News

Looking back: 2013 news highlights from the Arrow Lakes News

There has been more news this year than could be crammed into a single weekly issue, that’s for sure. In 2013 we saw the beginning or continuation of projects that will continue on through 2014: the controversial boat launch in Nakusp, the launch of the ferry destined to shuttle between Galena and Shelter bays, the Columbia River Treaty, the Nakusp Youth Centre, and a whole host of new businesses in the area. Joseph Hughes brought water and hope to the electorate. Floods and fires were survived, and art, music and dance flourished. Here are a few of your stories.

January

Dog killed in trap near MacDonald Creek

A dog was killed by a trap set just off the Baerg Forest Service Road near MacDonald Creek between Nakusp and Burton.

“It took three of us everything we had to get the trap off,” said Brian Graham, neighbour to the unfortunate Yellow Lab named Nikki and her owners Chris Szabo and Brenda Hoyle.

Szabo, Hoyle and Nikki had returned to Baerg FSR for another walk on Boxing Day. It was on their descent that Nikki suddenly ran into the woods, shortly after which the couple heard a terrible sound. Fearing it was a cougar attack and that the dog would be dragged through the woods, the two didn’t rush into the scene.

Fortunately, they were able to get cell phone service and call Graham who also enlisted the help of nearby local Charles Maxfield.

“They called to help find the dog because I knew the area,” Maxfield told the Arrow Lakes News. As he ventured off the road, cutting through the bush to where the dog had last been heard, he spotted one trap and then another. When he first spotted the dog’s body in the trap, he thought it might have been a cougar.

“I felt really sorry for them. They said they’d had the dog for ten years,” said Maxfield.

After wrestling with the 330 Conibear trap for ten minutes, the jaws were released but it was far too late for Nikki.

February

Late night joy ride ends with golf cart in lake

The tracks into the lake could still be seen on Friday afternoon near the marina. Some time during the very early hours of Friday, someone broke through a fence at the Nakusp Centennial Golf Course, and drove one of the privately owned carts downtown, and into the lake.

A local man believes whoever took the golf cart for a joyride ran out of gas somewhere near the waterfront walkway and boarded his houseboat looking for some.

The cart driver(s) wreaked more havoc when on board, burning a hole in an inflatable dingy and ripping off a solar light from the vessel. Once they were done, the untied the boat from its moorings.

What prompted them to take the cart and rummage violently through the boat remains a mystery, although alcohol is likely part of the equation, said Nakusp RCMP Mark Macaulay.

April

Nakusp councillor to run as independent

If you’re on Facebook, you might have seen that Nakusp native Joseph Hughes is throwing his hat in the ring and running as an independent to represent Kootenay West in the provincial legislature.

Hughes has decided his best chance of truly representing constituents is to run as an independent.

“I can’t get behind party politics,” he told the Arrow Lakes News, as he doesn’t see it as being true democracy. And democracy is what it’s all about for the 29-year-old candidate, who views it as central to the debate surrounding the Columbia River Treaty (CRT).

“The CRT puts the battle for democratic issues right here. If we choose not to get involved, we’re part of the problem,” said Hughes.

Although he has thought about running for years, this election season he feels he has a solid group of supporters that have made the chance of running as an independent possible. And his family agrees.

“We need a louder, younger voice,” he said, taking a long view, “we’re handing this treaty to our kids.”

Local man proposes licensed marijuana facility within Nakusp

Rodney Potapoff brought his proposal for a medical marijuana dispensary application within Nakusp to the April 8 council meeting. With him, he also brought copies of the 27-page document outlining regulations for licensed grow ops, and it was clear that he had done his research.

Changes to the medical marijuana by Health Canada mean the end to government producers and home growers. Under the new rules, only companies that meet strict security requirements will be eligible to be licensed producers.

Mr. Potapoff has been in communication with Health Canada researching the new requirements for his proposed medical marijuana company “Delta Nine” and brought copies of the new guidelines to council. Potapoff told council there is a system of “constant monitoring” by Health Canada.

Ktunaxa treaty including Wensley Bench land contentious

Across Highway 6 from Box Lake there is a stretch of forest familiar with mountain bikers and hikers who walk the old railway bed. A 242-hectare section twice as long as Box Lake running parallel to the highway is now Ktunaxa land, as of March 27, when the area was signed over to the First Nation by the provincial and federal governments.

Not everyone is pleased with the deal. Marilyn James, representative from the Sinixt Nation, who said the Sinixt have had a land claim filed since 2008.

The incremental treaty has been in the works for years, said Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Ida Chong.

“The Ktunaxa-Kinbasket Treaty Council entered the treaty process in December 1993, and is now well-advanced in Stage 4 of the six-stage process,” Chong told the Arrow Lakes News. The council is now negotiating a comprehensive agreement in principle, which will conclude in a final agreement in the future.

