Columbia Basin Trust supports 22 projects for more sustainable operations

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With the ongoing impacts of climate change, finding sustainability for the future is key. The Columbia Basin Trust is providing financial support of over $2 million to First Nations and non-profit organizations across the Columbia Basin with 22 new projects. These projects will involve activities like purchasing new electric vehicles, or replacing fossil fuel vehicles with electric ones, installing charging stations or doing energy retrofits and repairs on community-use buildings. Through this initiative and the support of The Trust, Akisqnuk First Nation and Shuswap Band will also be obtaining two new electric vehicles and charging stations.

“We’re pleased to help even more non-profits and First Nations increase the energy efficiency of their buildings and electrify their transportation,” said Ulli Mueller, senior manager, Delivery of Benefits, Columbia Basin Trust, in a February press release. “These organizations can continue their vital work toward community well-being, while building their climate resilience.”

Several projects of the 22 will focus on building improvements that aim to conserve or generate energy. Valemount Public Library is just one example and will be upgrading its building, including replacing the roof and upgrading the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

“Our 34-year-old building is sorely in need of a new HVAC system for both financial and health reasons: to reduce our hydro bills and add adequate air filtration, made even more important since COVID-19,” said Wendy Cinnamon, library director. “A new roof will prevent leaks and stop large piles of snow from falling at the base of the building, keeping moisture out of and away from the library building.”

Another building in the Basin that will be seeing improvements is the Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank. They will be upgrading their building with solar panels, a heat pump, LED lighting and insulation.

“This opportunity will allow the Kimberley Helping Hand Food Bank to continue down its new path to better serve its community while saving on operations costs, being more self-sufficient and implementing green initiatives,” said Thom Tarte, manager. “This is a very forward-thinking project and a great complement to our new building as we move toward a more progressive and sustainable approach to operations and facilities.”

Other projects will include purchasing up to two new battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and replacing up to two fossil-fuel vehicles with electric vehicles. It is also in the works to purchase and install two or three different charging stations to help create clean transportation options for Columbia Basin residents. The Kootenay Society for Community Living (KSCL) is purchasing an electric vehicle and a level 2 charging station to support its community outreach programming for individuals and families.

“We currently support over 145 adults and teens who live throughout the West Kootenay, so transportation is a vital part of all our programs,” said Kathleen Elias, executive director. “Along with cost savings, KSCL is lowering its carbon footprint and becoming environmentally responsible. As well, installing a dual charging station ensures the electric vehicle is ready for daily usage and prepares us for future electric vehicle purchases.”

Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer