General News · 19th May 2022
With renewed opposition to Mosaic's plans to remove 600+ truck loads of logs per year from Cortes Island, I was surprised that no one raised the issue of the huge impact such a volume would have on the marine health of Gorge Harbour.
In a 1977 civil engineering study from UBC titled "Gorge Harbour Tidal Circulation and Pollution Study" by Eric Man and Stewart Parkinson, they observed that murky water in the east and west end of the Gorge "seems to be a prolonged effect of the logging operations which previously took place in the Gorge. In many places throughout the Gorge, most notably the west and east end, the bottom is covered by a mat of bark and twigs, overlain by an inch or two of sediment. The gradual decomposition of this mat is what lowers the dissolved oxygen content and produces the murky layer." They further note that "the level of dissolved oxygen in the water is a good measure of its health."
It is well-known that lack of oxygen in the water creates anoxic, or negative redox, dead zones. A more recent (2011) study by William Heath and others for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (Report on Environmental Conditions in Gorge Harbour) found that over half of the samples of bottom deposits in the Gorge contained mats of "Beggiatoa, a bacterium that can form heavy bacterial mats and is an indicator of organic loading and low oxygen levels." Beggiatoa produce anaerobic sulphide byproducts resulting in "a strong sulphide odour." Six of the eight samples in this study "demonstrated mean sulphide levels that were indicative of organic enrichment, and five of these sites also had negative mean redox values, another indicator of high organic enrichment." These samples covered the east half of the Gorge, and the log dump situated there is the most likely source for the copious amounts of bark documented in the earlier study.
Given this situation, renewed log dumping in the Gorge is a recipe for increased marine death and further environmental degradation in the Gorge that no one in Mosaic Forests or its Cortes collaborators seems to be aware of or have any notion of avoiding. When I was visited by Colin Koszman, a Manager for Island Timberland who is representing Mosaic Forests, he informed me that their access terminal (aka log dump) in Gorge Harbour is planned for upgrading and "log handling," in partnership with the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Community Forest General Partnership. When I asked about specifics concerning environmental impacts, he seemed to be unaware of past problems and said vaguely that the biologist on their team was looking into environmental concerns. Mr. Koszman tried to tell me that there were provisions for cleaning up the bark and debris, which I think misses the point about how bark gets into the water. He also maintained that the volume of logs being dumped into Gorge Harbour would not be enough to create a concern. Six hundred truck loads per year IS a concern. I do not trust company-financed biological or environmental assessments which have historically neglected critical data. I have brought this to the attention of the Cortes Regional Director and FOCI a number of times in the past, requesting that log dumping be prohibited in Gorge Harbour or that other means such as cranes and barges be used for transporting logs. No one seems interested in doing anything about it.
It is time that the log dump be permanently closed or a different solution be found for transferring logs off the island. At the very least, the Klahoose First Nation and the Cortes Community Forest Partnership ought to find alternatives to exporting their logs, and the log dump site should be rezoned to exclude log dumping.