Invermere and Shuswap left out of consultation

Feds fail to consult Invermere, Shuswap on groyne. Again.

  • Mar. 7, 2020 2:30 a.m.

Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) has once again put forward a plan to mark the Lake Windermere rock groyne, but is once again being slammed for inadequate consultation.

The groyne, also sometimes called a weir, is the long structure made mostly of rocks sitting across the mouth of the Columbia River, just barely submerged, as it drains out of Lake Windermere. It was constructed more than a century ago in the era of steamboat travel along the Columbia, to help keep the river channel clear and to increase the velocity of the river. In the current era the groyne, having long since fallen into disuse and often lying just a foot or so below the surface, is known mostly for ripping the motors off the boats of unsuspecting owners who have launched their crafts at the nearby Athalmer public boat launch.

Many locals cite the potential for a serious accident to occur due to the groyne, but entities that have voluntarily marked the groyne with buoys in the past (including the district of Invermere and the Rotary Club of Invermere) stopped doing so some years ago on legal advice that by marking the groyne they were assuming legal liability in event of an accident.

The groyne is under jurisdiction of PSPC and last summer, after years of talk, the federal agency finally put forward a plan to mark the structure. This resulted in a furor erupting since PSPC failed to consult any local stakeholders (including the District of Invermere, the Regional District of East Kootenay, the nonprofit Lake Windermere Ambassadors, and the nearby Shuswap Indian Band) before announcing the plan. Wilting under a few weeks of heated criticism, PSPC backtracked, indicating it would consult with relevant stakeholder groups.

The federal agency has now put forward another plan, but apparently has dropped the consultation ball, at least partly, yet again. During Invermere’s Tuesday, February 25 council meeting, council members discussed the issue, and voted to back Lake Windermere Ambassador comments on the plan, but Invermere planner Rory Hromadnik noted to council that the district was not consulted directly by PSPC, and was only alerted to the new plan by the Regional District of East Kootenay and the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, which were consulted and which noticed that Invermere had not been, and so forwarded the material. He noted that the Shuswap Indian Band had also once more been missed by PSPC.

Shuswap chief Barb Cote confirmed this with the Pioneer, saying “no, we have not been consulted. I know they have a new plan, but we haven’t heard about it.”

“So they’ve kind of dropped the ball on the referrals. Again,” Hromadnik told councillors at the meeting, adding PSPC’s new proposal involves driving untreated wood piles into the groyne, extending for about 200 metres in a single line along the rocky structure, spaced about 20 metres apart. The piles will stick about five metres above surface level during low water in the winter, and about three metres above surface level during high water in the summer.

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors had provided feedback on the plan to PSPC, which the organization shared with the District of Invermere. Ambassadors’ program coordinator Shannon McGinty raised several key issues in her response to PSPC, including the potentially negative aesthetic impact the piles may have on a part of the community that is essentially the entrance to Invermere, questions on the likely lifespan of the piles, a request to see environmental considerations taken when deciding on the plan, a request to see other options considered aside from the piles, and the lack of opportunity for seasonal residents to comment on the plan.

“The way the plan is detailed (for the piles), it certainly won’t look appealing as you are driving into town from the crossroads, and it’s certainly not what we are going for with our ‘entrance to Invermere,’” said mayor Al Miller at the council meeting, going on to register his concern that the Shuswap and seasonal residents on the east side of the lake appear not to be getting a chance to provide feedback. “The groyne has been as it is for a very long time. I think there’s no harm in letting it stay this way a while longer in order to do some proper consultation.” Other council members agreed, voting unanimously to respond to PSPC indicating support for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors’ comments.

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