If you have driven on Highway 95 north to Brisco in the last year, you are well aware of the new bridge construction over Luxor Creek. Previously, the creek flowed through a large culvert under a massive fill section on the highway. With increased concern about flash flooding and debris flows, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has constructed a new bridge without changing the highway route and with minimal disruption to highway traffic. An outstanding example of engineering, the new bridge now spans the creek and final work this spring will include the restoration of the creek bed to a relatively natural state. The Kokanee will love it.
At a recent Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) meeting, the Ministry of Transporation and Infrastructure (MOTI) reported that the repaving of Highway 95 completed from Golden to Brisco will now be extended to Radium, likely by 2018. This is good news for everyone, particularly cyclists, as the road shoulders will be widened and paved as well. The MOTI also dispelled the persistent rumour about an imminent closure of the Trans Canada Highway to allow for major construction in the Kicking Horse Canyon.
It was only 100 years ago that the CPR extended the railway through the Columbia Valley, ending the short but fabled steamboat transportation service on the river between Golden and Invermere and the horsedrawn freight and passenger service (The Old Coach Road). Only 80 years ago, the massive salmon runs on the river were eliminated by the building of the Grand Coulee Dam in Eastern Washington.
Fortunately for most of us and our sense of place, we live along the only section of the Columbia River in North America still in its relatively natural state. Here, the river, as it has been through millennia, is sustaining the biophysical paradise of the wetlands through the seasonal dynamic hydrological cycle.
As an RDEK Director, I listen to the general dialogue of the need for economic development, marketing and branding, to grow, to expand. I also look at our immigration into Ktunaxa and Shuswap territories and our relatively short history in the headwaters of the great river. Recently, we have been meeting with our First Nations neighbours to reconcile the difficulties they have experienced and to acknowledge and respect cultural diversity while advancing mutual interests. Establishing a community-to-community bond of empathy and respect will be a legacy for us all.
Gerry Wilkie is the Regional District of East Kootenay director for Area G, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.