Follow-up petition on Silvermere Island and Silvermere Lake habitat concerns

Petition: 122F

Issue(s): Biological diversity; Compliance and enforcement; Environmental assessment; Federal-provincial relations; Fisheries

Petitioner(s): A Canadian resident

Petitioner location(s): Mission, British Columbia

Date received: 8 September 2021

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: This petition is a follow-up to petition 122E. The earlier petition sought information about the termination of an environmental assessment for a proposed housing development near Silvermere Lake, British Columbia. The follow-up petition refers to development activity in the Silvermere Island and Silvermere Lake area that it says previously triggered an environmental assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 2007 after a developer applied for authorization to proceed under section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act. According to the follow-up petition, the developer subsequently sold the property and the assessment was terminated before being completed.

This follow-up petition maintains that without a federal environmental or impact assessment, development in the area is damaging fish and endangered species habitat. According to the petition, this location is spawning habitat for coho and chum salmon and is a “biodiversity hotspot” that has been identified as critical habitat for the endangered Western Painted Turtle, Pacific Coast population. The petition expresses concern about recent logging of mature trees on Silvermere Island, close to bald eagle nests, and heavy equipment activity on the causeways to the island. It also maintains that in spring 2021, developers cleared the southern causeway to the island of all vegetation to the water using a back hoe.

This follow-up petition asks how Environment and Climate Change Canada will ensure that a Species at Risk Act compliance management plan is in place for all works in the Silvermere Island and Silvermere Lake area that might threaten Western Painted Turtles and their habitat, including dam maintenance and remediation, lake-level drawdown, road construction, land clearing, or other development activities, The petition requests confirmation that authorization under section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act would be required to draw down lake levels and construct a road in place of either causeway to the island.

This follow-up petition also asks whether a federal impact assessment would be triggered prior to any “potentially harmful works.” It references the Fisheries and Oceans Canada response to a question in petition 122E about termination of the 2007 environmental assessment. The petition states that in its response, the department had indicated that it would restart an environmental assessment if a development proposal required authorization under section 35(2) of the Fisheries Act.

This follow-up petition inquires whether a federal Governor in Council order can be issued to provincial officials to prohibit destruction of critical habitat in the Silvermere Island and Silvermere Lake area. Finally, the petition asks whether there is a federal mechanism to designate this area as parkland for conservation purposes.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Impact Assessment Agency of Canada; Parks Canada