Did Revelstoke city council look a gift horse in the mouth, causing the present to be withdrawn?
At their Mar. 22 regular meeting, Revelstoke city councillors seemed taken aback after receiving word that BC Hydro’s plans to upgrade (and pay for) improvements to the Centennial Park boat ramp were now off the table for the time being.
The news came in a letter from Pieter Bekker, the provincial Deputy Comptroller of Water Rights. He told council that due to a Jan. 24 council letter questioning the upgrades, he had told BC Hydro to cancel the project, and that it would be reviewed again in 2013.
The background to the story is complex, but boils down to this: Following the Columbia River Water Use Plan, the provincial Comptroller of Water Rights ordered BC Hydro to upgrade the deteriorating ramp. Community groups including the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club and the North Columbia Environmental Society objected to the plan, saying the money should be spent upgrading boat launch facilities at Shelter Bay. The Rod & Gun Club also expressed safety concerns about the Centennial Park launch. Other stakeholders, such as the RCMP, wanted the Centennial Park ramp upgraded. At a January city council meeting, a local BC Hydro representative had informed council the funds to fix the ramp were not transferable to other projects. Read our Jan. 19, 2011 story on that debate here.
Council then wrote the provincial comptroller of water rights, inviting him visit and review the situation.
The comptroller’s response came as somewhat of a surprise to council. “Given the safety concerns expressed in your letter, BC Hydro will be provided further direction to cancel the project,” writes Bekker.
“In terms of your request for a site visit with City and BC Hydro representatives, I will notify the contact in your letter ahead of time when other business brings me back to the Revelstoke area,” he continued.
Council’s reaction to the letter showed surprise. Mayor David Raven said it was “quite a strong letter.”
“Is this what council really wanted?” asked Coun. Steve Bender. “Did he read this right?”
City economic development director Alan Mason reminded council that funding for the estimated $190,000 project was designated for Centennial Park. “The funds were not transferable,” Mason reminded council. “If you don’t want the improvements at Centennial [Park], then you don’t get the money,” Mason said of his ongoing assessment of the situation.
“We don’t want to lose the money,” Coun. Tony Scarcella said.
“I am worried about the liability issues,” said Coun. Phil Welock. The ramp is showing wear, especially the lower portions.
Council opted to ask city staff to investigate options regarding boat ramps and to study the location and provide a conceptual plan for its development. Staff will also look into a 2013 Water Use Plan review to gather more information on it. A motion to this effect was passed by council, with councillors Bender and Scarcella opposing.