allow “qualified professionals” to make determinations on how watercourses are classified.

Streams in B.C. have an A, B, or C designation, with A streams being salmon-bearing all year, B streams being salmon-bearing part of the year, and C streams are not salmon bearing, but may or may not provide water and nutrients to salmon-bearing streams further downstream.

READ ALSO: Drought hampers salmon run, says Langley hatchery

Non-regulated class C streams require much less government oversight or approvals when development is taking place.

“The word ditch and brook are being dropped,” noted Nina Shaw of the Nicomekl Enhancement Society. She pointed out that the provincial riparian regulations do include ditches. “Ditches can be important habitat for salmon.”

The amended regulations say that a “qualified professional” can determine the classification of a watercourse, and that determination “shall be binding on the Township.”

Multiple speakers questioned what a “qualified professional” would be, why the term was changed from “qualified environmental professional,” and whether there wasn’t a conflict of interest in the fact that those experts would be hired by developers.

There were also concerns raised about whether the Township’s bylaws weren’t encroaching on provincial and federal laws.

Other environmentalists, like Laura Pandolfo of Climate Crisis Langley Action Partners (CCLAP) weren’t able to be at the meeting, but have been raising the issue online and writing to the Township.

“We definitely are opposed to these amendments,” she said.

There’s a climate and biodiversity crisis right now, Pandolfo said, and protecting streams has to be a priority.

The issue came up just as some streamkeepers have been asking questions about beaver dams that were punched through by Township staff in the Gloucester Industrial Park area.

Near the center of Gloucester, there is a wetland that has never been developed. Parts of the green space in the center of the area were originally intended to become a golf course, but that plan never came to fruition.

“This seems to have been a very aggressive de-watering,” said Lynn Lightfoot, who lives in the area, and also spoke at the public hearing.

She’s worried about the abrupt lowering of water levels in the area, which forms part of the headwaters of West Creek, at a time when birds and salmon are active in the local ecosystem.

Dave Beningfield recently created a drone-filmed video showing the area and highlighting its beaver dams and waterways.

Langley Township council will meet again on Monday, April 2, when it will debate the third reading of changes to the streamside regulations.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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