UPDATED: Lower Kootenay Band members approve land swap with Regional District of Central Kootenay

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  • Sep. 27, 2015 8:00 a.m.

Twenty-five votes cast, 25 yes votes. On Thursday, Lower Kootenay Band voters have approved a land swap that gives them direct access to Kootenay Lake.

“This decision is of great significance,” LKB Chief Jason Louie said on Friday. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions last night when the results came in. We’re talking about 100 years at least of our people not having a presence on Kootenay Lake.”

After years of discussion and negotiation between the LKB and Regional District of Central Kootenay officials, a tentative agreement that would allow the RDCK to acquire land adjacent to its Lister landfill site was reached earlier this year. Approval of LKB voters was required.

“In the first round of voting (in August) the law required that 75 per cent of eligible voters approve the agreement,” Louie said.

That didn’t happen, but 30 of the 33 people who did vote were in favour of the deal, which includes $300,000 in cash (determined by an independent evaluation) and an additional $300,000 for a joint LKB-RDCK economic development initiative “to examine and expand opportunities for LKB’s community economic activities.”

Additionally, the province offered 474 acres at Burden’s Cut and LaFrance Creek on Kootenay Lake through an “incremental treaty agreement”. The LKB will hold the property in fee simple until a treaty is settled with the Ktunaxa Nation, at which point the parcel becomes Ktunaxa land.

“In the second vote, a simple majority of ballots cast would determine the outcome,” Louie said. “All 25 ballots were in favour of the agreement — there were zero opposing it.”

Louie paid tribute to his community’s elders and past leaders, many of whom didn’t live long enough to see the arrangement to completion.

“I think of our elders guiding us and feel sad they weren’t here for the final count.”

RDCK Area B director Tanya Wall said the referendum outcome has two primary benefits.

“From my position it’s a move forward that allows us to have a sustainable landfill plan — if you are going to own a landfill you need to be responsible for it,” she said on Tuesday. “Just as important, it is a relationship builder that shows that we can all work together to the benefit of all parties.”

Wall spoke of the positive relationship between Creston Valley’s regional directors and the Town of Creston, adding that including LKB in the mix is important to the entire area.

“We have a much greater voice with other levels of government when they know that we all work together for the betterment of all of our residents,” she said.

Louie said it is too early to determine just what purposes the Kootenay Lake land, which includes waterfront and mountainside, could be put to.

“It’s up to our citizens to determine what it looks like in the future and maybe that’s for future generations to decide,” he said. “Right now we will enjoy it in its natural state and take advantage of the beach and hiking opportunities.”

He said that the land swap is much more meaningful than a simple sale of the Lister property would have been.

“Money can be spent, but land is forever,” Louie said. “We made history yesterday and that’s something to be proud of. It was a genuine team effort and I credit RDCK representatives, past and present, for realizing it would take a collaborative effort to accomplish what just happened.”

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