By Steve Hubrecht
In the past month and a half, the Columbia Valley has seen a 1-in-25 year rainstorm, nearly a week straight of 40 degrees Celsius temperatures, and one of the longest and most furious hailstorms local residents can recall. On top of that, the wildfire season got off to an earlier than normal start, as a small blaze in Kootenay National Park in late June cast a thin haze across much of the valley for a few days.
There’s no doubt Mother Nature has been calling attention to herself these last few weeks, and local residents are now calling for Invermere council to pay more attention to Mother Nature. The timing may have been inspired by the aforementioned climatic events, or it may just have been a coincidence, but at a recent meeting council meeting, council received four separate letters from residents, and several more residents attended the meeting to ask questions or relate concerns, all on various topics related to the environment.
The first three letters all requested that Invermere consider developing its own climate action plan.
Local resident and Living Lakes Canada board chair Jane Fleet noted that “masks are lying on the street; disposable cups are strewn on the grass; people are still able to get plastic bags in our stores” and pointed out that Kimberley has started its own climate action plan.
“There is no time to waste and no priority greater than protecting our planet. Yes it’s overwhelming. But local government must be a key player in having these continued and prioritized conversations,” wrote Eden Yesh in the second letter.
In the third letter, Taoya Schaefer wrote that responding to climate change needs to be a strategic priority and a priority that needs to be enforced. “Even small actions such as enforcing the no-idling bylaw will help to make a difference and at the same time save resources. Having a bylaw that is completely disregarded by many residents is of little use,” she wrote. “If we had a high-impact education blitz around the harms caused by idling vehicles, especially diesel trucks, and then enforcement to help change people’s behaviour, we could have improved air quality, while saving fuel, and money. This will be especially important when cold weather causes people to idle their vehicles in the mistaken belief that they need to warm up the motor by idling, or they wish to step into a warm vehicle.”
Schaefer wrote that the district could also use development permits to promote energy and water conservation, and reduce greenhouse gases by requiring that development applicants create an emissions reduction strategy as part of the approvals process.
The fourth letter, from Bill Ark, touched on a wide variety of concerns, particularly on the state of local waterbodies, saying that to tackle the issue seriously, all-fuelled boasts should be banned, as should all golf course and personal use of fertilizers and herbicides, and all sewage leakage. “If we keep supporting the damaging tourism activities to this lake and area, including provisions for more and more boats, please look ahead to what this promotes,” wrote Ark. “Ideas to have more marinas and boat launches in the Athalmer area — salmon and other fish beds area — are not the way to discourage more fuelled boats and reduce this negative footprint in the water.”
Resident Samson Boyer was at the meeting, and asked if the district had made any progress on carbon emission reductions targets, set in 2010, of a 30 per cent reduction in corporate emissions and a six per cent reduction in general community emissions.
Invermere chief administrative officer Kindry Luyendyk responded that she didn’t have any answers off the top of her head, but would look into it and get back to Boyer.
Boyer, echoing the letters, asked if the district had plans to create a municipal climate action plan.
“It is part of the discussion all the time,” said Invermere mayor Al Miller, later adding that the council members do have an environmentally focused filter that they put a lot of their decision making processes through, although they do not have a formal climate action plan.
Local resident Tracy Flynn, in attendance at the meeting, asked about making more environmental-friendly building codes.
Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young replied there have been a number of changes in recent years to the B.C. building code that make it more environmentally friendly, and that a number of local contractors have embraced greener building initiatives of their own accord.
“I feel we have been ahead of most communities in that vein. But are there more things that could be done? Yes, there could be,” added Miller.