Jim Garth of Debri Resources worked on a fuel mitigation program at Rosemont’s Art Gibbon Park last year. The regional district has put four such projects on hold.

Kootenay wildfire dispute still simmering

Four prescription burns in the RDCK are on hold while local politicians haggle with the province over funding.

Four prescription burns in the Regional District of Central Kootenay are on hold while local politicians haggle with the province over funding.

The provincial government has already approved its share of the projects near Boswell, Edgewood, Harrop/Procter, and Arrow Creek, intended to reduce the risk of wildfire spreading from forests to communities.

But the regional district balked this week at picking up $110,000 of the $459,000 price tag, following a rule change last year that puts local government on the hook for 10 per cent of projects under $100,000 and 25 per cent above it. Previously, the province paid the whole shot.

Another 20 burns in high priority areas are expected to cost $2 million to $3 million.

Regional district chair John Kettle says they can’t easily come up with their portion.

“We don’t have money we can grab out of thin air to help these prescriptions,” he says. “Are they sorely needed? You bet. All our water systems and watersheds are at risk.”

Kettle says a dedicated tax service to fund their share does not exist, although it might be accomplished through an existing service.

Last month the chairs of the three Kootenay regional districts — who call their areas “among the highest risk for wildfire in the province” — met with Forests Minister Steve Thomson to seek solutions.

“The current funding formula has greatly limited our ability to actively engage in interface fuel treatments, and has stretched our budgets and staff resources,” they told Thomson in a letter.

“Without necessary restructuring, this important program will lose political support, and as a result, we believe Kootenay communities will be placed at risk.”

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has pulled out, while RDCK chair Kettle and Arrow Lakes director Paul Peterson put projects in their areas in “abeyance.”

East Shore director Garry Jackman and rural Nelson director Ramona Faust did the same this week. Jackman called it a “strategic position.”

“We’d be foolish to undertake this without the money in hand,” he said.

Rural Castlegar director Andy Davidoff said it didn’t take long after his election to realize wildfire risk is a “huge” issue.

“It’s a travesty for our government to offer a program and place such limitations on it that we can’t protect our citizens,” he said.

Administrator Jim Gustafson agreed protecting citizens is “the most important thing a government can do,” but added the projects have hidden costs, including administration and hiring consultants and contractors.

Regional districts are expected to absorb those costs, he said, and there is no contingency if the projects go over budget.

Kettle is optimistic the forests ministry will come back with changes to make the program more acceptable to regional districts, and believes their message came across loud and clear.

“That’s a heavyweight deal when you bring in three regional districts at once and we all agree,” he says. “I think we got their attention. [Thomson] was concerned something they felt was really good is not being implemented the way they thought.”

The RDCK is also bringing a motion before the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments asking the province to pick up the full tab for fuel management projects.

 

Just Posted

Nelson Leafs, regional district plan full-time hazardous waste recycling depot

City requires flood-mitigation plan before one-year trial can begin

Nelson Leafs humble Rockies 9-2

Leafs score 7 unanswered goals en route to win

Nelson Leafs fall in Kimberley 4-1

The Dynamiters took a 2-0 lead en route to the win

Nelson Legion to sell its building to tech company

Traction on Demand will purchase the building while the Legion will lease space

Climbing group launches fundraiser for Castlegar cliffs

TAWKROC wants to raise $60,000 to purchase the property from the owners

VIDEO: Monday Roundup

#hotscoops #hotscoops #hotscoops

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Minister appoints former CIRB chair to resolve Canada Post labour dispute

Postal workers engaged in weeks of rotating walkouts

Most Read