Regulations to protect Kootenay Lake shoreline not working, report says

·4 min read

A report on planning new protection of the Kootenay Lake shoreline from environmental degradation heard some sobering results from a recent study of shoreline health.

A survey done last year by Living Lakes Canada, called the Foreshore Inventory Mapping Project, found that while about 2/3 of the lake’s roughly 400 kilometers of shoreline are still natural, the other third has been disturbed—mostly by humans.

And that disturbance is slowly increasing, the shoreline mappers found.

“The FIMP project demonstrates that the current regulatory framework has been unsuccessful in protecting riparian areas,” says a staff report. “Between 2012 and 2021, 4.5 km of natural shoreline was lost and theare was a 10.1% decrease in ‘very high’ and ‘high’ value habitat.”

The study emphasizes the importance of mitigating the incremental losses of habitat that result from anthropogenic (human-caused) pressures. It notes 91% of the affected shoreline was privately held on rural residential and single-family residential properties.

“The findings of the 2021 FIMP work demonstrate that the current regulatory framework is failing to preserve high value riparian areas along Kootenay Lake’s shoreline,” the report to the July 19 Rural Affairs Committee says. “It is crucial to ensure that development activities along the shoreline are undertaken in a way that is sensitive to the surrounding riparian area in order to mitigate the negative impacts of anthropogenic pressures.”

RDCK staff are now trying to draw up regulations for foreshore development that would both protect the environment, while encouraging buy-in by residents. While staff are recommending a 30-metre buffer zone where the Environmental Development Permit would be needed to build, they are careful to note they are not trying to stop shoreline development altogether.

“It is crucial to clarify that an EDPA is not the same as a ‘setback’, which would typically prohibit development of any kind,” the report says. “The intent of the Review is to ensure that new development and disturbance within riparian areas is carried out responsibly and the proper oversight is in place where necessary.”

Public consultations have been going on for months and will continue for some time yet, the report says. The RAC committee received the report as information.

New community space for South SlocanNew community space for South Slocan

The old schoolhouse in South Slocan is getting a new lease on life – though it will be a shell of its formal self.

The RDCK’s Rural Affairs Committee approved spending $150,000 for the creation of “a new covered performance area and community gathering space, accessible to all regional residents and visitors”.

The 90-year-old building, known locally as the Old Schoolhouse, has not been aging gracefully, and until recently was due to be completely demolished.

But now staff have come up with plan that will give the schoolhouse a kind of ‘afterlife’.

In place of the current building, the RDCK will build a “community park shelter and educational activity area”. The existing footprint of the building will be re-purposed to support a gazebo-like shelter. That will serve as an outdoor performance area (complete with theatre-bench seating), public washrooms, a community gathering space, and storage for park maintenance tools and recreational materials.

“A centralized fireplace will be added, along with seating to facilitate local arts, recreation, and community programming,” notes a staff report. “Situated on RDCK-owned land, the property will be available for general community park and greenspace use and will be well suited for picnicking and walking.”

While the $150,000 (coming from Area H’s share of the Community Works Fund) will kick start the project, it will cost more than $1 million in total. More money has to be secured, and work will be completed in phases as the funding is found, the report says.An architect has drawn up plans and demolition should begin soon; the project should be completed by 2023.

The full RDCK board ratified the RAC decision.

Advisory committees get boost

The RDCK’s community planning commissions are getting beefed up. Staff reported the Advisory Planning and Heritage Commissions (APHC) are going to have planning staff assigned to support them, and will have their procedures improved to make them run more smoothly and better integrated into the regional government system.

The commissions are independent bodies composed of local residents in many (but not all) RDCK Areas. They act in an advisory capacity with regard to proposed land use bylaws or permits, providing recommendations on such matters to the RDCK Board and staff, as well as the local area director.

The changes will include more established meeting procedures, report-writing and decision-making, to align with RDCK standards. The public will be able to attend all meetings either live or online, agendas will be available online as well, among other changes.

“All of this is to improve good governance and good decision-making to ensure we doing the best we can to make those recommendations to the board,” said Planning Manager Nelson Wight at the RAC meeting.

Directors thanked Wight for the information, and Area H Director Walter Popoff noted he was seeking to see a APHC established for Slocan Valley North, which is currently undergoing an Official Community Plan review.

The RAC committee received the report as information.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting