The future of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program comes down to  whether it should be part of government or run independently.

The future of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program comes down to whether it should be part of government or run independently.

Fate of Kootenay fish program looms

A steering committee directed to address the future of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program is closer to a final recommendation.

A steering committee directed to address the future of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program is coming closer to a final recommendation.

Local employees of the program were handed pink slips last fall after BC Hydro implemented various cost saving measures.

Columbia region program manager Trevor Oussoren told Nelson city council last week the committee has been working through a decision making process, towards a November deadline.

“The models I shared in the meeting are what we’ve heard from stakeholders,” he said following the presentation. “Those models were frontrunners.”

The two models are Fish and Wildlife Compensation program staff working for the Ministry of Fish, Lands and Natural Resource Operations or an “independent distinct organization.”

“There is designated funding to the positions in the first model where they aren’t necessarily government-funded positions but have designated funding instead,” said Oussoren.

Even though the second model is independent, according to discussions in the steering committee, even in the independent model the program manager should be BC Hydro staff, based in the region with technical/biological expertise.

In the independent model there would still be $4 million from BC Hydro designated to the program annually.

Oussoren said with the Ministry model, staff positions would be more secure in concept because of the designated funding.

Following the decision by BC Hydro last fall, many local organizations and groups including Nelson city council voiced concern around moving local positions to Vancouver and Victoria.

Oussoren said it’s his understanding the program will retain experienced staff in the region.

Councillor Donna Macdonald, who voiced concern around the changes to the program, said last week’s presentation eased her mind to a large extent.

“I was just such a shock when all of a sudden the program was cancelled in its old form,” said Macdonald. “As we learned tonight they did that basically to reduce the number of positions and had no plan on how to continue the program in its valuable work.”

Of the two presented models, Macdonald said her preference would be for an independent organization.

“It would be something we can have ownership over and that we as the larger Basin community can manage and set priorities,” she said. “But I’m always fearful of having things disappear.”

According to Macdonald, with the Ministry model there is a concern positions and the program disappear into government offices.

“There is always a concern the priorities for the program might get subsumed under the priorities of that government ministry,” she said.

The new delivery model for the Columbia region is anticipated to be announced in November for implementation on April 1.