Advocating for well water rights is at the top of Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Loerne Doerkson’s priority list this year.
Under the Water Sustainability Act, the government is requiring landowners to license their commercial wells for free online by March. 1, 2022. Doerkson said he is working to inform the public about the importance of registering their commercial wells by the deadline.
“This is a very significant issue for any commercial wells throughout British Columbia but particularly it’s important to all the cattle producers in our riding,” Doerkson said. “As much as I’m concerned about the legislation, I’m still encouraging people to register.”
Doerkson said in theory, an aquifer used by a rancher or farmer for generations could be claimed by a new neighbour if the deadline is missed, costing ranchers their water rights. Doerkson has sent a letter to the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection requesting a delay and a simplification of the process to avoid such conflicts.
“I think there are around 15,000 wells to register by March 1 and I don’t think it’s possible,” Doerkson said. “My fear is people will choose to not register and they could end up losing their rights on those water bodies.”
Other items on his list include pushing for legislation to address chronic offenders and establishing the Rural Dividends Grant.
“It was taken away by the NDP but that program really helped to fund projects in Rural B.C.,” Doerkson said. “I’m definitely going to champion that cause, which I’ve talked about a number of times in the house.”
Doerkson will also be studying recently introduced Bills 23 and 28, more commonly known as the “Old Growth Bills.” These include the deactivation of roads, new rules on how the province will maintain and manage the landscape, and other changes to the management of B.C.’s forests. He said he has found very little support locally for the bills, especially among First Nations communities and log home builders.
The bill suggests it wants to support smaller businesses and take tenure away from larger companies, but Doerkson said in many ways it seems to be doing the exact opposite.
“That is because of the way the forest industry has partnered with a number of First Nations communities. I’ve heard from a number of them who are very concerned that loss of tenure may affect them,” Doerkson said. “There’s still a lot to unravel about these two bills that were introduced right at the end of the last session.”