The Raging Grannies came to protest a proposed development in the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.

2011 news stories of the year

The Sooke News Mirror takes a look at what happened in the region over the last year.

  • Wed Jan 4th, 2012 8:00am
  • News

January

Halibut fishery on the verge of collapse

Devastation and the collapse of the halibut sports fishing industry could be imminent if federal measures are not taken to accommodate recreational fishers, says Mike Hicks, lodge operator, fishing guide and area director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area.

“Two things will happen in our area, the halibut sports industry will be devastated and the concept of a common property resource will be demolished.”

Every halibut that is pulled out of the water is monitored in some way. The International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) manages the halibut stocks in North America and decides on the total harvest of the fish which range between Santa Barbara, California and Nome, Alaska.

Canada has a quota system for halibut established in 1991. The reason was to stabilize the markets and increase safety for commercial fishers. the recreational fishers quota was deducted from the total and the remainder went to the commercial sector. But, what is happening now is that the quota for recreational fishers is being cut drastically, causing tremendous hardships for communities reliant on the recreational fishery. This includes charter operators as well as individual fishers.

“Individual fishers from all parts of Vancouver Island and throughout B.C. will be denied their favourite pastime and their access to this common property resource,” says Hicks.

February

Nothing illegal in awarding boat launch contract

Legal opinions have been sought and it would appear that there was nothing illegal in the awarding of the contract to build the public boat launch.

At the District of Sooke regular council meeting on February 14, Mayor Janet Evans read out a statement which stated, “The District of Sooke learned recently of allegations that its award of a boat launch contract to Heavy Metal Marine (HMM) was somehow tainted by the inclusion in the HMM bid of a reference to other HMM work done allegedly for free for the District several years ago. The District has a definitive legal opinion on the matter. I cannot release it due to privilege and confidentiality issues, but after receiving the legal opinion, the District remains confident that the contract award was valid and not tainted in any way…”

Evans said HMM did not work for the district and the work they did on the marine boardwalk in 2007 was for the private developer of Mariners’ Village, not the district. A marina was being built at the Mariners’ Village site and the equipment which could be used for the boardwalk  was already in Sooke.

The question has been raised as to the inclusion in the RFP from HMM of a statement saying an amount of $203,062 would be deferred in the event HMM was selected as the preferred proponent.

Brian Freethy has been reported as saying that they didn’t owe him cash for that, they owed him “consideration for that.”

In conclusion she stated that if HMM did any work, they did it for the developer (Mariner’s Village).

She said HMM had the lowest bid and scored the highest on evaluation criteria. She went on to say no council member was influenced by the “alleged free work” done by HMM and any free work was done for   a private developer not for the district.

March

Pacheedaht get logging rights and revenues

At the turn of the century hereditary Pacheedaht Chief Queesto  worked as a logger at Jordan River, now members of the band will once again be involved in logging.

A rebounding forestry sector, revenue from forestry activity and a new Forest Tenure Opportunity Agreement will see the Pacheedaht First Nation in Port Renfrew benefit financially and socially.

On March 8, the Pacheedaht First Nation became the 14th First Nation to sign a new type of agreement that sees a percentage of forestry revenue returned directly to the community, announced Forests, Mines and Lands Minister Pat Bell.

The signing of the three-year Forestry Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreement (FCRSA) gives the First Nation a percentage of revenue from forestry activity in their traditional territory, which will be used to support social and community development programs. In the first year, Pacheedaht will receive approximately $104,000 under the agreement.

April

Environmentalists try new tactic in JDF

Each side continues to defend their right to legally do what they are entitled to do.

On one side you have a developer who wants to build a resort community on lands in the Juan de Fuca, and on the other, a vocal contingent of environmentalists who decry every move made by developer Ender Ilkay.

On April 4, a group calling themselves Free Miners staked a mineral claim on 400 hectares of Ilkay’s property. Free Miners last showed their teeth when they used the same tactic at Bear Mountain Resort in Langford.

It’s all part of the fight to retain forest lands close to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail which some think will be ruined if Ilkay’s development gets approved.

This latest tactic is to ensure Ilkay does not decide to extract gravel and aggregate on his property if the resort plan gets turned down.

“If anyone decides to start hauling gravel, we have the right to stop and inspect each load,” says Zoe Blunt (aka Tracie Park) from the Forest Action Network in a press release. “We own all the minerals in the ground. The law also provides that free miner’s agents can enter the property for prospecting purposes.”

Ilkay said he is not in the gravel hauling business anyway.

“I’m trying to create a eco-friendly resort and an economic opportunity,” he said.

“I’m running a business and I’ve poured $10 million directly into Vancouver Island yet groups make it difficult to do business. It gets to a point of ‘why would I ever do business here?’ I can spend my investment where it’s welcome. That’s their goal,” said Ilkay referring to the latest enviro-tactic. “It‘s a tough thing for the future of the local economy.”

