Blewett boat owner Darrel Planden has been using the Fisherman’s Road launch in Taghum since he was a little kid, so when Teck decided to block access due to contaminated soil in the area, he wasn’t pleased.
“That’s where our volunteer fire trucks go to get water, and it’s always been an open area where you can launch canoes, kayaks, any kind of boat. Now all of the sudden they’re saying the dirt’s contaminated and they don’t want us to use it. I think it’s a bunch of B.S.”
Planden is one of 300 residents who have signed a petition addressed to Area E director Ramona Faust urging the RDCK “to establish a safe, reliable and accessible public boat launch in the Taghum/Blewett area.”
It goes on to say Teck’s closure of the Fisherman’s Road launch affects both recreational boaters and emergency personnel “as the nearest launch site is now located approximately 15 km away at Lakeside Park in Nelson. We believe there is a strong demand in the boating community for a launch and demand that the regional district work with community members to establish a public boat launch.”
When the Star attended the launch on Wednesday, a hastily dug trench was lined with a number of cement blocks that had been twisted and overturned. A new path has been created where boat owners can maneuver around the obstacles.
Teck’s Catherine Adair they understand the community’s frustrations.
“Teck is supportive of the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the community working to determine an appropriate location for a public boat launch in the Blewett/Taghum region,” she said in an email.
“Testing has confirmed the area used as a boat launch has elevated levels of metals associated with the historical Kenville mine, which deposited tailings intermittently between 1890 and 1956, and could potentially pose low health risks, particularly for young children.”
She said options for remediating the area are being explored following Teck contractor SNC-Lavalin sampling soil in the area.
In a fact sheet, Teck emphasized there is no health concern for fishing or swimming in the Kootenay River.
“Once the additional sampling is complete and analyzed, we will share the results with local residents and discuss our potential path forward.”
Petition organizer Jamie Gavin said he’s met with both Faust and Area F director Tom Newell, and accompanied them to the site. During their visit a pair of teenagers arrived, stepped over the trench, and launched their canoe.
“I guarantee you somebody’s going to push those blocks out of the way, and two guys with shovels could probably fill in that hole in a half hour.”
Gavin asked why the blockage was necessary, and suggested maybe a “Use at your own risk” sign could be erected.
He doesn’t believe the contamination is a significant risk.
“Rumour has it certain neighbours have complained enough times and this was just another way to shut it down.”
Gavin said the Fisherman’s Road launch is the only spot on the river west of Lakeside Park where it’s feasible to launch a boat, and residents unable to traverse Grohman Narrows have no other options.
“There are so many people in Blewett, Beasely, Bonnington and Taghum who want to get out on the water every day. We’ve got families using it, people going for a paddle after work. They need a safe, legal place to launch their boats without driving all the way over to Lakeside.”