The need to further restrict access to the Leech Water Supply Area will be the focus of a series of five open houses over the next two weeks.
The land, 9,623 hectares around the Leech River, is located west of the Sooke Lake Reservoir, which provides most of Greater Victoria’s water. The main Leech parcel was purchased by the Capital Regional District in 2007, followed by a smaller parcel in 2010, for a total of $62 million.
The parcels have increased the overall size of the region’s watershed to 20,550 hectares.
While the Leech land might not be needed for decades, controlling access is needed so the forest can regenerate, said Annette Constabel, senior manager of CRD watershed protection. About 95 per cent of the land, which includes more than 400 kilometres of roads, has been logged.
“Coming up, we’re going to be looking at all the water needs and forecasts again,” Constabel said.
About 200 people a year use the Leech area for camping or other activities, but Constabel said there is a long history of the public gaining access. She said the area is closely monitored. “Every time that there’s a granola wrapper that’s left behind, we write it up. We know somebody’s been there.”
Access to the Leech area is controlled from the south and the east through gates and regulations, and the west is largely inaccessible. That leaves the north, in the vicinity of Weeks Lake, as the only feasible entry point.
In recent years, two stolen vehicles have been found in Weeks Lake, firearms and fireworks have been discharged and marijuana-growing operations have been found. People using the area are talked to by staff and reminded of the rules — including one that says no campfires — “but we don’t tell people they have to leave,” Constabel said.
The possibility of forest fires is the biggest concern, she said. “That could impact our current water supply.”
The idea is to do away with unauthorized access, Constabel said.
“One of the options that we’re presenting at the open houses is the potential for sanctioned recreational groups to apply,” she said.
Constabel anticipates the new access rules to be in effect by the summer of 2016. A CRD bylaw change is required.
Here are the dates and locations of the open houses. Each one is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m.:
• Tuesday — Colwood
Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre, 1767 Island Highway
• Wednesday — Otter Point
Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Planning Services,
#3-7450 Butler Rd.
• April 21 — Sooke
Edward Milne Community School, 6218 Sooke Rd.
• April 22 — Saanich
Greek Community Centre,
4648 Elk Lake Dr.
• April 23 — Shawnigan Lake
Shawnigan Lake Community Centre, 2804 Shawnigan Lake Rd.