Recently, I hosted a focus group meeting to discuss possible funding scenarios for mitigation work on Windermere Creek. It has been widely reported that there is an increased amount of sediment travelling down Windermere Creek over the last few years. The Windermere Creek Assessment Report mentions there is a significant amount of sediment still to come down. What is unknown is how and when this will occur. The report provides recommendations and actions to limit the impacts of this sediment. In addition, there would need to be ongoing maintenance and monitoring.
The intent was to invite people based on where they lived in relation to the creek. In total, 26 people attended — property owners adjacent to the creek, others from lakeside communities, as well non-creekside or lakeside property owners.
Typically, granting applications (from the federal and provincial governments) use the one-third model. This is where each level of government contributes their third. Currently, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) does not have the mechanism to raise the third locally.
The RDEK would need to create a service area to raise the local third on property taxes. Basically, to create the area would mean drawing lines on the map and every property within that circle would pay. The larger the circle, the less it would be for those in the circle.
The purpose of the meeting was for me to hear feedback as to where the lines on the map should go, and how much taxation is reasonable.
I learned that awareness of the situation is increasing. There was a general consensus that a service area model, at the very least, used to raise the maintenance costs might be acceptable. There were several comments that the third capital costs could be raised by private fundraising.
As for the next few steps, there are many things that need to occur before we see any work on the creek. Windermere Creek would need to be deemed a project on the RDEK 2015 work plan; a service area would need to be created; (it remains unknown where to draw the circle and how much taxation to raise); a funding program needs to be announced; the RDEK Board would need to decide if this project is a priority and apply; the local third would need to raised, either by taxation or fundraising; and the grant application would need to be successful.
Wendy Booth is the Regional District of East Kootenay Director for Area F and the RDEK board’s vice chair. She can be reached at email@example.com or 250-345-6155.