Slocan Council, Feb. 13: Salmon fry release to take place in Slocan in May
About 300 students from nine schools in the region will be releasing salmon fry into Slocan Lake at the mouth of the river on May 16 as part of the Syilx Okanagan Nation Alliance’s Fish in Schools program. A presentation on the program was made to council by ONA fisheries biologist Michael Zimmer.
Participating classes were each delivered 100 salmon eggs in January and the students will be raising them in fish tanks through the spring. ONA Knowledge Keepers will be visiting the classrooms to help guide the students and teach them how to care for the eggs.
It’s all part of the work the ONA is doing to return salmon to local waterways.
Zimmer said there are currently about 50 schools in the Okanagan and Columbia River basins participating in the program, which just celebrated its 20th anniversary. The program was introduced in the Okanagan in 2003 and in the Kootenays in 2017.
Zimmer explained how the construction of dams on the Columbia River system has decimated fish habitat. “We understand the system has changed,” he said. “It used to be this tumultuous free-flowing river, probably one of the most productive salmon streams on the planet.”
They are tracking the progress of returning salmon and Zimmer said they recently found an adult Chinook salmon in the Columbia River near Castlegar for the first time in 80 years.
Zimmer invited the community and council to come out for the May 16 event, with the main release ceremony happening at 2 pm.
ReDi grant proposals
Council will hear proposals from local groups seeking funding from the Columbia Basin Trust’s Resident Directed (ReDi) grants program on April 4 at 5 pm. Applicants will have five minutes each to pitch their project ideas to councillors.
These grants are for projects that support the community and public good. The main requirement is for the projects to be approved by the community in which they take place. This program was formerly called the Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Program, referring to areas affected by the Columbia River Treaty dams.
Once council has heard from applicants, they will debate and decide on the winning proposals at a special meeting on April 18 at 5 pm. The application deadline was February 17.
Funding for community groups
Councillors approved $2,000 for the rail trail society to put side doors on the Kubota Rugged Terrain Vehicle used to groom the Slocan Valley Rail Trail for cross-country skiing. They also approved a $150 contribution for the annual Easter Egg hunt in Expo Park on April 11. But they declined to provide extra money for the Winter Carnival after the event went over budget by $500. The Village had already provided $3,000 for the event, which was matched by RDCK Area H. Every councillor expressed unease at bailing the organizers out after the shortfall. Organizer Lisa Parente reported total fundraising amounted to $8,544, with spending at $9,044.45.
“Local government really did their share,” Councillor Madeleine Perriere said.
Mayor Jessica Lunn said that it was “a fantastic event,” but council would not want to set a bad precedent by taking care of the busted budget after already providing so much funding.
A letter to council from a local homeowner who uses her property as a short-term vacation rental sparked a discussion about the need to regulate these units.
“I think it’s very worthwhile for us to look at that and explore it,” said Councillor Jordan Knott. “These rentals are operated like a business; they should really be treated like a business.”
In the letter, Nicole Tigchelaar advocates for regulation to ensure bad actors don’t flood the market with problem properties, tarnishing the reputation of responsible homeowners managing short-term rentals.
Her suggestions included having staff make sure rental unit owners have business licences, limiting the number of rentals allowed per block, stopping “party houses” and instituting a three-strike rule for property owners breaking the rules.
Mayor Lunn said this issue had been brought up during the Official Community Plan update this past fall, but as of yet no new bylaws had been created.
Slocan’s Chief Administrative Officer Michelle Gordon said there is a policy in place requiring a business licence for short-term rentals, and staff have caught a couple folks online this way who were operating rentals without a licence.
“It’s easy for us to catch folks because they’re advertising on Airbnb, which we do look at,” she said. Gordon added if council wanted to address the issue further, it could create a new bylaw limiting the number of rentals in town.
Proposed curbside pickup
The RDCK provided details on its proposal to provide curbside pickup of garbage, recycling and compost in a letter to council. The regional government is currently seeking feedback from residents to gauge interest in the program, which would initially include much of the Slocan Valley and the area from Playmor Junction to Nelson, but leave out the village.
Mayor Jessica Lunn said that if the RDCK develops this service, the council could ask Slocan residents if they want to join.
Cost for the service would be between $160 and $265 per year for each household. The RDCK letter says this is about average for similar programs in BC and amounts to less than what people pay in fuel, time and transfer station fees to go to the dump themselves.
Councillor Knott questioned the RDCK’s ability to actually deliver this service, saying that the Regional District is currently unable to meet the lesser demands of emptying the recycling bins in the Slocan transfer station on time. Mayor Jessica Lunn said she would voice these concerns at the next RDCK meeting.
Residents within the RDCK’s current proposal area can provide feedback at https://engage.rdck.ca. If the plan receives enough support, the RDCK may hold a referendum on the proposal in the fall.
New Village website
CAO Gordon reported on development of a new Village of Slocan website. The current site was created in 2014 and Gordon said it has become “very difficult” to use. The new site will be on the same platform, so she said it should be an easy transition for staff. Website building will take place over February and March, with the launch of the new website expected by May.
Affordable housing site update
The Village is set to put out a request for bids on the demolition of the old curling rink building in central Slocan by the end of February. This will be the site of a new eight-unit affordable housing project.
The old septic tank for the curling club has now been fully removed, clearing the way for the building to be taken out. The Village is seeking a bidder who can get the building fully removed by July 1.
Mark Page, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice