Residents of Windermere, Fairmont Hot Springs and other communities in the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Area F heard from Area F director Wendy Booth and district staff at a town hall meeting last week on a number of prominent issues, including the Windermere Creek problems and the Windermere water system.

During her director’s report, Booth outlined the history of the Windermere Creek problems, describing how the creek has seen flooding and high levels of sediments washed down the stream between Trethewey Beach and Shadybrook Resort in recent springs, resulting in local states of emergency being declared in 2011 and 2012, and a geotechnical report in late 2012 and early 2013. She also noted that a public meeting held on the issue in the spring of 2013 was poorly attended.

“Due to that lack of attendance, nothing was done (by the regional district) because it wasn’t seen as a priority,” said Booth. “However, as anybody who lives in the area is aware, the problem still exists. It’s not going to go away on its own. It needs help, even if it’s currently not on the regional district priority list.”

She said she is working closely with Area F resident Christine Dubois on trying to raise awareness on the issue, so that something can be done about it.

“This is a catastrophe as far as the lake (Windermere) is concerned, but because some people didn’t show up to a meeting, the powers that be have decided it’s not a priority, that’s just silly,” said an audience member.

“I agree; I’m running with it as much as I can,” Booth responded. “This is important. I just have not had much support on it until now.”

Brian De Paoli, the temporary Windermere Water System project supervisor, gave an update on the water system upgrade situation, highlighting and giving a timeline to the new potential groundwater option, telling the audience that the groundwater test drilling program is likely to begin in July and that a report should be available in August or September.

Questions arose from the audience on how much progress has been made in negotiating with Parr Utilities on the possibility of buying the private water company outright to solve Windermere’s water issues, and on whether or not there is any kind of final deadline for resolving Windermere’s water situation.

RDEK chief financial officer Shawn Tomlin responded to the Parr questions, saying negotiations with Parr had been put on hold while the groundwater option was being examined, and Booth responded to the deadline questions, saying Windermere and all other B.C. communities are supposed to have their water quality up to the new provincial standards by January 2015, but that there may be some wiggle room.

“Yes, we have a deadline, but do I think it’s a deal-breaker? No,” she said. “It’s more important to make the right decision than to make a quick decision.”

Tomlin also reviewed the regional district’s five-year financial plan for 2014 to 2018, which, for 2014, lays out a $24.5 million operating budget and a $3.56 million capital budget, with some of the primary sources of revenue being property tax ($16.75 million parcel tax ($1.24 million), fees and charges ($2.58 million) and local government transfers and grants ($4.8 million).

Regional district special initiatives co-ordinator Andrew McLeod also briefly talked about the regional district’s sustainability plan and its agricultural plan.

A draft of the agricultural plan will hopefully be released to the public later this summer, said McLeod, who added that, if all goes well, it could be before the RDEK board of directors for adoption in September or October.

“The (agricultural) plan will speak to a desire for regional autonomy and the importance of preserving good farmland, but largely it stands separate from the changes being proposed in Bill 24,”said McLeod.

A draft document of the regional sustainability plan will also probably be ready this summer, according to McLeod.

The plan, when finalized, is intended to replace the 2004 regional growth plan.

Valley residents can give their input to the plan online until June 30th at