City, rural areas need to work together to effectively plan

By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD

Kamloops needs to up its game when it comes to consultation with stakeholders — especially rural areas — on its official community plan.

At this week’s TNRD board meeting, City planner Jason Locke attended to tell the board about progress on a KamPlan update and explain how it aligns with the TNRD’s Regional Growth Strategy.

In reading over the draft plan, I saw that there was consultation with stakeholders including  Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. It also includes a statement of commitment to local and regional First Nations communities to collaborate.

(Image: KamPlan 2017)

That’s entirely appropriate but surrounding rural areas were left out of discussions. Even though the new KamPlan is in its final stages, this week was the first time it’s been discussed with the TNRD board.

Locke said on the one hand that the purpose of his presentation was simply to provide the board with information, but at the same time said it was to ask for input.

I pointed out that four TNRD electoral areas, including Area P, are immediately next door to the city and are affected by city planning. I suggested it would have been easy to include these electoral areas directly in earlier discussions.

KamPlan does include a section on alignment with the Regional Growth Strategy and Locke said the city was doing what it was required to do.

“I was thinking not so much about what you are required to do, but about effective consultation,” I said.

Director Ronaye Elliott, whose Area J is also immediately adjacent to the city, agreed that so-called “fringe” areas need to be consulted.

Kamloops director Arjun Singh, who sits on the City’s KamPlan committee, said he’s willing to offer opportunities in future to discuss it with rural representatives.

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Some highlights from Day Two of UBCM convention

Highlights of Day 2 at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.

— Good meeting with Kinder Morgan reps for an update on Trans Mountain expansion as it relates to Area P, specifically Black Pines. Community benefit pledge of $150,000 is still in place, as is federal-provincial infrastructure funding pending approval of water system upgrade at the local level. Details of construction schedule for the pipeline expansion should be firming up over the next several weeks.

— Attended a session on the new Water Sustainability Act and was able to ask about the situation at Heffley Lake, specifically with respect to the dam safety review as well as the lowering of lake levels. No specific answers but agreement to follow up with provincial authorities.

— Really interesting session during an Electoral Areas Directors Forum on driving economic development in rural areas. Marlene Morris of the Community Development Institute provided some historical background to the B.C. economy, describing what she called “The Long Boom.”

After the election of the W.A.C. Bennett government in the early 1950s there was a long period of economic development based on an integrated approach that combined building infrastructure with diversifying local economies.

Being a B.C. history wonk and the biographer of Phil Gaglardi, who was responsible for carrying out much of Bennett’s infrastructure plan, I was fascinated by Morris’ overview. The Long Boom extended well past Bennett’s regime into 1980, after which a focus on one-basket resource industries resulted in a “devastating” effect on rural economies, a loss of population in many areas, and economic stagnation.

It didn’t start to turn around until 2000.( I well remember asking M.J. Cousins of Venture Kamloops back then if she was confident the economy of the B.C. Interior was finally turning the corner, and she replied with an unequivocal “Yes!”)

Anyway, Morris went on to talk about the importance of niche markets, in which products of comparatively small reach nonetheless bring high value to the economy. The challenge, she said, is to identify them and promote them.

“Niche markets are fun and they’re very, very lucrative,” she said. She also, by the way, stressed the importance of seniors to local economies.

Presentations were followed with an open-mike session on such things as the Rural Dividend fund, rural roadside pathways, and abandoned railway rights of way.

Sessions on several topics ran concurrently in the afternoon, and I decided to attend one on the Water Sustainability Act as I’ve had some inquiries about it from Area P residents in recent months. The key thing here is that new fees and rules don’t apply to domestic groundwater.

Tomorrow, the most important part of the convention gets underway — resolutions from municipalities and regional districts.

UBCM – Cellphone issue brought to attention of government

Celeste Haldane, chief commissioner of the B.C. Treaty Commission at UBCM session today. (Image: UBCM)

It was a good start to the annual UBCM convention today.

On my agenda was a 10 a.m. meeting with Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims.

I had asked for this meeting to raise concerns about the lack of cellphone service in rural areas, specifically the Heffley-Louis Creek corridor and Pinantan Lake. TNRD Chair John Ranta, and electoral area directors Sally Watson and Carol Schaeffer also attended, along with a couple of our TNRD staff members and several from the ministry.

Meetings with cabinet ministers during UBCM conventions are commonly called “speed dating,” because they’re tightly timed in 15-minute sessions. During the course of the week, ministers slog their way through dozens, even hundreds, of them.