May

NDP Garrison claims victory

The orange wave swept over Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca as Randall Garrison helped add to the federal NDP’s sweeping gains across Canada.

A third-time candidate, Garrisson came out 379 votes ahead of Conservative Troy DeSouza, also his third campaign, in another roller coaster contest. At the end of the night, it was Garrison’s 26,121 votes to DeSouza’s 25,742.

The NDP crowd roared as Garrison was declared winner. He approached the podium unfolding a speech from his jacket pocked.

“I only wrote one speech tonight, and it turned out to be the right one,” he remarked smiling.

“For the NDP nationally, I’m really proud of the positive campaign that we ran—and a positive approach is what I’m planning to take with me to Ottawa.

“It’s bitter sweet tonight: Sweet to win here, sweet at the national level for the NDP— a little bitter with the Tory majority — but they’re going to have to listen to the message of what happened tonight.”

Nationally the Conservatives swept to a clear majority with 167 seats. The NDP gained 67 seats for 107 and the Liberals suffered a collapse to 34 seats

June

Citizens group opposed long term sewer deal

About 80 people came together at the Sooke Community Hall on May 30 to listen to what a group of concerned citizens had to say about the proposed 21-year sewer franchise agreement between EPCOR and the District of Sooke.

The meeting was organized by Wendal Milne, Herb Haldane, Rick Kasper and Gail Hall.

At the beginning of the meeting Wendal Milne, candidate for mayor in the November election, stated that the group was formed because they were “concerned with the process embarked on by the District of Sooke.”

Issues of concern included: a fair deal with the best bang for the buck; a cost of more than $21 million of taxpayers money over 21 years; no consideration of other options; no tendering process; and concern of the operating costs of the system, which are almost double from the 2006 projected costs for 2011.

In 2004 the contract was a competitive process.

In 2004, Sooke taxpayers rejected a similar 21-year deal. July

25 years of incredible art

The 25th Sooke Fine Arts Show opened on Thursday night with purchasers waiting in line to get into the show and see the latest works from the 275 artists who submitted entries.

The adjudicators chose 375 pieces from the 551 artists who responded to the call for entries to the juried art show and sale.

The 10-day show was once again staged in the SEAPARC Leisure Complex where a group of talented and hard working volunteers transformed the cavernous space into an amazing gallery.

“We had a lovely weekend and a lot of people,” said Sally Manning, show coordinator. “It is a colourful and happy show.”

Many Sooke artists stood out as the winners in the 25th Anniversary Artists Awards. They included Patrick Irwin for his acrylic and oil two-dimensional painting “Port Alberni,” Best Two-Dimensional work.

The Best Three-Dimensional work award was awarded to Jan Johnson for his “Minotaur Overseeing Intake,” while Debbie Clarkson took the award for the Best Photography for her “La Habana Elegante #3.” Dana Sitar’s “When I Do Not Follow the Rules” took the award for Best Fibre. Honourable mentions were given to Chuck Minten for his “Circle of Friends” wood table and Anne Boquist’s  “YoYoTokTik” gourd and found object piece.

Other winners include Heather Hamilton’s “Internal Reflections” pendant (Best Jewellery); Jo Ludwig’s “No Title” glass piece (Best Glass); Metchosin’s Judi Dyelle won Best Ceramic for her “White Series #1”; and Jeff Molloy’ for his mixed media piece “A Man of the Cloth.

Other honourable mentions went to Debbie Jansen for her fused glass, “Untitled”, Eliza Heminway’s fibre wall piece, “The Haberdasher’s Garden” and Leonard Butt’s “Uchi” raku sculpture.August

RCMP bust major grow op

Pulling up to the property on Blythwood Road in Saseenos one is immediately aware of the skunk-like odour emanating from the two-level house. It is unmistakable — it’s the smell of marijuana plants and specifically the THC resin.

On Wednesday, Aug. 10 RCMP responded to a tip and carried out a search of the residence and discovered 550 mature marijuana plants. The house was a grow operation and four rooms were being used to grow the plants. The basement was an elaborate labyrinth of large flexible tubes, lights and electrical panels. The upper windows were shrouded with heavy curtains and all of the windows were covered in plastic. The fire department was there because of the fire risk, to the house itself and the neighbouring homes.

The house, said RCMP, was not locally owned. Someone had been tending to the plants as there was food in the house.

Const. Stacey Finlay, the lead investigator, said they had a 55-year-old Asian male from Richmond in custody.

“We received information from the community,” said Finlay. “They recognized that something was wrong and called in the tip.”

She had been through the house and her pants were sticky and covered with resin. She wore a face mask as the odour was so strong that they had placed fans in all of the grow op rooms to disperse the scent.

