In October, the Agricultural Land Commission decided to reject the application from Shuswap Lake Estates and Shuswap West Development to exclude the property known commonly as the “Balmoral Corner” from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
This decision represents a major setback for the South Shuswap as the purpose of the application was to facilitate the development of a liquid waste treatment facility on that property, as per the approved Area C Liquid Waste Management Plan.
The reasons why this decision represents a major setback is because:
• We know from a number of CSRD groundwater monitoring studies conducted over several years in Blind Bay and Sorrento that effluent from the thousands of septic systems in this area has infiltrated groundwater wells, and resulted in bacterial counts higher than acceptable Canadian raw water standards.
Over time, this scenario can only worsen as we see new homes continuing to be constructed in the South Shuswap adding to this environmental pressure. A liquid waste treatment system would help preserve the high quality of water we continue to have, for now, in Shuswap Lake.
• Without a liquid waste treatment system, we can’t expect to see significant medium and higher density development such as that occurring with independent and assisted living facilities, recreational and cultural facilities, health-care facilities, rental and vacation housing, restaurants, food processing, resorts, shopping centres, commercial or industrial development.
Area C continues to rely on residential properties accounting for 96 per cent of all local government taxes paid in this electoral area. This is an unfavourable burden for homeowners to bear, and also further illustrates the need for additional commercial development to adequately service our population.
• The agricultural properties that were to receive the treated effluent will have to continue to struggle to find and develop adequate and affordable sources of water for use in irrigation of their crops. A key benefit of the proposed liquid waste treatment system envisioned is that local farmers would see a 60 to 80 per cent increase in their crops yields, while also being able to preserve the aquifer below for generations to come.
The CSRD acted as the agent for the applicants in this matter, and staff are continuing to assess next steps. We have a year from the decision date to mount an appeal; however, to be successful, we will need to develop new and stronger arguments in favour of this application.
Over many years we have looked at a number of options to deliver liquid waste treatment services to the South Shuswap. A key problem is that the settlement areas of Blind Bay and Sorrento are closely surrounded by ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) land, and there is very limited opportunity to development a treatment facility outside of the ALR. At this time, it appears the Balmoral Corner continues to be the best possible option. As new developments occur, I will keep you informed.
On a more positive note, I would like to wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season, and a healthy and prosperous new year.
-Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.