Still, they’re valuable in getting issues in front of cabinet, and in providing an opportunity to meet face to face with the ministers. Due to demand, not all such requests for appointments are accepted, so I was pleased about this one as well as one later in the week on gas-tax funding.

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Lake levels, brigades, weeds and civic address signs

Heffley Lake.

I raised several issues this week (Wednesday, Sept 20, 2017) at the TNRD Electoral Area Directors meeting:

Heffley Lake water levels: I told the committee about the concerns of Heffley Lake residents over a big drop in the level of the lake, which has threatened a number of water intakes. The Heffley Lake Irrigation District, which controls the lake level via the dam, decided to drop the lake by another three feet to a record low. As a result, residents have been scrambling to protect exposed water lines from freezing with the onset of cold weather. The Heffley Lake Community Association has been doing a tremendous job of getting information to residents. As it’s a matter of provincial jurisdiction, I’ve also informed MLA Peter Milobar.

Rural fire brigades: I pointed out that several volunteer fire brigades are self-funded rather than being able to rely on taxation. I’ve made several contributions through discretionary funding, but they raise most of their own funds at the community level. Feasibility studies have been completed for a number of truck-and-hall fire departments in the TNRD, and this will hopefully provide some direction for brigades that are self-funded.

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Thanks to Pinantan and Paul Lake fire brigades for outstanding work

This truck was once considered for use in fire protection at Paul Lake, but residents decided to go with a brigade approach.

We have many people to thank for helping get us through this wildfire season, including unsung heroes who come forward to save their communities from harm.

At today’s (Sept. 21, 2017) regular board meeting of TNRD directors, I outlined two examples of this for the board, which agreed to my request to commend the Pinantan and Paul Lake fire brigades for their sterling actions during this year’s wildfire season.

On Aug. 14, a wind storm at Paul Lake caused a tree branch to fall on a power line, causing a fire to start in an art studio and shed, which quickly spread to surrounding trees.

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Two very important issues for Area P at UBCM convention

Two issues that are very important to Electoral Area P will be up for discussion during next week’s annual meeting of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in Vancouver.

I learned today (Sept. 20, 2017) that both my requests for meetings with cabinet ministers have been accepted by the government. One is on the issue of rural cellphone service; the other is on access to gas-tax funding for not-for-profit strata corporations and not-for-profit private utilities.

The meeting on cellphone service will be with Minister of Citizens’ Services Jinny Sims, at which I’ll outline the importance of expanding cellphone service to rural areas including Heffley Lake and Pinantan Lake.

As I’ve said many times before, cell service isn’t just a convenience; it’s a necessary safety measure for rural communities. The Heffley Lake Community Association has been doing an outstanding job in attempting to get cell service for the valley. As well, the Pinantan community, especially the fire brigade, emphasizes the importance of cell service in rural fire protection.

The gas-tax issue around stratas and private utilities run by societies is one I’ve been fighting for more than two years in co-operation with the Rivershore strata council and MP Cathy McLeod. Director Ronaye Elliott of Area J is also in support.

Obtaining a clear interpretation of the federal government’s intentions finally came this past spring, and the answer wasn’t the one we wanted.

However, I’m absolutely convinced that not-for-profit stratas and private utilities should be granted access to gas tax funding for important upgrades and repairs in the same way that TNRD utility service areas are. They all serve communities and deserve support.

There are two possible ways of achieving this: a new (and, in my view, proper) interpretation of existing criteria, or changes to the criteria. The latter is the approach I’m taking at the UBCM in asking the convention to support a request to the feds for changes.

I expect some lively debate at the convention, but here’s hoping.

Another successful annual lakeshore cleanup at Paul Lake

Enjoying potluck luncheon with some of the Paul Lake cleanup crew.

PAUL LAKE – About a dozen residents turned out Saturday (Sept. 16, 2017) for the annual lakeshore cleanup.

I joined them and filled a garbage bag with cans, bottles, cigarette butts, wrappers, odd bits of plastic and other jetsam. Enjoyed the walk on a very pleasant day, occasionally diverting to fish something out of the lake.

The community was very busy with new houses under construction or renovation, people out for walks, and neighbours chatting.

Others in the cleanup crew dragged old tires, styrofoam and dock parts from the lake.

After the cleanup, I added my pickup to the convoy to the transfer station, carrying a big load of water-logged boards and other debris. This was followed by a very enjoyable pot luck at the community playground.

