Squamish officials backed a growing call for a Howe Sound management plan to govern its economic growth and protection.
There was a sense of déjà vu on Dec. 3 as Future of Howe Sound Society executive director Ruth Simons sat before the District of Squamish's Committee of the Whole. A year earlier, the non-profit organization failed to gain council's support for the society's call for a marine resource management plan.
This time around, though, the group had more weight behind its request, as other Sea to Sky Corridor municipalities are signing on.
“A lot has happened in the last year,” Simons said, noting most of the region's communities are urging the federal and provincial governments to commence a planning process.
The last time officials focused on Howe Sound was in 1996, with the development of the Howe Sound 20/20 plan. The document set a vision of what the waterway would look like by 2020.
A lot has changed since the plan's development, Simons said. First off, the report didn't predict an expanded Highway 99. What it does outline is a growth in tourism dollars, she said.
It's those tourism dollars and Howe Sound's recovering ecosystem that demands attention, she said, noting the province already has a number of management plans. The sound's uniqueness qualifies it for the same sort of consideration, Simons said.
“An overall plan for Howe Sound has not been carried through,” Simons said.
The society's history raised alarm bells with some councillors. The group originally formed to oppose Burnco's proposed McNab Creek aggregate mine, Coun. Doug Race said.
“I do worry about this process developing a biases, given how you started,” he said.
Since the 1800s, industry has been a part of the Sound's history. That economic driver is more important to some Sea to Sky Corridor municipalities than others, Race noted.
The society needs to have a strong focus, Heintzman added.
“I worry that it is going to go on and on if it doesn't have the right impetus in the beginning,” she said, before council passed the motion to support discussions.
West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP John Weston suggest that the group apply for government funding for a long-term study. A long timeframe is important to not lose perspective, he said.
The project needs a champion to move it forward, Weston said, noting a healthy environment and economy are not mutually exclusive.
“I am not sure who should lead the process,” he said.