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Woodburning report reviewed at qathet Regional District meeting

Directors want link to information on woodburning on the website
INFORMATION PROVIDED: qRD directors received an extensive report into what regional districts can do to regulate air quality related to wood burning.

A report on options for regulating air quality impacts from open burning and woodstoves by qathet Regional District (qRD) staff has been reviewed by regional district directors.

The report was written to provide the regional board with information regarding options for the regulation of air quality within qRD.

At the October 14 committee of the whole meeting, Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he wanted to thank staff for the good work put into the report, which came back to the committee quickly.

Gisborne asked if venting index information could be placed in qRD advertising in the future.

“I found that the venting index can be very helpful for burning, at least on my property,” said Gisborne. “The atmosphere is layered, and smoke released from burning will usually sit in the layer closest to the ground. It may look like a nice, clear day, but sometimes that bottom layer is quite low. A great example is the heat dome incident we experienced at the end of June. There were no fires burning but the heat was trapped in the lower level of the atmosphere.

“I’m just curious if a bit of information can be put out there.”

Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said the staff report is very useful. He said he appreciated the clarification in the report about some of the important differences between municipalities and regional districts regarding regulations.

“I agree with the staff report that a key question for us is whether or not the qRD should consider the establishment of a new service to regulate air quality that is amenable to a good portion of the residents in the areas that receive the service,” said Fall. “In public forums held in 2018 and 2019 on Lasqueti Island, as part of the official community plan review process, one recurring theme emerged multiple times. The Lasqueti community has a strong preference for education and support mechanisms, rather than regulation. This is good because enforcement on Lasqueti and other remote, rural areas in the regional district is a huge challenge. There are no bylaw enforcement officers driving around.”

Fall said introducing regulation without community support won’t work.

“Hence, I believe it is very unlikely that Lasqueti would support the establishment of a service for such a regulation,” he added. “However, I believe education has a better potential to reduce emissions through practices, regarding burning.”

He said qRD’s woodstove exchange program is also a good measure for cleaner burning woodstoves.

Fall asked if it would be feasible for qRD to consider increasing and consolidating the educational resources available on the regional district’s website regarding best practices and ways to reduce emissions through unnecessary outdoor burning.

Chief administrative officer Al Radke said if the board wanted staff to look at that, staff will see how it fits into the workplan.

Fall said he wanted to amend a motion before the committee that recommended the regional board receive the staff report. Fall said the amendment was to ask staff to look into the costs and work required to increase and consolidate educational information on the website regarding burning.

Electoral Area C director Clay Brander said the provincial government has a webpage dedicated exactly to this issue.

“Maybe we could just put a link to the webpage on our website to direct people to this one,” said Brander. “The work has already been done.”

City director George Doubt said if the committee simply passed the recommendation without the amendment, a link can simply be added to qRD website to connect to the provincial government’s educational materials on woodburning.

“That’s probably enough,” said Doubt.

Fall’s amendment failed.

Electoral Area D director and committee chair Sandy McCormick said she thinks the regional district’s woodstove exchange program is really good, and that the regional district should continue to encourage people to take advantage of the program.

The committee voted to recommend the board receive the options for regulating air quality impacts from open burning and woodstoves report.