In their campaigns to serve as the Area F director for the Regional District of East Kootenay, incumbent Wendy Booth and newcomer Andrea Dunlop both made a pitch for votes during the all-candidates’ forum at the Lions Hall in Windermere on Wednesday, November 5th. Questions throughout the evening largely centred around water, including runoffs, safe drinking water, and lake access. In providing Windermere with potable water to meet Interior Health’s standards, Ms. Booth said that test drilling has been planned by the RDEK over the next few weeks which will determine if there is an adequate water supply to meet the community’s needs. Pending board approval, the design and construction of the new reservoir will begin shortly after, she said. That project is valued at $2.3 million. Ms. Dunlop said turning Windermere’s water system over to a private owner, with a profit driven mentality would be ridiculous and illogical.
“One of the reasons why I’m running in this election (is) I did not believe that Wendy had really advocated strongly enough to ensure that our water system remained in the hands of the people of Windermere,” she said.
Ms. Dunlop said her priority is to ensure safe drinking water in the most affordable manner without privatizing the utility.
The candidates were also asked about how best to drain water during runoff.
“We live in an area where we experience runoff every spring, so what would we do to mitigate that,” said Ms. Dunlop, who proposed a new policy to disallow new developments in flood zone areas. She also commended emergency preparedness alerts from the RDEK that have been in use since the July 2012 mudslide.
“I now carry rubber boots in the back of my truck during flooding season,” Ms. Booth said. “I understand this new reality.”
A report published since the 2012 mudslide has indicated that significant amounts of sediment are expected to come down, though the intensity, timing, and duration are uncertain. Ms. Booth said that with a municipal-provincial-federal funding formula, flooding mitigation has been implemented in Fairmont. Windermere Creek is undergoing a problem just as serious, but covering those costs has proven much more difficult.
“At present we are unable to tap into any government funding,” she said, as the one-third municipal funding hasn’t been agreed upon. Options for that funding include billing either all of Windermere, only portions of the community, or just those living along the creek. Funding will become more palatable amid a stronger economy, to which both candidates pitched their ideas for growth.
Ms. Dunlop said the addition of an abattoir to the valley, proposed by the Windermere Farmers Institute, is reflective of her beliefs towards economic development. She speculated upon the many direct and indirect economic benefits that would be realized in the valley. She said that processing food locally reflects upon the common values of high quality and a secure supply.
Before Ms. Booth explained her ideas for economic growth, she said the onus for moving the abattoir forward is currently on the Farmer’s Institute. Ms. Booth said that during her current term in office, she has taken the lead in a study on combining the valley’s visitor centres to reduce redundancies. Based on community feedback, Ms. Booth said imaging is key for economic growth.
“In the community priority projects completed in December 2013 with very broad valley consultation, the number one priority was marketing and branding,” she said, adding that it’s time the Columbia Cultural Tourism Association received more support, she said.
In terms of developing public lands, Ms. Booth said it’s important to “minimize strain on public finances and other resources resulting from new development.” When a situation cannot be avoided, “we have to make sure the developer provides proper mitigation or compensation for the impact of development.” Ms. Dunlop said the RDEK needs to ensure existing agricultural land remains viable into the future, as well as plan protection from imminent forest fires, and work co-operatively with backcountry user groups.