A possible compromise has been reached on public access to the Leech River watershed.
The Capital Regional District’s regional water supply commission appears to have found a middle ground solution to the debate that has raged between the commission and the CRD board.
The new policy, proposed by water services staff, will allow anyone to make a permit application, with the application being vetted by staff before going to the commission for approval.
For months, regional water supply commissioners have debated the need for more secure access to the 10,000-hectare watershed, but a group of CRD directors including Sooke Coun. Rick Kasper and Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks believe the area should remain open through a permit system.
First Nations, placer miners and research groups have access to the watershed, but other users are excluded, including fishers, hunters, campers and hikers.
Historically, the watershed has been open to the public.
“I was hoping for a simpler permit system, but I have to be realistic and sometimes this is the way it goes. I think this compromise will work,” Hicks said.
“We are cognizant that there are responsible user groups that should be allowed access up there,” he said.
The CRD bought the Leech River watershed in 2012 for future water supply. It is estimated that water from Leech River will be needed to supplement the water in Sooke Lake Reservoir sometime in the next 50 years.
The proposed watershed access policy and bylaw is expected to go before the CRD board on June 8.