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Larson StationOn Friday October 14th, 2016 the rain and wind warnings didn’t deter the seventy six people that made their way to the Gleneagles Golf Club House for the Howe Sound Community Forum hosted by the District of West Vancouver.

Councillor Nora Gambioli welcomed everyone to the charming historically significant place that has been the venue for a number of Howe Sound events over the past four years.  Squamish Nation Council member and spokesperson Chris Lewis welcomed everyone to their traditional territory.

The first presentations focused on major developments and initiatives potentially impacting the Howe Sound region.  Squamish Councillor Karen Elliott provided background to the active development map illustrating the many project proposals at various stages in Squamish.

Marcin Pachcinski, Division Manager, Electoral Area and Environment for Metro Vancouver shared the draft map of Electoral Area A between West Vancouver and Lions Bay.  The area is currently undergoing its first Official Community Plan with a priority on containing growth.

Directoimg_6025r Ian Winn representing Area F, West Howe Sound on the Sunshine Coast explained the Official Community Plan review process that is underway.  Director Winn pointed to where on the map this area is industrial use, primarily forestry based.   This area also includes the proposed BURNCO Aggregate Mine proposal at McNab Creek and Director Winn reported to the Forum the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s review of the ongoing environmental assessment for this project.

Jeff Juthans, Land and Resource Specialist with the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands and Resource Operations, provided an update on the Cumulative Effects Assessment for Howe Sound.  Seven Howe Sound Current Condition Reports are targeted for completion by the Spring of 2017.

Thomas Chhun, District Manager with the Ministry of Transportation presented on the Sunshine Coast Fixed Link Study.  The presentation is being closely followed by the public open houses starting October 18th at which time everyone will learn more about the results of the feasibility study.   MLA Sturdy assured everyone this study is to put to rest the long time question of exploring cost/benefits of a fixed link compared to the ferries and updates a previous study conducted in 1998.    The study is not a yes or no for a future project and costs are a key factor.

Ruth Simons, Executive Director of the Future of Howe Sound Society introduced the topic of regarding the Howe Sound UNESCO Biosphere Region initiative.  After four years of work on generating the dialogue for the need for a comprehensive land and marine use plan for Howe Sound, Ruth explained why being recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a unique Biosphere region is aligned with the aspirations and objectives of the Howe Sound Community Forum’s Principles of Cooperation.  Under the framework of a Biosphere Region logistical support to operationalize the vision for sustainable development in balance with environmental protection is achieved.

Stan Boychuk, Chair of UNESCO’s Canadian Council for Man and the Biosphere provided information on the Biospheres and the MAB programme and what elements are required to qualify for this status.  Bob Turner, member of the exploration team and formerly with Geological Survey of Canada, illustrated with simple maps, the potential boundaries around Howe Sound that would fall in the Biosphere region.  Howe Sound currently has the required elements of zones of cooperation, buffer and core protected areas.  Questions were asked of the exploration team followed by an indication of support from the Forum for continuing to pursue this initiative.

After a short lunch, updates by representatives from each of the communities included Gibsons, Bowen Island, Lions Bay, Squamish, Whistler, the Sunshine Coast Regional District, Islands Trust and the Gambier Island Local Trust area and Squamish Nation.    The District of West Vancouver’s presentation was an overview of from the Community Energy & Emissions Plan committee and the Horseshoe Bay revitalization plan.

Karin Bodtker, Marine Manager for Coastal Oceans Research Institute, Vancouver Aquarium, provided an update of the Howe Sound Coastal Ocean Health Report  and what to expect when it is released in January 2017.   Stephen Foster, Howe Sound Team Lead for the Suzuki Foundation followed with an explanation of the the Foundation’s initiative of a National Park for Howe Sound that is imbedded into their 2016/2017 plan.   The Forum members did not object to supporting a feasibility study be requested of Parks Canada for Gambier Island.

MP Goldsmith-Jones introduced her staff.

MP Goldsmith-Jones introduced her staff.

After spending the day listening and interacting with the presenters, MLA Jordan Sturdy of West Vancouver Sea to Sky, MLA Nicholas Simons from Powell River/Sunshine Coast  and MP Goldsmith-Jones ended the day with updates from their governments and constituency.

The next forum will be April 2017.

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