Gorge group’s future looking brighter

Waterway protection group gets political backing

The Gorge Waterway Initiative has a more hopeful outlook, after members’ appeal to their funders found a sympathetic ear.

On Wednesday, Patty McDonald pled her case to the Capital Regional District’s core area liquid waste management committee.

“We respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision to end your coordination of the GWI,” she said.

The volunteer initiative brings together hundreds of volunteers belonging to several conservation groups to preserve the Gorge Waterway.

For now, the Capital Regional District provides the only paid employee. Under the harbours environmental action program, Jody Watson provides part-time co-ordination of the group, but that is slated to end.

CRD staff said their support has moved far beyond the mandate of the program.

“They’ve been stretching what they can to continue supporting this,” said Larisa Hutcheson, general manager, environmental sustainability.

Watson’s position will focus on eliminating storm water contaminants.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin, however, called attention to the financial benefit of volunteer groups eager to donate their labour for what have proven to be very successful cleanup efforts this far.

He also warned of what the public perception might be should such a successful program be cut.

Added Saanich councillor Vic Derman, “Here were have something that’s grown organically. It’s prudent to find a way to keep it going.”

The harbours environmental action program was initially established under the core area liquid waste management plan.

After the meeting, McDonald said she was happy with the committee’s response but recognizes continued funding must come from a decision by the CRD board.

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