Columbia Valley Pioneer Staff

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) is hoping to talk to cabinet ministers about several issues of concern at this fall’s Union of BC Municipalities convention in Vancouver.

The RDEK board has compiled a list of topics to discuss but won’t know if any of their requested meetings will be granted until early September.

In one request, the board wants to talk to Minister of Environment George Heyman about the impacts of wake boats on lakes, rivers and riparian areas. The RDEK says large wakes have been shown to erode shorelines and negatively impact water quality, aquatic vegetation and fish. Therefore, the board wants the ministry to consider new legislation that regulates the use of wake boats in shallow water bodies and wetlands.

“We request that the minister consider championing the issue and make BC the first province in Canada to put wake boat restrictions in place,” the RDEK says.

In another meeting, the RDEK wants to convince the Ministry of Forests to take responsibility for the abandoned Wilmer Dam and Kootenay River dike and undertake decommissioning work. The board says the dike is a crucial defense mechanism against the threat of flooding that poses a significant risk to the Village of Canal Flats and the entire Columbia Valley. “By investing in the construction of this dike, we are taking a proactive stance in safeguarding our communities, preserving valuable infrastructure and protecting the lives of our citizens.”

On another topic, the RDEK is requesting that the Minister of Agriculture and Food (Pam Alexis) support an initiative to address concerns relating to grazing lands and land management. 

The board notes that the Kootenay Livestock Association is concerned about losing range land and is seeking protection. The RDEK says there has been an increase in motorized and mechanized recreation users on range land, prompting an impact assessment study to determine the effects.

The RDEK is requesting a meeting with Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth about victim services funding in BC. The board indicates that local governments are expected to provide their own funding through taxation, but the RDEK wants the province to fully fund victim services as part of its policing costs. Furthermore, it wants victim services to be managed through the RCMP rather than local governments and not-for-profit societies.

BC Hydro pole rental fees are another topic the RDEK wants to bring up at the convention. It is encouraging the province to establish affordable rental rates in a fair and equitable manner to accelerate broadband connectivity in rural communities.

“The rental rates to access BC Hydro poles is often cost prohibitive and can prevent a broadband provider from being able to provide service to an area,” the RDEK says.

Another important topic the board is pursuing is securing more natural resource officers to enforce compliance of government regulations when it comes to Crown land recreational use.

The RDEK notes that local residents and stakeholders have expressed significant concern about the growing impacts of recreational use on Crown land, pointing out that there are few access controls. Issues include negative impacts linked to camping on Crown land. For example, litter, aesthetic effects, destruction of sensitive areas and illegal cutting of trees.

“We are seeking more officers to protect the area and enforce compliance with recreation-related offences on public land,” the RDEK says. In addition, it notes there is support for the implementation of user fees to permit or restrict recreation uses in specific areas.