JASCO response to SIRRA letter- August 25, 2020
August 25, 2020 David Osborne, President for SIRRA Saturna Island Ratepayers and Residents Association, 230 Cliffside Road, P.O. Box 47, Saturna Island, B.C. V0N 2Y0 Re: Letter from SIRRA to Islands Trust dated Aug. 17 regarding 198 Cliffside Road, Saturna Island, BC Dear Mr. Osborne and other members of SIRRA, We wish to comment on a letter from SIRRA to Islands Trust dated August 17 regarding our property and our involvement with a fully permitted hydrophone project that has components on our property. As a Saturna Island property owner and taxpayer, we are also a member of SIRRA and the interests of the island residents are also ours. As the owner of the property involved, and a member of SIRRA, we did not receive prior notice that this letter was being prepared, nor did we receive a single prior contact or question from SIRRA about these matters. That was extremely unfortunate as we could have dealt with this directly and constructively. Your letter pertains to the use of our property at 198 Cliffside Road as the landing point for marine hydrophone cables supporting a Transport Canada offshore (underwater) listening station in Boundary Pass. The project and work activities are fully permitted. We have obtained a registered foreshore and seabed land tenure and occupancy permit from the Crown and a Navigable Waters permit from Transport Canada to support this as discussed below. Ironically, the president for SIRRA has operated an unpermitted hydrophone from his own property several doors away for many years – which we do happen to support and its mention here should not be construed as a complaint. However, we point out that it is highly unusual that this individual should author such a complaint letter on behalf of SIRRA. This places significant question as to whose opinion the SIRRA letter truly represents. We are quite certain it is specific to a small but very vocal group that has previously expressed discontent. That this letter was cc’d to our local MLA and MP also suggests a political motivation that is unfortunate and concerning. The tactic is unpleasant and the raising of this unnecessary conflict formally through SIRRA is disingenuous at best. We strongly prefer a consultative and collaborative approach.
JASCO Applied Sciences, is a local Victoria-based oceanographic science company that has provided environmental and regulatory science services for more that 40 years. JASCO designed and installed the Underwater Listening Station on behalf of Transport Canada - a system developed to protect local marine species at risk from underwater noise and ship collisions, and to provide information relevant to new research. While most of the project’s components lie offshore, some on-shore work was necessary to accommodate the hydrophone data cables where they make landfall at our property at 198 Cliffside Road. Both the offshore and onshore work was performed under a Crown Land Tenure (for ongoing use of the foreshore and seabed) and occupancy agreement (for construction) that we obtained in November 2019. The tenure permit approval process involves communications between the Province, representing the Crown, and Islands Trust, but we were not privy to those discussions. The provincial government was highly supportive of this project, and I would expect that Islands Trust permit reviewers similarly supported this relatively low-impact project wholeheartedly, but we cannot speak on their behalf. Aside from its formal regulatory approval, we understand the project is strongly supported by many residents. Our goal has always been to minimize the effects of installation work on the environment and community. Both the marine and on-land work was overseen by an independent professional environmental monitor who provided environmental oversight, marine mammal monitoring, and noise monitoring throughout the shore preparation and cable installation tasks. We acknowledge, with regret and apologies, that the 2.5 weeks of small cable hole drilling in December 2019 was noisy to our neighbours. Although this noise remained within allowed limits set by Capital Regional District noise bylaws and as stipulated in our permit, we did our best to further reduce disturbance by directing the workers to limit their work period each day to a later start and a much earlier stop than the allowed hours. The operation of installing hydrophone cables occurred in mid-May and also generated some noise for nearby Cliffside Road oceanfront residents due to near-shore diver work and as the cable vessel slowly moved away into Boundary Pass, which regrettably could not be avoided. That was also a one-time occurrence and it will not be repeated unless a cable needs to be repaired. All remaining onshore work for this project is now finished and the property again has the appearance of most others on Cliffside Road. Although our present use of the land and structures is indistinguishable from that of other private owners, we have nonetheless applied for a Temporary Use Permit with Islands Trust to clear up any uncertainties about compliance of future operations with local bylaws that are referred to in SIRRA’s letter. Because the matter of investigation and enforcement was raised in the letter to Islands Trust, we wish to stress that all work was performed in adherence with the appropriate permits and fully conformed with CRD bylaws. No infractions occurred and there were no enforcement requirements throughout the project. Our intention in any event has never
been to entrench behind rules or permits to the detriment of good relations; we aim to operate in full openness and transparency and to build a positive rapport with our neighbours and other residents for as long as we are part of the island’s community. We want the community to be fully aware of and involved with this ecologically relevant and ground-breaking project that is expected to last many years. We hope to involve Saturna Island research and education associations and schools in our scientific work to the greatest extent possible. One such collaboration has already begun, and more are planned, under the coordination of our science officer Mr. David Hannay. His contact information is included at the end of this letter for interested parties and the community, and we encourage individuals to contact him directly for more information. We trust that this response will have answered your main questions and we are happy to continue an open dialogue with SIRRA and Islands Trust to address any outstanding matters now or in the future. We ask respectfully that SIRRA contact us directly in the future when any matters appear to need addressing, as a consultative approach is more conducive to constructive resolution than resorting to the petitioning of officials.