Creek plan hits snag at Regional District of Nanaimo

Everyone agrees fish protection is a worthwhile objective

Director Bill Veenhof discusses a proposal to help the Nile Creek Enhancement Society.

Director Bill Veenhof discusses a proposal to help the Nile Creek Enhancement Society.

It can be frustrating when you sit on local government and really want to help, but red tape and bureaucracy stand in your way.

That frustration was expressed Tuesday night by some Regional District of Nanaimo directors as they debated a request from the Nile Creek Enhancement Society for assistance with their plan to restore a local waterway.

The society, which has established a successful hatchery program on nearby Nile Creek, requested that the board assist them with their push to do the same with Nash Creek by taking out a water license to allow them to do work in the creek.

Nash Creek and its tributary, Ridgewell Creek, explained engineer Wayne Moorman in a report to the board, have a reasonable run of cutthroat trout and Coho salmon, but the mouth becomes plugged every year with woody debris and gravel and sometimes minnows get trapped.

The society wants to build a 75-metre pipe to allow the fish to get past the debris, which they see as a far better solution than the current practice of volunteers trapping the minnows by hand and transporting them.

In detailing the report, general manager Paul Thorkelson said the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans used to obtain water licenses from the province and hold them for stream restoration groups, they recently stopped doing so. Because societies cannot be issued water licenses, the Nile Creek group wanted the RDN to take the license on their behalf. However, he said complying with the request would amount to “self-imposed downloading” of responsibility from more senior levels of government.

Nobody on the board disagreed with the objective of the request, but they found it wasn’t going to be an easy fix.

“To hold the water license on their behalf would require a new service area to be created for an authority which rests with the federal government,” Thorkelson said. “Staff at this point want to take a cooperative approach work with the group, the province and the federal government to hold the water license on their own, rather than the RDN getting into a process where we undertake responsibilities that are downloaded from the federal and provincial governments.”

This recommendation was moved by Deep Bay-Bowser director Bill Veenhof, who said he did so with mixed emotions.

“What pushed me to this recommendation was the need to open up a service area,” he said. “The solution is for the province to allow societies to hold water licenses.”

City of Parksville alternate director Chris Burger said he was also of two minds.

“I’m a little bit torn,” he said. “I can see the problem with taking on another service and the responsibility that goes along with it.”

That didn’t sit well with City of Nanaimo director Bill Bestwick, who urged the board to reconsider.


“I read this report back and forth trying to find a good reason not to do something good,” he said. “I can’t find a good reason not to do this.”