Pemberton preps advocacy items ahead of UBCM

The Village of Pemberton (VOP) is looking ahead to September’s Union of BC Municipalities Convention, with a full slate of topics to discuss with provincial officials.

At the regular council meeting on May 28, Mayor Mike Richman said he would like to meet with at least three ministers to discuss pressing problems facing the village.

Chief among them is the ongoing risk from flooding, which reared its head again in January after heavy rainfall led to properties in Pemberton being put on evacuation alerts and orders.

Richman said he would prefer to meet Minister of Transportation Rob Fleming outside of UBCM to discuss the matter—but it’s not the only topic up for discussion.

Councillor Laura Ramsden asked if council could also request a meeting to discuss Pemberton’s roaming horses. Pemberton’s mayor and council has grappled with the issue for months, and voted in December to send letters, copying the Lil’wat Nation, to MLA Jordan Sturdy, the BC SPCA, and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure requesting additional support in the matter.

Sturdy raised the issue in a graphic speech in the BC Legislature on March 13.

“Imagine for a moment that you are driving the Sea to Sky highway. It’s blowing and it’s cold, mixed rain and snow. You round a corner and without warning in front of you are a herd of 60 horses, stretched right across the highway,” he said. “Even as you hit the brakes, you smash into them. Horses come down. Down falls a younger horse, crunches onto your hood before sliding off to the side before it comes through your windshield. Your vehicle tumbles off the road and comes to a rest into the ditch, which fortunately is not full of water.”

Diking standards are also up for discussion at this year’s UBCM.

On May 28, council approved a resolution seeking a relaxation of the 200-year event diking standard for submission to the UBCM. Council previously asked staff to work with the Pemberton Valley Diking District to draft the resolution addressing the hardship faced by communities required to meet current standards in building dikes. Staff noted in a report to council the standards lead to significant financial and logistical burdens. They said a 100-year standard would offer sufficient protection to communities.

“The 100-year event standard would provide a sufficient level of protection against flooding and associated risks and allow for the development of more diking infrastructure, while reducing the financial strain on local governments and enabling diking authorities to allocate resources more efficiently, prioritize critical infrastructure projects, and enhance community resilience against natural disasters,” reads the report.

Councillors are now seeking provincial support for designing, constructing, and maintaining dikes to the 100-year standard.

Council resolved for UBCM to call upon the provincial government to amend existing regulations pertaining to diking requirements, relaxing the current 200-year event standard to a more practical and financially sustainable 100-year event standard. They would also accept a lesser return period that can be shown to “provide valuable protection through engineering, geomorphological and geotechnical professional review and recommendations.”

They will also urge the provincial government to engage in meaningful consultation with municipalities, diking authorities, and other interested parties.

Further, Pemberton’s mayor and council will also push for the province to fund the Wildlife Safety Response Officer (WSRO) program at this year’s UBCM. The WSRO program fills gaps in the community in reducing conflicts between bears and humans.

Both the VOP and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District heard presentations about the WRSO program last year, and how conservation officers in the area are overworked.

Calvin Rochon, who is a WSRO in the Sea to Sky, said the program was designed to mitigate conflict through education and public outreach, and notably, contact residents who make reports that don’t trigger a COS response. Rochon is employed by the COS, but the position is funded municipally.

With a resolution passed May 28, Pemberton’s mayor and council will call on the provincial government to pay for the role instead.

“There has been quite a big increase in grizzly bears,” Rochon said in a presentation to Pemberton’s council in March. “With the increase in population, it is going to keep increasing. There needs to be some sort of coexistence. The awareness needs to be there. People are looking for some sort of solution to it.

“I’m not saying that [the WSRO] is guaranteed going to be the one, but it will bring more education and outreach.”

This year’s UBCM convention will take place Sept. 16 to 20 in Vancouver.

Roisin Cullen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Pique Newsmagazine