Water board to ponder report on selling reservoir lots

June 30, 2009
Members of the Okanagan Basin Water Board will consider a new policy at next week’s regular meeting in Vernon, on the controversial issue of sale of Crown lands near drinking water reservoirs.

The new policy, preceded by nine ‘whereas’ clauses, states the OBWB supports keeping existing Crown lands public in order to maximize the potential for flexible management to ensure a sustainable supply of high quality drinking water.

As well, it states that it opposes sale of such lands and encourages the lapse of existing leases.

Some of the clauses in the preamble include statements concerning the semi-arid nature of the Okanagan, an increasing population, the need for additional storage in future, the possibility of detrimental impacts from dwellings adjacent to reservoirs, and consideration of the ‘greater public good.’

Board members, who are representatives from the boards of all the regional districts in the Okanagan Basin, will also consider a policy on multiple use of Crown land in watersheds.

That policy proposal will support “responsible management of human activities on Crown land designated for multiple uses in the Okanagan Basin with the objective of ensuring water supplies are dependable and of high quality for present and future generations.”

The preamble to that resolution notes this is an integrated watershed with natural sources of water for drinking, agriculture, industry, recreation and other human uses as well as sustaining critical environmental flows during periods of stress.

It concludes with the statement, “The protection of water supply and quality takes priority in the watershed.”

In presenting the two draft policies to directors, water stewardship director Nelson Jatel wrote that a committee made up of board members Gordon Clark, Doug Findlater, Bernard Bauer and Toby Pike considered information provided by Lloyd Manchester, president of the Okanagan Cottage Owners Association, which made a presentation to the board May 5.

He noted that some leased lot holders have recently applied for water licenses on the reservoirs and some are requesting electricity be brought on site.

The provincial government moved to put the lots up for sale about six years ago, but the OBWB and individual municipal councils throughout the valley opposed the move, saying it would limit their options for expansion of the reservoirs if they had to buy out property owners. They also felt that more development on the lakes could result in increased risks to the water quality.