Group set to study impact of Balfour ferry loss

The association opposes the provincial government’s proposed relocation of the Kootenay Lake ferry landing from Balfour to Queens Bay.

Last weekend 300 people attended a 'swim-in' at Queens Bay beach.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has given the Queens Bay Residents Association a grant of $8,960 to study of the social and economic impacts of relocating the Kootenay Lake Ferry from Balfour to Queens Bay.

The association opposes the provincial government’s proposed relocation.

The potential impact on Balfour businesses has been one of the main reasons for this opposition. The association’s John Betts told the Star that the feasibility study written by SNC-Lavelin for the province did not consider those impacts.

“They didn’t look at the economy that has been created around the ferry landing to capture tourist dollars and enhance the amenities of Balfour, which then adds more money to the economy,” he said.

Peak Solutions Consulting Ltd. of Kamloops has been contracted to produce the report by October 6, which is the provincial government’s deadline for the public to submit comments on the proposed ferry relocation.

The association has two active petitions. The first, an appeal to the provincial government to scrap the relocation, has now surpassed 4000 signatures from both locals and tourists, Betts said.

“It is fascinating to get support from the tourists and see where they are from,” said Betts. “There are international travellers and people from around BC. You get a cross section of who the traffic is. This is a tourist destination and the ferry ride is much appreciated by many of the tourists. They are here for the ferry ride.”

Betts acknowledged that there would still be a ferry trip for tourists, albeit a shorter one.

“Yes, it will be 15 minutes, but they won’t have any amenities, it will just be a parking lot. There might be a food truck or something, but that experience of being at the ferry and being able to get something at the bakery or the pub or the diner, none of that will there. At Queens Bay there is physically no place to put it. We don’t even think it is a safe place to put a parking lot because of the instability of the bank.”

The second petition asks the government to create a regional park at Queen’s Bay.

“We had taken that beach for granted,” Betts said. “Now we want to recognize and fully appreciate the unique piece of shoreline that it is. We are keeping this petition in the background for now so we don’t confuse it with the main Balfour petition.”

Betts said the association had hoped to meet with representatives of the provincial government before the October 6 deadline, but that request was turned down. He said the group wanted to talk with them about a list of 50 objections they have identified in the SNC-Lavelin report.

Those 50 items, Betts said, include “areas of concern, gaps, assumptions, optimistic outcomes and blind spots. It ranges from will they need to build a breakwater, to what are the impacts on the water users, to the instability of the bank at Queens Bay, it is extensive.”

The full list can be found on the group’s website at choosebalfour.com/learn-more

Although the provincial government has set October 6 as its deadline for comments, it has not indicated when the decision will be made.

Last weekend, the association held a ‘swim-in’ at the Queens Bay beach to keep up its momentum.

“The swim-in passed our expectations,” said Betts. “This campaign has been wearing on everybody, so it was great to have some fun.”

 

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