After meeting with stakeholders throughout the Basin region, the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program now has a new board and a new delivery model, but not everyone is excited by the news.
The new FWCP board, made up of three public representatives nominated by the BC Wildlife Federation as well as two reps each from BC Hydro and the Province (and at least one from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans), met with groups throughout the Basin area over the spring and summer.
“We spent a lot of time consulting with stakeholder groups,” said Rick Morley, public representative for the West Kootenay region. Morley has a long history with the FWCP: he was part of the group that set up the program back in 1994. He is hoping the change in title and structure from a steering committee to a board will reflect a greater independence for the FWCP.
But not all stakeholders were interested enough to take part in the meetings. When the call went out announcing a June meeting in New Denver, no one from the Nakusp Rod and Gun Club bothered going. Members Eric Williams and Hank Scown put the lack of enthusiasm down to a history of inaction by the FWCP.
“There are so many meetings, and they just go round and round,” said Williams, whose words reflect a disenchantment with the program. Scown echoed Williams, saying that since the biologists were laid off last fall, he didn’t feel all that hopeful about the FWCP.
Morley, on the other hand, is hoping that the changes will mean more regional involvement, not less.
“The thrust of a lot of the changes we’re making is that we will have a much more independent organization that’s much more regionally focused than the past steering committee,” said Morley about the recent organizational changes.
There is still a lot more work to be done as far as how the programs are delivered, he told the Arrow Lakes News, but the board will have more say as far as who is hired and fired.
The rep was also clear that the compensation program is not optional, but something that Hydro is mandated to fund.
“BC Hydro is required by a clause in their water license to provide compensation for fish and wildlife, so this money is a result of them being directed to pay it. This is not a donation; it’s not optional,” Morley stressed.
Long term projects, like the Arrow Lakes nutrient restoration one, will continue on before but what will change will be small projects by local groups. FWCP will be issuing requests for proposals that local groups can respond to, he said.
As for the staff that were laid off last October, all but three have been hired back on a temporary basis, but the new board is hoping to restore stability in terms of staffing, Morley told the Arrow Lakes News.
“They’re on temporary status until we can figure out how to hire them back,” he said. Options include either contracting work out or hiring staff back on a “recoverable basis” which means that FWCP will pay the wages for biologists who work on approved projects.
“Stability – instead of having people laid off like they were by Hydro – has been one of our prime directions,” Morley said, who said the board will work to ensure that people working for FWCP will not be vulnerable to the kind of layoffs that occurred last year.
Although the Nakusp Rod and Gun Club may have lost faith in the FWCP, Morley said he still thinks “it’s one of the best things that’s going on for looking after fish and wildlife in the Kootenay region.
“On the other hand, this region certainly suffered in terms of impacts on those resources for electricity that’s being shipped out of the region – down to the lower mainland, mostly,” Morley acknowledged. “It’s certainly not beyond us to be asking for more money because $4.5 million in terms of how much revenue goes out of this region is not a lot.”