Thanks to Sue Carey for organizing the day, and to the volunteers who took several hours out of their Saturday.

City OKs bridge to replace washed-out road at Heffley

Washout at the old highway near elementary school.

HEFFLEY CREEK – The big washout on the Old Highway 5 between Creek Road and Station Road is a step closer to being fixed, as Kamloops City council approved a plan Tuesday (Aug. 29, 2017) for a new bridge.

The washout wiped out the culvert under the road when the waters of Heffley Creek became a torrent during spring flooding, and the road has been impassable ever since.

City utilities director Jen Fretz said things look promising for 80-percent provincial funding for the cost of replacing the culvert.

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Another successful Pinantan Lake Country Fair

(Click on an image to begin slide show.)

PINANTAN – Another great Pinantan Lake Country Fair today (Aug. 27, 2017) on the grounds of the elementary school. Residents and visitors enjoyed crafts and information booths, music by Dave Coalmine, a bouncy castle, demos by the Pinantan Equestrian Club, and the ever-popular food concession.

I understand there was even an added attraction, specifically an unscheduled visit by a Momma Bear and her two cubs.

Thanks and congratulations to all the volunteers who made this year’s Fair happen. It takes a lot of work — great job.

A great day visiting some of the spectacular resorts in Area P

Had a really nice day today visiting at Knouff Lake Resort, Jandana Ranch and Pinantan Lake Resort with Lorne Richardson of Lower North Thompson Tourism Association and a video crew gathering promotional material.

I can’t wait to see the drone footage, which should be spectacular considering the beautiful locales. But then, Area P is like that. Lorne says he’ll send me the rough video when it’s ready so hopefully I can post some of it here at a later time.

Lowering of water in Heffley Lake causes scramble

(Image: Recreation Sites and Trails B.C.)

HEFFLEY LAKE – Residents on the lake are already looking nervously toward the inevitable onset of colder weather even though it seems a long way off.

By Aug. 21, owners of towable/ trailerable boats will have to get them off the lake or they could be trapped there for the winter.

And, lakeshore residents are figuring out how to avoid frozen water lines and other potential problems that could result from the lowering of the water level.

Heffley Lake is a reservoir created by the Heffley Creek irrigation dam, and the level of the lake rises and falls depending, in part, on the needs of the Heffley Irrigation District. The lake is already low but the district has decided to lower it another three feet due to irrigation needs.

Tor Schmid of the Heffley Lake Community Association tells me the lake is already as low as it’s been since 1977.

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Heffley association discusses lake concerns at AGM

The always-popular ice-cream line at the annual HLCA AGM on Sunday.

When you own a little piece of Paradise, you want to protect it. Stewardship of Heffley Lake was a major topic for discussion at the annual general meeting of the Heffley Lake Community Association attended by about 70 residents Sunday (Aug. 6, 2017).

The meeting was held outdoors on the beautiful grounds of the home of Mary and Glenn Johnson, followed by a delicious picnic-style dinner, ice cream and awards presentations for the annual photo contest. President Fergus Alexander presided over the proceedings.

Due probably to the elevation, smoke from the wildfires wasn’t nearly as thick as down in the valley, though the sun was hangin’ like a red rubber ball (to borrow from the ‘60s song).

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Water quality advisory rescinded for Pritchard water system

PRITCHARD — Residents on the community water system are being contacted by the TNRD today and informed a water quality advisory for the community water system is being rescinded. Here’s the notice:

Please be advised that effective immediately, the Interior Health Authority is RESCINDING the Water Quality Advisory issued for the Pritchard Community Water System. Recent water quality tests have shown the water to be safe for consumption and boiling the water is no longer required.  

Should someone other than the property owner occupy the residence (such as a tenant), please provide this information to them.

For specific questions, please contact the TNRD Utilities Department at 250-377-8673.

Interactive map shows location of Heffley-Louis Creek wildfire

Red dot shows location of wildfire. To go to BC Wildfire Service interactive map, click here for link.

The BC Wildfire Service interactive map now shows a more detailed location of the Heffley-Louis Creek fire burning north of Whitecroft and west of Sun Peaks.

The latest fire report says it is currently at 1.1 hectares. Seventeen firefighters, two fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter were working on the fire Wednesday night, along with a ground crew.

It is burning on a mountain side up from the road. One report estimated it’s about six km. north of Heffley Lake.