James said the governments’ claims that they are signing this land to the Ktunaxa fairly and objectively are not accurate.

June

Highways near Kaslo closed due to flooding and washouts

Heavy rain has triggered conditions that have affected highways around Kaslo, B.C. Highway 31A between Kaslo and New Denver has been closed due to flooding and washouts.

July

Lack of details around School District appointment prompts questions

The transition from one Superintendent/Secretary-Treasurer to another in School District 10 hasn’t been the easiest recently.

After Denise Perry’s abrupt dismissal from the position, Terry Taylor took on the role as Acting Superintendent/Secretary-Treasurer while continuing to be District Principal of Learning at the same time. The Superintendent role isn’t completely new to Taylor who would take over duties when Perry was away, she told the Arrow Lakes News.

But the appointment of Taylor to the position wasn’t without controversy, fuelled in the most part by the lack of information about the process that led to the decision.

Independent Hughes was top choice of Arrow Lakes voters

There’s something to be said for being the hometown candidate, even if it doesn’t win you the election, poll-by-poll breakdowns from the last provincial election suggest.

Joseph Hughes, a Nakusp village councillor who ran in Kootenay West as an independent, didn’t come close to winning. But he did top some polls in his own backyard.

Data released by Elections BC from the May vote shows that Hughes, who campaigned on the Columbia River Treaty and finished third among four candidates with 13 per cent of the vote, was the top choice among Upper Arrow Lake residents. He won seven of the 11 ballot boxes in the area, securing 37.5 per cent of the vote to incumbent New Democrat’s Katrine Conroy 34.4 per cent.

August

Nakusp boaters not happy with new ramp

Problems with the new wharf constructed at the Nakusp marina are coming to light, say a group of Nakusp boaters who met on the boat ramp on Monday, Aug. 26.

Concerns about access during lower water levels were at the top of a list of complaints, with some boaters forecasting the ramp could become unusable in the next few weeks.

When asked if BC Hydro had plans to address the issue, Hydro representative Mary Anne Coules said that the Crown corporation’s mandate was only to provide access during the recreational season. According to Coules, Hydro is required under its water license issued by the Comptroller of Water Rights only to provide summer recreational boat access.

“The current forecast indicates that the ramp should be usable for the duration of the recreational season (through to September 30),” Coules told the Arrow Lakes News in an email.

As many boaters in the area know, winter is a very popular time for fishing, with two major fishing derbies that draw hundreds of people and their tourist dollars  to the area every year. With the old boat ramp gone, access will now be seasonally limited in a way it never was before.

“I’m getting the impression that we’re not taken seriously,” said Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling, “that we’re considered a bother.” The Village is looking into the terms of the Access Order issued by the Comptroller.

“It’s demoralizing,” said Nakusp Rod and Gun Club’s Hank Scown, and there were many nods of agreement. “We’re done for this year unless they come in with slabs of concrete.” And without access to the water in fall and winter, Nakusp will lose one of its best features.

September

Woman’s life saved by fast-acting ferry crew

Mary Walters celebrated her 65th birthday this Friday, Aug. 30 with a bit more gusto this year. Walters, a paddler with the Kootenay Rhythm Dragons in Nelson, a breast cancer dragon boat team, was on her way home from the BC Seniors Games when she was stung and experienced her first-time serious reaction to a sting.

The sting occurred while Walters and her friend were waiting for the ferry, but the reaction took place about half way across the water.

“The ferry staff were just amazing,” said Walters. “I’m celebrating my birthday with a renewed sense of gratitude and well-being.”

October

Body found in Fosthall identified

The body of a man found on Sunday, Oct. 6 has been identified as missing mushroom picker Kyung Chun according the BC Coroner’s service.

RCMP were alerted on Sept. 19 that Mr. Chun had gone missing. Campers in the area had noticed a van that appeared to be stuck and hadn’t moved earlier in the week. The van, full of Pine mushrooms, was in a spot about an hour drive into the bush and away from a base camp.

Mr. Chun’s mushroom-picking partner had been contacted by his family and he told them that Chun had left the van to pick mushrooms and hadn’t returned.

The partner waited by the van, and eventually made his way north, hitching a ride to Revelstoke. It was only after he had made his way back to the Lower Mainland that the police were notified of Chun’s disappearance.

RCMP have now spoken to Mr. Chun’s mushroom-picking partner, but no new information was discovered.

It was determined that Mr. Chun died of natural causes.

Coachman residents shocked by eviction plans

It was standing room only at the Oct. 15 Nakusp council meeting, and extra chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the public in the gallery. The majority of the assembled citizenry were from the Coachman Campground, either homeowners or landowners.

At the end of agenda business, homeowner Shawna Lagore gave an impassioned speech on behalf of the residents of the park, asking council to develop a policy addressing issues around mobile home park redevelopment. In her speech she noted that other municipalities have developed such a policy and that parks are often a source of affordable housing.

In a letter to council, Coachman Campground owners Ed and Susan Kostuch defended the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act currently in place, saying no municipal policy was necessary as they believed the Act was equitable. According to the Act, landowners who serve eviction notice are required to pay out twelve months’ pad rental in compensation.

“If the Village was to require the landlord to pay up to $10,000 in moving expenses this could work out to forty months or over three years of pad rent,” noted the letter from the Kostuchs. If the landowners were required to pay the market value of a home that couldn’t find a nearby pad, it could costs more than 16 years in pad rental, on property that the owners have been paying taxes, maintenance.

Steep penalties like this could discourage investors who make rental properties available, the Kostuchs’ letter pointed out.

Driver saves garbage truck and self from fire near Summit Lake

A garbage truck dumped its load when it caught on fire near Summit Lake on the morning of Oct. 23. The driver of the truck had been picking up garbage from Castlegar and was en route to Nakusp. While he was compacting the load, he heard a large bang and shortly after saw smoke billowing out of the back of the truck. Compacting the garbage further to try to deprive any fire of oxygen, he stopped to check what was happening.

Coming to a halt in a pullout, the driver emptied the smouldering garbage onto the roadside and sprayed it with a fire extinguisher in order to save the truck from burning.

Burning garbage is not common, Communications Manager Robin Freedman told the Arrow Lakes News. This has been the second fire in ten years for Waste Management of Canada, according to her. Either people may have put materials in that can combust, or fire ash, which can set a load on fire.

In this case, the driver followed procedure quickly and conscientiously, said the company rep, and the fire was extinguished quickly and safely.

U.S. interests run with and against Canadian CRT agenda

Although Canada’s Local Government Committee is unique as an organization bringing information to the treaty decision-makers, the U.S. has also been running public information sessions to collect input from Basin citizens south of the border.

Like Canadians, Americans also want to see that ecosystem, recreation, First Nations, compensation to affected areas and climate change considerations become part of any future agreement. Signed back in 1964, the original treaty focussed on flood control and power generation, which were seen as the major issues at the time. Now, there are many more considerations that can be addressed in negotiations.

Which issues are important is up for debate. Although there are many voices in favour of ensuring ecosystems are looked after, for example, there are also a few who see money spent to help plants and wildlife as a waste. Navigation, ensuring shipping passage up and down the Columbia stateside, recreation, and irrigation are also considerations for American basin residents. Water from the Columbia River irrigates 7.3 million acres of land in the basin, a significant use of water below the border.

Many comments collected on the U.S. side show keen interest in reducing the Canadian Entitlement, the payment of downstream benefits equivalent to the amount of power that could have been generated. Both individuals and U.S. utilities would like to see the entitlement done away with or reduced, and it is clear that this will be one of the major issues on the table in any negotiations.

And flood control is still very important. The CRT was created in response to the catastrophic flooding in 1948 that destroyed Vanport, Oregon and killed people on both sides of the border. If the treaty were to be terminated, Called Upon flood control would come into play, but what that means is still unknown. Both Canadian and U.S. interests are trying to determine just exactly Called Upon requests for flood control mean, and how much it would mean in terms of money. By U.S. Entity calculations, each Called Upon request could cost the U.S. between $4 to $34 million in compensation for lost power revenues.

Called Upon flood control is conditional on what is called “Effective Use” of U.S. reservoirs, but what that means precisely is also unknown. Effective Use is the American obligation to use all available storage before calling upon Canada to supply flood control, but how much is considered “all available storage” has not been hammered out. It could mean that  some U.S. reservoirs would be drawn down to lower levels more frequently than they are now, which would impact irrigation, fish and recreation.

Treaty community sessions packed with questions and concerns

The afternoon and evening Nakusp sessions of the Columbia River Treaty workshop on Nov. 6 were packed with over 50 people each, as representatives Kelvin Ketchum (BC Hydro), Kathy Eichenberger (Provincial rep, CRT review team), and Karen Hamling (Local Governments Committee) laid out what information has been collected through the public consultation process.

Eichenberger told the crowd that the majority of basin residents were in support of treaty continuation, and being part of the process.

Residents didn’t want to see any more social or environmental impacts or flood risk, and wanted better trans-boundary planning, but they do want to see that compensation for flood control reflected the value of the service, and that all kinds of water usage were valued appropriately.

Addressing the inequity of affected communities and those that have benefited remains a prime concern. Climate change, stable reservoir levels, the return of salmon to the Columbia, and a water usage plan for the Kootenay/Koocanusa system were also high priorities.

The value of water was raised more than once, with residents pointing out that the U.S. uses water for more than just power generation, but also for irrigation as well as recreation and maintaining their ecosystems.

 

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