Chair report, October 2019- Columbia River Treaty Local Government Committee and the Transboundary Conference.

Chair’s report – October 2019

Kimberley Sept 11-14: Columbia River Treaty Local Government Committee and the Transboundary Conference

The CRT LGC met the day before the Transboundary conference began. We reviewed both committee priorities and the CRT recommendations from the LGC. For a full report, see release under board correspondence.

The LGC budget is short this year which means our activities are somewhat constrained. The LGC discussed how to prioritize what is possible with our current budget noting there are funding discussion upcoming which may impact our priorities.

Community meetings are planned to bring back information on the CRT process and locally specific concerns beginning in October and into late November. Meadow Creek is on November 26th, Creston is on October 24th, Jaffray October 23rd, Genelle November 12th, Nelson November 13th, Nakusp November 27thand Fauquier November 28th.

At Transboundary, I attended sessions on the grid we rely on, did you know our power grid map goes from Northern BC to Mexico? If California has no sun and needs more power, they can switch to the coal in the north west? Or if BC runs dry, we can switch to using the sources south of us? It was astounding to learn we are far from ‘locally secure and sourced”. The presentation lead to the vulnerability due to increasing demand and changes in where our power comes from. I asked why we would not want policies that are more supportive of locally owned and managed utility grids to reduce this massive vulnerability, the answer is policy related and the folks presenting we more technical experts on systems, so I did not get much of an answer. However, after the presentation, a few of us gathered and discussed the pros and cons of centralized grids vs decentralized ones. An on-going discussion that will become more important as we evolve.

I was amazed and awe struck by the sharing of stories and ceremony by our indigenous councils. Stories of early travels through the basin, pre-dams, was rich in graphic details to describe the geography and abundant wildlife, fish being the highlight. Many in attendance agreed to the priority of re-introduction of salmon into the Columbia with our Federal and Provincial counterparts at hand to listen and champion this recommendation at the negotiating table.

UBCM Sept 22-27

Twenty-three meetings/conference sessions in five days, I believe this is a personal record! As board chair, here are the highlights from those meetings:

Prioritizing Energy Management

The Emergency Program Act (EPA) is under review. We will see a policy paper and an engagement process unveiled within the next few weeks with the intention of legislation being introduced this time next year. What we heard was that we are all (LG/the province/EMBC/BCWS) great at response but we need to start working more on mitigation. It was indicated that funding will be based on an investment model. My assumption is that the RDCK is in the lead on this file with lidar, NDMP and all our wildfire mitigation work from fire smart, CWPP’s and fuel mitigation prescriptions.

Ministry of Agriculture: Kootenay Boundary Farm Advisors

This was a tri district meeting with Chair Gay (East Kootenay) and Chair Russell (Kootenay Boundary. We  requested funding to support our three year pilot of providing a modernized version of agriculture extension services in the basin. Since 2015, the three RD’s and CBT have funded the KBFA program with the program currently scheduled to end this year. We have seen documented success in our food and farming sector and would like to see it continue however, as agriculture extension services were a provincial service, we would like to have the province back at the table. Response was positive with an indication that Minister Popham has heard positive reports about our program. The financial ask from the RDEK, who administers the program, was for $100,000.

Also discussed at this meeting was changes to the ALR and a request for clarification on housing density. As the meeting ran short of time, I was able to secure an offer from ALC staff to come to the RDCK to do a workshop with our rural affairs committee. Also, a public engagement session will be held on October 30thin Castlegar, details previously circulated by planning staff.

Details on the engagement process: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/supportingfarmers/

Ministry of Energy and Mines: HB Mine

Waste recovery staff is attempting to begin the process of passive closure at HB Mine. The process to apply for the permit and associated requirement by EMPR (Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources) is quite onerous and designed for private mines that are in operation, not a local government who has never operated a mine nor intends to do so. Our discussion with Minister Mungall highlighted RDCK staff effort to achieve all requirements and that some of the requirements were not applicable to this project. Outcome was direct support from staff at EMPR on our application/permit process and the constituency office in Nelson for letters of support on any funding applications we may submit.

BC Wildfire and Flood: Fuel mitigation funding

This was a late meeting request, approved by the board at the September board meeting. CAO Horn and I were able to secure a meeting to discuss the changes to the funding model for wildfire mitigation prescriptions and implementation. We know there is $25 million over the next three years, but the funding will now remain ‘in-house’ with the Ministry of Forest. They would like to see partnerships with local government, BC Wildfire Service and other stakeholder to continue the work we have started. We stressed the extensive community consultation undertaken to ensure that there was a good understanding of the need for the work, best practices in fuel mitigation and overall, community support for any proposed work. It is vulnerable on our part and the communities to hand this over to those who would not have established strong community connections and our advocacy is to remain the leads on any proposed work. RDCK staff has already begun discussions with MFLNRORD and BCWS on how we can continue to do the work with the communities needs and values at the fore front.

Minister of Citizen Services: Broadband services

This was another mutli district meeting to discuss the progress and remaining hurdles of the Regional Broadband Committee (RBBC). Chair Gay of RDEK took the lead with a quick overview of all that has been accomplished in the Columbia Basin with a thank you for the recently approved projects in the Slocan Valley. Items highlighted as outstanding concerns were:

  • the cost of using any utility poles,
  • inaccurate data that does not provide a clear picture of the gap that remains in service provisions and
  • the funding stipulations that use metrics for speed levels that can prevent those completely unserved for internet services to be usurped by those with mediocre services.

The issue of high costs to use utility poles is being reviewed by the CRTC. The metrics for funding programs will remain, despite the impact to the those completely unserved. As for accurate data collection, the funders are willing to use other tools to assess access and disparities, which we saw in some of our recent applications.

Moving forward, the RBBC may need to consider revisiting our mandate as the Province looks to us for a regional response to any applications with the question of whether these areas are ‘regional priorities”.

Also discussed, briefly, was the proposed changes to the valuation formula being proposed for broadband assets. We know that ISP’s that are nonprofits can be exempt from local taxation.

Forestry- Resource Breakfast and Forest Renewal session

Both sessions easily could have been several hours long with so much information and less than enough time for all questions. Panelists indicated a few startling facts:

  • 6 million hectares burned in the past two years, this is equivalent to 10 years of the Annual Allowable Cut, equal to 7-8% of our forest cover
  • More spruce beetle in the North, 570,000 hectares
  • The downturn was predicted over the past decade but is happening much quicker than anticipated
  • Timber companies are curtailing due to supply but also due to financial hardship

The interior renewal process is underway with consultation closing on October 11th, please review policy papers and submit your input here:

https://engage.gov.bc.ca/interiorforestrenewal/process-timelines/

Resolutions

Our amendment to the glyphosate resolution failed. There was a second amendment to remove the entire section of prohibiting use until the scientific review was complete, this as well failed. The original motion as written was what was approved. All other RDCK motions passed!

Two other meetings will be reported on at the next West Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital District meeting on October 23rd.