It was  perfect example of a case where someone saw the windows, smelled the pot and phoned it in, said Sooke RCMP Staff Sergeant Steve Wright.

September

Hicks will deny rezoning for resort development in JDF

For the past four years acrimony, anger and protests have followed both Mike Hicks and Ender Ilkay around like the plague.

Hicks, in his capacity as the regional director for the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area, and developer Ilkay have faced the angry hoards who wanted no development of any kind in the Juan de Fuca area.

It began when the provincial government allowed Western Forest Products to release lands for sale from their TFL 25, and continued when Ilkay purchased land and wanted to put in a resort first in Jordan River and then in the Bear Creek area. The opposition forces made each of those ideas impossible and on Sept. 9 Hicks finally gave up on the process and stated he would deny Ilkay’s latest application to rezone land for a resort.

Hicks said he was disappointed and that he had talked to everyone and made the decision to follow the wishes of his constituents in the JDFEA.

“The bottom line for me was my constituents didn’t want it.”

He said their was four options  and he did what was best for the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

His first option would have been to leave the zoning as is; log it; work with the developer or get the government to buy it.

“We exhausted that possibility,” said Hicks in regard to a purchase by the government.

He said it was a “tremendous project” and was the best possible proposal, as Ilkay was giving up 86 per cent of his land for preservation.

He said his decision was not because of the efforts of the environmental activists but his constituents in the JDF.October

Search called off two local kayakers

It’s been a rough week for Ralph Hull and the families and friends of two contract workers who have gone missing while kayaking out in Sooke Harbour on Sept. 27. Missing since last Tuesday night are Morgan Porter and John Elgin, both 29-years-old.

The two were spotted messing around with two blue kayaks at the dock at Hull’s waterfront property along Sooke Harbour around 4 p.m.

“It’s been tough,” says Hull. “They have not been found.”

Hull said both plastic kayaks have now been found, a life jacket was found at Iron Mine Bay in East Sooke but both paddles have not yet been retrieved. Hull said he is 99 per cent certain that the life jacket was one of his.

“Iron Mine Bay sheds some light on where they made it to in their travels. To take those little kayaks out is sheer stupidity, and to get out past Possession Point is a big accomplishment.”

He said the lifejacket that was found was “a piece of s**t” and he would never use them for ocean kayaking, or the kayaks for that matter.

There are mysteries yet to be solved. Hull said a backpack is missing off the barge. The two men were working for Hull and they had just finished painting the house. He had hired Porter and he brought Elgin along.

“They were school mates since they were waist high and went through life together,” said Hull.November

Some old, some new elected to council

Wendal Milne is now Sooke’s new mayor. He topped the polls beating out former councillor Dave Bennett by almost three times the number of votes.

Speaking with Milne on Sunday, as he was taking down his election signs, he said it was a “really exciting election.” He was amazed at the level of support he received and he wondered, “can we live up to the expectation?”

He said he sensed the new council would wind up looking like they were all on the same page.

The change, he said, was all about trying to build trust in the district.

He said it got to the point where people didn’t trust council and battles were created over accusations of hidden agendas.

He wants to keep taxes at near zero for a year or two and he has other initiatives he wants to implement over time. He wants agendas to be received by councillors earlier so they have the necessary time to read the material and make those important decisions. He wants more public input possibly at the Committee of the Whole meetings which too often went over the same material. He would like people to be able to come before council and talk to the issues and ask questions. He said a lot of people are expecting change and the votes reflect that.

“Voters are very perceptive,” Milne said. “I’m really happy, it was  a  pretty sound majority.”

Milne gathered 2,571 votes to Bennett’s 931. Others joining Milne at the council table are: Kevin Pearson, Bev Berger, Herb Haldance, Rick Kasper, Maja Tait and Kerrie Reay.December

Council takes another look at contracts

Council deferred a decision on the road maintenance contract which had expired on Oct. 31, 2011. Mainland South Island Contracting (Mainroad) has, in the meantime, been providing services on a month-by-month basis for the same fee.

Mayor Milne said there was a lot of money involved and the contract should go to tender.

Council will be seeking further information on what services/conditions are involved in the contract in order to tender. Mainroad has held the contract since 2004.

An agreement with the Sooke Horseshoe Pitching Club to lease land at the Sooke River Road Park was deferred while staff seeks further information. The club is looking to build 16 horseshoe pits and a club house on the property. Council needed to support an application being made to the Agricultural Land Commission for non-farm use of the land.

While everyone agreed that recreational opportunities were necessary, especially for seniors, it was decided that after some discussion on the facility, logging, pros and cons, costs and parking council needed more information.

There was some talk of sharing space at the Sooke Flats through the Sooke Community Association and the two groups were encouraged to speak to one another.

“All we’re trying to do is do it right,” said Milne.