RDEK signs Internet agreements, extends Columbia Valley Conservation Fund

The most recent RDEK board of directors meeting touched on several items of interest to the Upper Columbia Valley.

The most recent Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors meeting touched on several items of interest to the Upper Columbia Valley, including an extension of a local conservation fund and improvedInternet access for at least some valley residents.

During the Friday, November 4th meeting, the board voted to remove an expiry clause from the bylaw that created the Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund. Columbia Valley voters elected to set up the fund in 2008.The fund is financed from a parcel tax of about $20 per parcel per year on all Columbia Valley property owners,and the money goes to local conservation projects.

“It was a new type of initiative. We hadn’t done anything like it before,” RDEK corporate officer Shannon Moskal told The Echo. “So (when the fund was set up) an expiry date of December 31st, 2018 was included so that it could be evaluated.”

The fund is administered by the Kootenay Conservation Program, which has a technical review committee that reviews all applications and submits funding recommendations to the RDEK board of directors, which makes the final funding decisions.

The removal of the expiry date can be thought of as a “renewal” of the program in some respects, according to Ms. Moskal.

“It’s been a really successful program, with over 60 conservation projects funded to date totalling more than$1.6 million in funding and has resulted in over $16 million being leveraged by the projects,” she said, adding that ability to leverage other funding has been one of the most important aspects of the program.

“The projects have focused on restoration such as grassland, creek and wetland (and) invasive plant management, species at risk recovery, water quality monitoring, climate conservation action and incentives for landowners,” she said.

Ms. Moskal added that for the removal of the expiry date to become official, a proposed bylaw amendment on itwill need to receive three readings from the RDEK board, and approval from the Columbia Valley’s municipal councils.

Faster Internet

Board chair Rob Gay and RDEK chief administrative officer Shawn Tomlin signed a partnering agreement onbehalf of the RDEK with the Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation and FlexiNET Broadband Inc. for a two-yeart erm (March 2016 to March 2018) that should improve the availability of high speed Internet in several of theRDEK’s rural areas, including Area F. Communities and areas affected include Spillimacheen, Brisco, Radium HotSprings, Wilmer, the Toby Benches, Invermere, Windermere and along West Side Road between Fairmont HotSprings and Invermere.

Mr. Tomlin told The Echo that, in terms of what constitutes high speed Internet, the broadband corp and FlexiNext are aiming for at least five megabytes per second, if not faster.

The RDEK also signed an agreement with the broadband corporation for use of the six remaining strands of fibreoptic cable of the Columbia Valley’s fibre-optic “backbone” that the RDEK hopes will result in better Internet services in the rural areas close to the larger communities in the valley.

“I’m not sure exactly when it will start, but it should be quite quick,” said Mr. Tomlin.

The private company involved in the agreement for the six strands is Wink Wireless.

Imagine Kootenay

RDEK directors from the Columbia Valley decided to sign a renewed memorandum of understanding with theColumbia Valley Chamber of Commerce for the Chamber to manage the Imagine Kootenay Program for the April2016 to March 2017 fiscal year. Earlier this year, the board had approved an annual grant of $15,000 for Imagine Kootenay from money raised from the Columbia Valley economic development service area, and authorized the negotiation of a contribution agreement with the Chamber for the management of the program.

Backyard chickens

At the next RDEK board meeting (on Friday, December 2nd), directors will receive a report outlining the results of a recent public hearing in the Columbia Valley, held on Wednesday, November 23rd in Edgewater, to gauge public opinion on proposed bylaw amendments that would allow the keeping of backyard chickens (no roosters)and bees on small, single family residential parcel in Area G.

RDEK planner Kris Belanger told The Echo that six people had attended the meeting, and that the whole process around the bylaw could be drawing to a close soon, pending what the directors decide to do.

“If it is adopted, then that would result in amending the bylaws,” he said. “It depends on what happens at the(next) board meeting.”

Another public hearing, held on Tuesday, November 22nd at the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, only attracted one person interested in learning more about the proposed bylaw amendments that would allow wildlife exclusion fencing around gardens on small, single family residential parcels in not only Area G, but alsoArea F as well.

Outstanding service

During the November 4th meeting, Upper Columbia Valley resident Rosemary Oaks was honoured for her 10years of service to the RDEK. Ms. Oaks began working at the RDEK’s Columbia Valley office in 2006 as the building and protective services secretary.