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By J.P. Squire
The Daily Courier
December 5, 2005

    Even the experts can’t agree on whether soil disturbance by dirt bikers is muddying the waters of Lambly Creek requiring a multi-million-dollar treatment plant in the future.
    Don Dobson, a hydrologist employed by Lakeview Irrigation District, argues Lambly Creek watershed is “first and foremost the water supply for 10,000-12,000 people.”
    The motorcycle recreation zone created off Bear Lake Main forest service road during the land and resource management plan (LRMP) process several years ago “was the result of negotiations within all the sectors on an ongoing basis,” he explained.
    The LRMP process involved 55 representatives of stakeholder groups such as provincial ministries, loggers, ranchers, irrigation districts, dirt bike riders and environmental groups.
    “The process was entirely consensus driven, not technically driven,” said Dobson who was involved in an LRMP water issue but only in the forest sector.
    LID manager James Moller says the district didn’t find out about the motorcycle recreation zone until after the Okanagan Shuswap plan was completed and approved by the province.
    Representatives from a provincial water suppliers association which looked after the interests of irrigation districts in the Okanagan “couldn’t be in two places at the same time,” said Dobson, referring to discussions at the respective water supply and recreation tables.
    “There was so much going on. The discussions involved virtually every sector which uses the area. Each stakeholder group had a representative at the table.”
    His specific concern is the level of soil disturbance in the open sloped watershed by off-road vehicles.
    “In any other venue, forestry or mining, it would be unacceptable. It is also not consistent with the intent of the LRMP plan. And it is expanding in an uncontrolled manner, threatening the water supply for 10,000 people. Under the Drinking Water Protection Act, we are required to report issues that are or likely to be causing a threat to the water supply.”
    The Okanagan Trail Riders Club argues there’s no proof dirt bikers are causing water problems and suspects LID wants to close the watershed to all recreational use without consultation.   
    “LID has not abandoned the collaborative process; rather the clubs have not followed up on their commitments to work with LID,’ says Moller.


   “LID has no issues with the clubs, rather the government that is permitting the uncontrolled expansion of soil disturbance resulting from off-road vehicles within the Lambly Creek community watershed.”
    For The Daily Courier to publish dirt bikers’ claims “that motorcycles are not the cause of increased soil disturbance and turbidity is irresponsible journalism,” he charged.
    “If Riverside, in its logging operations, ripped up steep slopes, ran equipment and machinery through creeks or played in the wetlands, they would be held financially responsible since those activities cause erosion and damage the creeks. Dirt bikes are doing that damage without being held accountable,” he said.
    When Dobson met with dirt biker/LRMP representative Terry Burke, “he was concerned about it as much as I was. We have no issue with the Okanagan Trail Riders but with an unacceptable disturbance of the environment,” said Dobson. “This is not a we-versus-them issue. We have no authority to control activities on Crown land; the government has to step in.”
    Ken Christian, director of health protection for Interior Health, said shared use of a watershed and water treatment issues are not unique to LID.
    Health regions across the province are moving toward a multi-barrier approach: water filtration, disinfection through chlorine or ozone, competent staff handling the water supply and a comprehensive monitoring program.
    Colour and turbidity (cloudiness) are not the only concerns, he emphasized, and the ultimate solution is enhanced water treatment, not unlike the improvements under way by the Westbank Irrigation District.
    One of the problems with simply adding more and more chlorine (as high as used in swimming pools) to cloudy drinking water is trihalomethane, a byproduct of chlorine which is suspected of causing bladder and urinary tract cancer.
    Keeping dirt bikers and other off-road vehicles away from the creek will not negate the need for water treatment, he said.
    “There are going to be multiple-use issues; all of that combined creates the risk. To single out one issue or to say they are solely responsible is a bit of a stretch,” he said.



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