As the RDCK plans for a new Environmental Development Permit Area around the Kootenay Lake shoreline, the board heard some sobering results from a recent study of the Kootenay Lake foreshore.
A survey done last year by Living Lakes Canada, called the Foreshore Inventory Mapping Project, found that while about two-thirds of the lake’s roughly 400 kilometres 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 report to the RDCK’s Rural Affairs Committee by Planner Corey Scott. “Between 2012 and 2021, 4.5 km of natural shoreline was lost and there 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 protect the environment while encouraging buy-in from residents. While staff are recommending a 30-metre buffer zone around the entire lake, where an 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.”
Consultations have been going on for months and will continue for some time yet, the report says.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice