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Hydro boat ramp threatens to leave derby high and dry

Fishermen and women were left high and dry by the new boat ramp in 2013. The ramp project had been promised for years and was eventually passed along from Hydro to Columbia Power Corporation. Unlike the launch it replaced, the new ramp does not allow access during low water periods, which usually occur in the winter when local derbies are held and most fishers like to be out on the water.                     - Courtesy Shawna Lagore
Fishermen and women were left high and dry by the new boat ramp in 2013. The ramp project had been promised for years and was eventually passed along from Hydro to Columbia Power Corporation. Unlike the launch it replaced, the new ramp does not allow access during low water periods, which usually occur in the winter when local derbies are held and most fishers like to be out on the water.
— image credit: Courtesy Shawna Lagore

After some uncertainty and a rocky start, the third annual Blue Knuckle Derby is on again in 2014, thanks to the community of Nakusp coming together to make it happen.

With the water levels too low to launch from Nakusp’s new boat ramp, Rod and Gun Club president Hank Scown approached the Village about putting in some washed gravel to fill the gap and get boats into the water for the derby on January 18.

It just so happened that CAO Linda Tynan and mayor Karen Hamling were about to talk to BC Hydro and the Water Comptroller about the lack of winter access. It was only in the course of that conversation that the Village learned that contractors would be bringing equipment to the launch site and preparing to lay more slabs. Just in time for the derby.

Scown said there had been no communication from BC Hydro that this would be happening, and that communication between the club and the utility had been very poor before discussions around the derby came up.

“If those folks have been in touch it would have saved a whole lot of anxiety,” said Scown. “It was pretty loose,” he added, about when Hydro said the project would be resuming.

In contrast to this, BC Hydro representative Sabrina Locicero said that they and Columbia Power “have provided regular updates to the Village of Nakusp and community stakeholders to keep them informed.”

When asked if the Village had been receiving regular updates, Nakusp mayor Karen Hamling, the mayor replied with a blunt “no.” She added that this was the first they had heard of plans to recommence the launch project.

“Communications [with BC Hydro] have been terrible,” said Hamling. She said that the Village has asked Hydro to meet with public about the ramp and they haven’t done it to date.

“I told them ‘You have to have a public meeting,’” she said, clearly frustrated. “’People may be upset but they have good ideas you have to hear.’”

The continuation of the project has hinged upon water levels, the updated forecasts  for which are expected this week, Locicero told the Arrow Lakes News. The extension, Locicero said, has been scheduled to take place “during the low water period this spring” but no dates have been specified.

Because the completion of the boat launch has been so long-awaited, Scown told Hydro not to wait, and that an alternate spot for the Blue Knuckle would be found.

And it was: Isaac and Carla Trenholm have agreed to open up their waterfront for the derby. Not only that, they will be plowing as much room as they can for parking.

“Putting a boat in water is one thing,” said Scown, but getting it out in winter is much tricker. Fortunately, when derby organizer Joe Williams approached Dave Kew of Interfor about getting a boom stick or two to help, he got more than he expected. Interfor is now bringing a 70-foot wharf by tug from Fosthall over to the derby launch site. WaterBridge have also stepped to the plate, offering a raft available to the derby if they need it.

And of course the General Store will have derby tickets (good for entry and a huge number of door prizes, whether or not you go fishing, at the Legion on Saturday night when 23 North rock the house), licenses, and maps to the new launch site for folks coming from out of town.

“It’s pretty nice having all this come,” said Williams on the Sunday before the derby. “You know what’s ironic about this whole story, we’re into our second year of trying to launch boats into the lake and we came up with these solutions in a matter of minutes.” It’s a clear testament to the power of community working together to make things happen.

Hank Scown agreed, and called Hydro’s willingness to help people make it happen themselves is a step in the right direction.

“There’s a sense of ownership that comes with that,” he said, stating that maybe this is the beginning of a better relationship with BC Hydro.

“Probably what we’ve been guilty of doing is letting things fester,” Scown admitted. The Rod and Gun Club is cautiously optimistic about the increased communication with the Crown corporation. “Maybe we’ve learned something here, there’s certainly a feeling of relief. Maybe this is actually going to happen, maybe the launch and walkway will get finished…and work.”

The mayor was also impressed with the can-do attitude of Nakuspians.

“That’s the thing with this community, when the word gets out about what needs to be done, people will do it,” she agreed.

The mayor wished the provincial power utility would hold area citizens in the esteem she believes they deserve:

“When you consider the amount of disruption that this area goes through so that power can be produced for the rest of the province and the money that is made for the province and BC Hydro, we deserve better,” she said, “and at some point BC Hydro needs to recognize and respect that fact.”

 

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