The Regional District of Central Kootenay office in Nelson. File photo

The Regional District of Central Kootenay office in Nelson. File photo

RDCK Roundup: Province will hear from regional district on paramedics, old growth

All the news from the Aug. 19 board meeting

The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s chair and top staff have asked to meet with BC Emergency Health Services officials to talk about how on-call pay policies for paramedics are causing critical staff shortages in rural and remote communities.

“We do know that certain communities, including Kaslo, New Denver and Salmo, are severely lacking in staffing,” said RDCK chair and Area D director Aimee Watson during the Aug. 19 board meeting. She said the provincial policy of hiring staff and paying them $2/hour to be on call is not attracting the staff they need.

“You cannot staff a unit that way,” said Watson. “We know in Kaslo/Area D there’s been dark days when there’s been no services available, and it’s only pure luck that no one’s been called out.”

New Denver also has the same problem, with only one emergency responder on staff, she noted.

“It was last week, from Edgewood to Winlaw, we had one car available,” noted director Colin Moss of New Denver. “And this is at the height of adventure tourism season. It’s just ridiculous and needs addressing promptly.”

A letter is going out to officials, while Watson collects notes from other directors about the problem to bring to the meeting.

New motion on old growth

Regional directors are calling on the province to do more to protect old-growth forests within RDCK boundaries.

Area E director Ramona Faust presented a motion to the board requesting that old-growth and significant old trees “are preserved, and forest revitalization is focused on ecosystem restoration, scientifically defensible wildfire risk reduction, moisture retention, and surface water quality for which the region relies upon for drinking water as well as agricultural and commercial use.”

The motion prompted some debate on defining old growth, how the motion would apply to public vs. private lands, and what was trying to be accomplished with the motion.

“We are in effect challenging FLNROD’s and BC Forests’ strict adherence to seeing forests strictly as lumber plantations,” said director Leah Main, in support of the motion. “We are asking for a bigger look at what the values in a forest are.”

Pile-on for conservation

A proposal to create a conservation fund to finance environmental projects in the Slocan Valley got a lot bigger during discussion by RDCK directors.

Director Walter Popoff moved that staff be asked to look into setting up a Local Conservation Fund service for Area H. It would establish a parcel tax, raising money from property owners for conservation projects to be managed by the Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP).

A similar service is operated by the RDCK for North Kootenay Lake and the West Arm – Areas A, D, and E. Residents there pay $15 per parcel in a line item on their taxes annually to fund conservation of water quality and aquatic ecosystems around the lake. In the last four years, the tax has raised $400,000 for such projects, which has been used as leverage to get triple that amount in matching funding.

However, Popoff’s motion for Area H was amended to include Area I, at the request of director Andy Davidoff. Then other directors chimed in – with areas B, C, F, G and J all saying they also wanted to be included in the new fund if possible.

Staff are now going to research what it would take to create the service for these areas – now about half the area of the RDCK – and bring a report back to the board.

Voters will still have a chance to say yea or nay to the proposal, as the establishment of new services have to be approved by taxpayers. That could happen as a stand-alone referendum or as a side vote during the next general election of the board.

Resource Recovery Plan adopted

It just needs a little more consultation and the regional district’s plan to reduce waste and promote recycling is going to the province.

The new plan updates the 10-year-old document for managing waste and recyclables in the West Kootenay, and reflects the changes in policy over the last decade, especially when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions created by organic waste.

To address that issue, the RDCK will be constructing two composting facilities in 2021, and Castlegar, Creston and Nelson will begin curbside collection of organics in 2022.

The plan for the next 10 years includes: increasing awareness of waste reduction and recycling; reducing organic waste going to landfills; securing more land for waste deposit and meeting tougher regulatory standards; completing the closure of legacy landfill dumps; establishing a ‘fair and sustainable’ cost recovery system that incentivizes waste reduction and reuse.

Waste management planners also hope to see individual users drop the amount of waste they produce from an average of 490 kilograms per person annually, to 350 kilos.

While the document is complete, staff have to ensure that they have a full discussion about the plan with local First Nations. That process will take into the fall.

RDCK not off the hook for dam decommissioning

The RDCK will be ultimately responsible for the removal of a legacy water dam in Krestova in the south Slocan Valley – though it tried hard not to be.

The province and regional government have been in a tug-of-war for months on who would be ultimately responsible for the decommissioning of the old East McDiarmid dam.

The obsolete structure poses a flood or slide risk for more than 100 people living below the dam. It’s owned by the Krestova Improvement District, but responsibility for the decommissioning project itself has been the subject of a back-and-forth between the province and RDCK. While it was willing to be the go-through agency for the $250,000 project cost, the RDCK didn’t want to be responsible for the actual job.

That was a no-go, however, for the province.

“The province … holds the RDCK fully responsible for delivering the project, with the KID acting more or less as a subcontractor to the RDCK,” said a staff report to directors.

While the improvement district will be ultimately liable for the work, the RDCK will have to assign staff to make sure the job is done right – something the grant doesn’t cover.

“The main consequence is likely that RDCK oversight of the project will have to increase to ensure the funding requirements are met. This can be accommodated with current staff capacity, but directors should note that the due diligence and staff oversight required for high-risk infrastructure projects is more onerous than it is for lower-risk pass-through grants…”

Area H director Walter Popoff will also have to use his director’s funds to cover any costs not paid for through the provincial funding – mainly for staff time to oversee the project.