The Centennial Park boat ramp.

Council debates Centennial Park boat launch upgrades

What on the surface looked like a no-brainer decision has been revealed to contain political undercurrents swirling underneath.

What on the surface looked like a no-brainer decision has been revealed to contain political undercurrents swirling underneath.

Revelstoke city council once again waded into the Centennial Park boat ramp controversy at their Jan. 11 meeting.

In March of 2010, BC Hydro approached the city with an offer to spend over $190,000 to improve the Centennial Park boat ramp. They also offered up $8,000 annually to maintain the ramp. The offer wasn’t Hydro largesse; they were required to do it by order of the province’s Comptroller of Water Rights. The order arose from the multi-year Columbia River Water Use Plan that explored many issues, including Hydro obligations to provide access to the Columbia River, including near Revelstoke.

The offer to improve the ramp, however, has been opposed by some stakeholders including the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club and the North Columbia Environmental Society. These groups say the money should be spent on improving access at Shelter Bay. Safety during low reservoir levels is their main concern and they also express the idea that the Shelter Bay launch is the natural choice for boating on the reservoir. Both groups say they’ve been repeating this message to Hydro for years and years, including through the Columbia River Water Use Plan process.

Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club representative Brian Gadbois stressed their safety concerns at the Jan. 11 meeting, noting many mid-river beachings and dangerous incidents caused because of fluctuating river flows and other issues. “The ramp at Shelter Bay is falling apart,” Gadbois told council. “That is the ramp that we want the funds put into,” he said.

However, BC Hydro maintains the comptroller’s order is for Centennial Park and that Hydro can’t simply transfer the money to another project. On Jan. 11, Hydro spokesperson Jennifer Walker-Larsen told council Hydro had pitched Shelter Bay improvements to the comptroller, but the idea was rejected.

And there are other groups who want the improvements to be made at Centennial Park. Revelstoke RCMP commanding officer Staff-Sgt. Jacquie Olsen told council on Jan. 11 that the ramp is “essential for quick services,” giving the example of a rescue response near the Revelstoke Airport. She said the existing ramp had already damaged the RCMP boat.

Coun. Phil Welock also alluded to other local anglers who use the ramp and may not be members of the local rod and gun club. In discussion, it was also noted there are many non-motorized boat users, such as local kayakers.

Coun. Steve Bender wondered if the city was looking a gift-horse in the mouth. “I think we are missing a chance to improve an amenity,” he said.

After a short debate, council approved a recommendation contained in a staff report on the issue. They decided to invite the B.C. Comptroller of Water Rights to come take a look at the Centennial boat ramp, and perhaps re-evaluate his decision and discuss safer access options.

Council also invited the comptroller to meet with them.