Air quality plan ready for implementation 

Awareness, education needed before regulations

By Cindy Filipenko

The Sea to Sky Air Quality Management Plan is ready to be implemented.

The vision for the plan is to ensure that communities in the Sea to Sky airshed will continue to enjoy clean air that sustains and ensures the health of residents and guests, economy, environment and wildlife.

Cindy Walsh, a member of the Air Quality Coordinating Committee (AQCC), presented an overview of the first three phases of the four-phase project to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District on April 23.

“The air quality is fairly good most days, you can see the mountains fairly crisp and clean, but we have some concerns in this area. There’s a lot of development happening, the highway is being expanded and we expect a lot more growth in the area, so we’re stepping up and saying let’s do some pro-active planning,” said Walsh.

Walsh, who is also a regional meteorologist with the Ministry of Environment, made the point that while the plan takes in both regional and provincial strategies for air quality management the local governments, both municipal and regional district, have an important part to play.

A series of public consultations were held in Gibsons, Lions Bay, Bowen Island, Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton from last November until this February. While attendance was hampered by poor weather, Walsh was impressed with public input.

“All people said they were concerned about air quality as well as climate change. Many were already taking steps to help,” she said.

While motor vehicles are substantial contributors to negatively affecting air quality, Walsh points to initiatives such as anti-idling bylaws that can definitely help. Other suggestions including replacement of inefficient wood burning stoves and increased awareness concerning burning yard waste.

“There’s no doubt that in this corridor air quality concerns are generated locally,” said Walsh.

Whistler Director Eckhard Zeidler, while acknowledging that the sport has become an increasingly important part of Pemberton’s tourism economy, asked how the impact of snowmobiles was being quantified. He pointed out that while two-stroke engines are great polluters, four-stroke engines are “relatively benign pieces of machinery.”

Walsh said that while the impact of two-stroke snowmobiles had not been quantified, the AQCC was working from a point of view that the engines were not good.

Area C Director Susie Gimse asked whether or not the AQCC would be using regulatory measures to meet its mandate.

Walsh said the group was committed to increasing awareness and education of the issues first.

The progress of the plan will be reviewed annually and updated every five years. A website, ., currently in place will help keep the public informed as to the plan’s effectiveness.

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