A new air quality management plan brought before District of Squamish council Tuesday (June 12) aims to set air quality standards for the Sea to Sky Corridor from Lion's Bay to Mount Currie.
"This sets a frame work for all the communities within the corridor to follow as they move towards maintaining a quality air shed throughout our region," said Cindy Walsh, meteorologist with the Lower Mainland region for the B.C. Ministry of Environment.
Walsh has been working on the plan for the last 18 months alongside representatives from throughout the corridor including Whistler, Squamish, Gibson's Landing, Lions Bay, Bowen Island and Pemberton.
"The goal of this is to look at the means of how we can take care of our air supply," said Walsh. "This is a draft plan, and all it needs now to get rid of that word 'draft' is approval by each community."
Squamish became the first community to do that this week, as council supported the plan in principle during a strategy session."I'm so glad to see this come forward," said Acting Mayor Corinne Lonsdale. "This is a proactive way we can look after our environment and I fully hope that all the communities will support this."
The draft plan had been brought forward to public consultation meetings in each municipality this past winter. Once it is approved, Walsh will create an implementation plan, which is expected to vary for each area.
"When it comes to air quality, since they are the largest communities, the issues for Whistler and Squamish are different than those for smaller communities," said Walsh.
The plan calls for 18 separate actions to be taken to address air quality that will be implemented over time.
"These actions are broken down into mobile sources, area sources, pinpoint sources, and actions for all sources," said Walsh.According to Chessy Knight, outgoing environmental coordinator for the District of Squamish, mobile sources include all moving vehicles, and among the recommended actions to reduce their impact on air quality are idling restrictions, setting up local emission test sites, and integrating regional transit systems.
"Area sources include things like fireplaces," said Walsh. "Each community will be worked with so they can come up with a strategy on this that works for them."
Walsh noted that pinpoint sources, which include heavy industry, do not have a major impact on the Sea to Sky Corridor's air quality.
"However on occasion, depending on wind systems and meteorological systems, air from industrial sites further down the coast can be brought up through the area," said Walsh, "but that's rare."
Beyond creating health benefits, Walsh contends an air quality strategy will also have economic benefit for the region with tourism.