Group opposed to water sales

February 13, 2008

Members of the Okanagan Basin Water Board are asking that lands minister Pat Bell come to a board meeting to update them on a proposal to sell recreational lots on reservoir lakes around the valley.

The minister will receive a package of about 200 pages including letters from most of the valley’s civic bodies, water utilities and other groups, opposing the sale of Crown-owned lots, currently leased on the lakes, that store drinking water for the valley’s residents.

Nelson Jatel, water stewardship director for the OBWB, explained that the board members, who represent the three regional district boards in the valley, wanted the minister to have the background on this issue, so are compiling the information into a single package.

Copies will also be sent to the premier, MLAs, the Okanagan Nation Alliance and MPs, said Jatel.

“The region has said in one voice we are opposed to this policy regarding the sale of leased reservoir lots,” said Jatel, yet the ministry keeps bringing it back.

He said they understand that in other parts of the province such recreational lots on upland lakes, which used to be leased out, have been sold.

However, he noted, those are not drinking water reservoirs.

“There are all kinds of risks in open watersheds and cabins pose a relatively small risk, but if you look into the future, it could be quite different if they are sold,” noted Jatel.

He envisions the possibility of mansions instead of cabins on the waterfront of such reservoirs, complete with Hummers and float planes parked at the door.

“We should be restricting development around reservoirs, rather than encouraging it,” he commented.

There is also the issue of raising the level of these reservoirs to provide more storage for more residents as the valley’s communities grow, he added.

At the same time, Jatel said the board is sending a separate letter to the minister suggesting that his ministry should already be doing some of the activities listed in the discussion framework document prepared by the Integrated Land Management Bureau.

In that report the ILMB identified strategies to reduce risks to water quality on reservoir lakes, which would be embarked upon if the lots were sold, but Jatel said the board felt the land management body should be doing them anyway.

That includes cattle management, fencing, limiting the size and type of motors to be used on the reservoirs and limiting the types of water-based recreation.