A water-quality program approved by a steering committee early last week made waves at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board meeting, Friday Dec. 6.
On Dec. 4, Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process reps from three regional districts, the City of Salmon Arm, the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, along with SLIPP Advisory committees and technical teams, approved the terms of reference for a new program that will focus on water quality and safety on the water.
And, while water-quality monitoring will continue throughout 2014, the year will be one primarily of development.
Directors were asked to approve allocation of up to $240,000 from the All Electoral Area Community Works Fund for SLIPP’s successor, the Shuswap Watershed Water Quality Program’s (SWWQP) “2014 Developmental Year Plan.”
Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton, who did not attend the Dec. 4 meeting, was quick to condemn the new program and associated funding.
“I have been less than impressed with the direction this has gone,” he said, pointing out Sicamous, with its own hired technicians is spending substantial funds on water filtration and the province is enacting the Sustainable Water Act. “The water quality is good; it hasn’t changed in 90 years and we’re spending a lot of money on a real feel-good program.”
Calling for “a new approach,” Trouton questioned how remediation became part of the mandate for the new program and accused SLIPP proponents of moving too far too fast.
“I think the Fraser Basin Council had done a great job marketing the program,” he said. “I find this whole process very rushed and very demanded. We’re supposed to sit here and vote on this… maybe we should sit back and think about this. I am opposed to it, just because of lack of information.”
Visibly annoyed SLIPP steering committee chair and CSRD Area C director Paul Demenok took issue with Trouton’s complaints.
“Mayor Trouton, you have been sent several phone calls and letters and you haven’t responded,” he said. “There’s been a lot of discussion, a lot of everyone’s views put on the table, so don’t come back later and say you don’t understand.”
Area F North Shuswap director Larry Morgan also expressed his opposition to the new Shuswap Watershed Water Quality Program, which will succeed SLIPP when the three-year pilot project comes to an end on March 31, 2014.
“I have come around to the point of view that I want to work with other directors and will do what I can to support the process,” he said. “But I received a late agenda item to request another $50,000 and it’s got my back up again. I feel we’ve already been there, done that and I am not prepared to support both agenda items. What’s next that we haven’t been told about?”
Morgan then made a motion to include the $50,000 for a feasibility study in the $240,000 proposed to fund the developmental year – something that Trouton seconded, but was defeated.
But Demenok explained the feasibility study, which was originally proposed by Area E Rural Sicamous Area director Rhona Martin in July but deferred by the board until a decision was made on whether SLIPP would move forward, could not be funded with gas tax money.
Remediation is just one of many variables a feasibility study would consider.
“To suggest $50,000 is a new request is absurd,” Demenok told Morgan. “You have all the figures that have been circulated weeks ago. I can’t put that into your head and get you to understand that.”
Martin, a strong supporter of SLIPP and the new program, said water quality monitoring has already identified some issues and she reiterated the importance of good water quality to a strong tourism industry and the economy.
“It’s too bad it got tagged with all sorts of other things that wasn’t SLIPP, but other agencies doing their jobs,” she said. “The emphasis was on Okanagan Lake and is now on Shuswap Lake.”
Also expressing their strong support for funding $240,000 in developmental funding for SWWQP were Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper, Coun. Debbie Cannon and CSRD director René Talbot.
“There are many reasons to support this. We know water quality is a major concern to electors in the area and to presuppose there have been no changes (in it) is absurd,” Demenok said. “To expect other agencies to come forward is folly at best. Drinking water is a local government responsibility as is economic development, both of which are tied to our management of the watershed.”
The motions to approve up to $240,000 to fund the developmental year of the water-quality program and $50,000 for a feasibility study were approved by the majority of directors, with only Trouton and Morgan opposed.