The Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process (SLIPP) has run aground again amid opposing views – at least for two months.
Members of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Board of Directors deferred a decision to allocate $50,000 from the regional feasibility study fund to explore the feasibility of continuing to fund and participate in SLIPP.
Area E Rural Sicamous director Rhona Martin, who was absent from the July 18 meeting, supported the move in an email requesting a consultant be hired to explore the future of the project that is in the final year of a three-year pilot project.
“The study would require a fresh set of eyes and would include local governments that are involved at this time; that being CSRD, the Thompson Nicola Regional District and North Okanagan Regional District,” she wrote in her June 26 email, suggesting the study indicate what SLIPP “should be or if it should be, and who and how it will be paid for.”
Area D Falkland-Silver Creek-Ranchero director René Talbot was the first to protest.
“I don’t support spending $50,000 at this point until one question is answered from the directors. Are they gonna continue to put money in and at what level?” he asked. “I think that is a more important question than spending all that money to hire someone.”
Talbot reiterated his “total support” for SLIPP and noted Area D has contributed $75,000 over the past three years.
“We we do have the Salmon River and we’ve also approved $15,000 to find sites along the river in need of restoration,” he said. “We’re trying to improve the quality of the water that goes into the lake.”
Noting he was “torn over the whole SLIPP issue,” Area F North Shuswap director Larry Morgan pointed out that while there have been press releases “waxing poetical” from Fraser Basin Council, the organization now administering the project, he wants substantive results.
“What have we accomplished for our $1 million?” he asked, noting Area F has contributed the lion’s share of the funding and that he would support an independent consultant to examine the project, including how it should be funded in the future – if the board could agree to continue. “I have complained loud and clear about the discrepancies in funding. We’re not generating the majority of the pollution in the lake.”
Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton was even more adamant in his opposition to voting in favour of the process until it is made very clear who is spending what on what.
“The whole SLIPP thing is basically taboo in Sicamous,” he said, pointing out that at a stakeholders’ meeting in that community in June, he agreed with concerns about water quality with regard to drinking water and recreation, but heard from one government agency their perspective that their concern was for fish.
“I won’t support this until we as directors decide that we even want it.”
Trouton expressed frustration at the way, he says SLIPP, a body that proclaims it has no compliance powers, did a catalogue of docks on the lake and promptly handed it over to the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Resource Operations, who have plans to remove several docks in the Sicamous area.
“We paid them to do the studies and now the ministry is going ahead with compliance,” he said, announcing he would not back Martin and Area C South Shuswap director Paul Demenok’s request to spend $50,000. “I’m asking for a meeting with regards to removal of docks by SLIPP. I’m not liking it and I’m gonna go against what Demenok wants.”
At a break in the meeting, Trouton charged the province with downloading on regional and municipal governments and First Nations.
“They’re already mandated to do this work,” he said, noting at the June meeting it was made very clear that the main problem with pollution in the lake is area rivers and agricultural run-off. “They’re using our funding program to do their work and then they give us what they tell us we want.”
Following Trouton’s motion to defer approval of hiring a consultant for two months, Demenok suggested SLIPP has suffered from misinformation based on poor communication in the past.
He suggested the work of a consultant could be a parallel process to getting agreement about who is willing to participate and to what financial extent.
“I understand what you’re saying, we need to go back. We agreed to focus on water quality and safety and that has yet to be defined,” he said.
“The question will be addressed at a steering committee meeting in September and the other regional districts will be there.”
CSRD board chairperson David Raven supported deferral, noting director Martin has “very strong feelings” about SLIPP and should be allowed to share them.
Directors voted unanimously to support deferral for two months.