By Judie Steeves staff reporter
November 9, 2005
It could cost $15 million to counter the effects of erosion caused by motorized vehicles using a Westside domestic watershed, according to the Lakeview Irrigation District.
James Moller , manager of the irrigation district, says the increasing erosion caused by new and wider cuts in the hillsides above their water intake could lead to the need for a $15 million water filtration plant in future.
With a deep settling pond such as Rose Valley Reservoir the district hadn't planned on needing such a treatment option, but there's been an increase in the number of trails created and the amount of use of the watershed by motorcycles in recent years, says Moller
The "unacceptable expansion" of trails began when a 380-hectare area was designated a recreation management zone for motorcycles as part of the Okanagan Shuswap Land and Resource Management Plan.
Moller says he's also concerned that riders are playing on the dam, which affects its stability because of cuts into the armour, which promotes erosion.
The Bighorn Dam was raised this year at a cost of $1.7 million and at that time they tried to fortify the area to prevent access to it but some people get around it, he says.
He's also concerned about riders along creeks and lakeshores where such use creates erosion and turbidity in the water.
He says many trails are on steep embankments just above the district's intake on Bear Creek, and precipitation carries fine materials down the hill into the creek.
Moller says the government should be stepping in to monitor the use of the recreation zone and doing trail restoration where it's needed.
"They have a right to recreational activity on Crown land but sheer destruction is occurring, and that land should be available for all users," says Moller.
He suggests taxes collected on the sales of motorcycles go back to repairing the damage done, rather than going into general revenue.
Ultimately, he'd like to see the recreation zone moved, but he's not hopeful that will happen.
Terry MacDonald, coordinator for the Land and Resource Management Plan with agriculture and lands in Kamloops, says he doesn't envision any changes in the recreation zone. He says there is no one designated to do on-the-ground checks to ensure all users are acting responsibly, and he doesn't know that there is anything more he can do."There needs to be respect for all users," he says.
He's seen no proof that any particular activity is causing a reduction in water quality and scientific evidence is needed, he said.
The Lakeview Irrigation District hired consultant Don Dobson to monitor activities and their impacts on its watershed, but he says it's difficult to prove where turbidity originates.
He is convinced that unregulated and unmonitored activity in the watershed is causing environmental damage which would never be allowed if it were caused by a logging or mining company.
He points to the Drinking Water Protection Act, which focuses on source protection of drinking water, and notes the purveyor is responsible to identify anything which could be detrimental to drinking water quality. That's been done, he says.
"Government has to take the lead here," he notes.
While not all of the estimated thousands of motorcycle riders using the area belong to a formal club, a couple of hundred belong to two clubs, the Kelowna Dirt Bike Club and Okanagan Trail Riders.
Terry Burke is with the trail riders and represented riders at the resource management plan negotiating table.
His group has been responding to the critics by putting up signs and blocking off trails along creeks, erecting outhouses, doing trail restoration and educating members.
The club is also involved in the licensing coalition which has drafted new provincial legislation to address environmental, safety, trail building/maintenance and enforcement issues, by providing funds through licensing of such motorized vehicles. However, user fees must go back into a trust fund for use on facilities and education, he notes.
"We're willing to pay our own way; we're willing to share the back country, but some of our partners don't necessarily share our view," Burke says.
He feels the motorized community bears the brunt of the criticism because they leave a visible print on the ground."Degradation of water quality is caused by many other users too."
Every group has its bad apples, he admits, but the volunteers in the clubs have spent many hours working to address the concerns of the community, he says.
Motorized recreation is a multi-billion dollar business in B.C., and a sector that's growing in interest, he notes, so there have to be areas where they can ride.
The Land and Resource Management Plan resulted in creation of Myra-Bellevue provincial park, which excluded the South Slopes from possible areas where dirt bikers could ride.
There had to be another area of Crown land set aside for the riding public, he explained.
The Bear Creek recreation management zone is it.