Water board opposes sale

December 5, 2007

Board members from the three regional districts in the valley are puzzled about why the provincial government is still bent on selling Crown-owned, currently-leased lots on upland water reservoirs, despite unanimous opposition from local government.

At Tuesday’s Okanagan Basin Water Board meeting, directors voted to reiterate their opposition to the idea.

They suggested that the province should implement some of the principles around water protection identified in a seven-page report on the issue released this fall.

Although in the report the issues were tied to the sale of the leased lots, board members felt they should be part of the province’s management of public land, whether the land is leased or sold.

That includes requiring sustainable septic disposal systems; creating land reserves around the shorelines of reservoir lakes; and fencing to keep cows out of reservoirs.

The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District has already invited Pat Bell, the minister responsible for the Integrated Land Management Bureau, which is responsible for management of Crown land, to come and speak to them about the issue.

Director Lorraine Bennest said they want to know why the minister is driving so hard for sale of the recreation lots on reservoirs, despite repeated pleas by local politicians in the valley to listen to their concerns about such sales.

“It just makes sense to protect the land around reservoirs,” commented director Robert Hobson.

Local government bodies up and down the valley should be making sure their MLAs receive their message of opposition loud and clear, said Director Graham Reid.

“They should realize there’s solidarity up and down the valley,” he added.

The report, on ILMB letterhead, is called Okanagan Reservoir Lakes Lease Lots Steering Committee Results and Future Considerations.

It describes representation on the committee as including the three regional districts, the Water Supply Association of B.C., Interior Health and the Cottage Lot Owners Association.

However, Toby Pike, who is manager of South East Kelowna Irrigation District and represented the WSABC, said it was called an advisory committee up to the end, and some of the members were asked by the ILMB to suspend their opposition to the sale of leased lots at the door.

The group met 11 times between March 2006 and October 2007.

As far as the final report is concerned, “Implied consensus doesn’t reflect reality,” he said.

While many of those around the table represented community groups or organizations, others represented the 146 lessees who lease recreational lots on reservoirs now, and who have pecuniary interests in the whole issue, he noted.

Director Tom Siddon questioned what right the province would have to sell such public land to anyone without opening up the sales to anyone interested in purchasing such lots.