The Columbia Basin Trust will be funding even more projects in the Basin area, including the Upper Columbia Valley, next year following a big increase in its revenue.
The trust had $48 million in revenue during the 2015-2016 financial year, a jump up from the $29 million it had the previous year. It delivered more than $31 million in programs and services to Basin communities this year (up from $22 million the year before) — a number that trust president and executive director Neil Muth told The Echo is bound to rise again next year, given the bump in revenue.
“That will all be coming back to the community. We strive to keep our administration costs as flat as possible, so any increase in revenue gets passed on to Basin residents,” he said.
Muth said not all the Trust’s income comes from hydro power project, but a substantial part of it does.
“So the big increase you see from $29 million to $48 million is the result of two factors — the Waneta expansion project just south of Trail, which was completed in early 2015 and has now become fully operational; and we have a new contract kicking in for the Arrow Lakes generating station. The new contract has higher prices than the previous contract did, and it (the new contract) was in place for the last three months of the fiscal year, so that bumped us up,” said Muth.
He couldn’t say exactly how much of the $31 million in programs and services for the Basin went specifically to the Upper Columbia Valley.
“We generally don’t allocate a certain amount of the revenue for the different regions, so there is no regional breakdown on where all the money is going. We react to community organizations that come to us looking for funding for project or programs on an individual basis, no matter they come from,” he said, adding that the Trust does, however, run the Community Initiatives program, which gives money to the regional and municipal governments in the Basin and lets them decide how to allocate it.
The project or programs in the Upper Columbia Valley that the Trust has recently given money to include $500,000 for the new Columbia Valley Centre; $10,000 for Invermere’s Water Smart program; $75,000 for the Shuswap Indian Band’s community development program; more than $19,000 for the valley-wide marketing initiative; and $37,500 for upgrades to the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce. It also gave $42,500 for upgrades to Tilley Memorial Park in Canal Flats; $9,000 to help the Fairmont Hot Springs Lions Club construct a multi-purpose building; $20,000 for a project assessing the feasibility of setting up a field research, visitor and discovery centre in Radium Hot Springs; and more than $40,000 for the Family Dynamix Association’s affordable housing plan. The Trust also gave $80,000 for the development of the new Columbia Valley brand; more than $39,000 for the Akisqnuk First Nation’s Columbia River juvenile pike assessment project and more than $38,000 to support environmental education at provincial, regional and municipal parks in the valley.
Last year, the Community Initiatives program gave $240,000 to local governments — both the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) and the various municipal council — in the Upper Columbia Valley, said Muth, and the Trust’s extra revenue this year will see the Community Initiative funding figure bump up about 15 per cent next year to $276,000.
“We expect significant growth again this year, providing a solid financial foundation to do more to support communities and residents to address priorities that collectively, help this region thrive,” he said.
“I’m also excited about how we are expanding the ways in which we are working with and supporting communities by focusing on longer term, strategic initiatives like housing and economic development, and using new tools like impact investments to create solutions for community challenges,” said Muth.
Read more about the Trust’s performance in its 2015-2016 annual service plan report at www.ourtrust.org/annualreport2016. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, visit www.ourtrust.org or call 1-800-505-8998.