2019 was another ambitious year for the Regional District of the East Kootenay (RDEK) and one of the many highlights was the adoption of a new Strategic Plan. The Plan focuses on four key areas: governance excellence, safety and preparedness, economic health and management excellence. It includes overarching goals and our 2019/2020 priority projects and is available online here.
The Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) Review continued throughout the year and we had incredible feedback and engagement from the public throughout the process. I would like to acknowledge and thank the members of our SWMP Advisory Committee, staff and consultants for their work on this project. The draft Plan will be presented to the Board early in the New Year and, if approved, submitted to the Ministry of Environment for approval.
Increasing access to recycling opportunities and exploring composting for the region were two areas that received high public support through the SWMP review process. In 2019, we opened our first Recycle BC Depots at the Kimberley and Cranbrook Transfer Stations and Columbia Valley Landfill. Recycle BC Depots are slated to open in the Elk Valley in early 2020. These Recycle BC Depots are for residential recycling only and accept over 76 new items. For every tonne of recyclables we collect in the Depots, the RDEK gets paid by Recycle BC. By contrast, the RDEK has to pay for every tonne collected in the yellow bins. We urge residents to use these new Recycle BC Depots as much as possible – not only can you recycle far more items, but it saves the taxpayers money. Having said that, the contract for the yellow bin system has been renewed and the yellow bins remain in place around the region. The items accepted in the yellow bins has not changed. They accept only paper, cardboard, tin/aluminum cans, grocery/shopping bags and plastics #1-#6 (no Styrofoam).
We also made application to the BC Organics Infrastructure Program for composting facilities in the region and are expecting to hear the results of that application soon.
Following a fire in 2018 that destroyed the Kimberley Transfer Station building, construction was completed on a new building and the site was fully re-opened in early September.
While it was a quieter season on the wildfire and flood fronts, 2019 was busy for our emergency services. We continued to work with the communities of Wasa, Newgate and Grasmere in their efforts to become FireSmart recognized communities. All three have done great work and will soon achieve their certifications. After receiving a $100,000 grant, the RDEK hired two contractors to support the FireSmart Canada Community Recognition Program (FCCRP), who have reached out to over 50 communities in the region to inform and educate them about the program. The RDEK delivered 10 formal FireSmart Information Workshops, five FireSmart Community Champion Workshops and supported four community event days where approximately 225 residents participated in community clean up and FireSmart education. Our leadership has been recognized by the Province and our Protective Services Supervisor was recently invited to present to the Provincial FireSmart Committee on our program and lessons learned. The RDEK will continue working with communities to make our region’s residents more resilient to wildfire threats.
We launched a new Evacuation Notification System to help add another method of communicating during evacuation orders and alerts. Over 2900 people have signed up for the free service, which provides notification by text or phone call (to land lines and cell phones) or via an app on a smartphone. This free service is available to residents in all municipalities, First Nation communities and rural areas of the RDEK and is a great addition to our emergency communications toolbox.
We adopted Official Community Plans for Moyie & Area and Lake Windermere. Heartfelt thanks goes out to the members of the Advisory Committees and staff that worked on these projects. Work is also now well underway on the Steamboat Jubilee Mountain and Panorama & area OCPs, which are both expected to be completed in 2020.
On behalf of the Columbia Basin Trust, the RDEK managed and administered $1,228,659 in grants through the Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Programs. In total, 144 projects were supported in 2019. We would like to thank all those volunteers in the region who help us build a stronger regional community.
The building trends in the East Kootenay showed significant gains over 2018, with growth in all areas of the region. As of the end of October and including municipalities, 433 new dwelling units were created and over $200 million in construction value was permitted. This represents 11% and 45% increases respectively over 2018.
The East Side Lake Windermere / Windermere Water Upgrade project is well underway. The watermain to connect the Windermere Water System to the East Side Lake Windermere Water Treatment Plant has been installed; however, further work is required before the project is complete. The Board recently approved $200,000 in Community Works funding for the Swansea Loop Pressure Reducing Station, which is a critical piece in the project. The current schedule is to have Windermere connected in the spring of 2020. Once this work is complete, the entire Windermere water system will have treated water and the Water Quality Advisory signs at the entrances to Windermere will be removed.
It is an honour to serve the residents of this region. On behalf of the Board and staff of the RDEK we wish you and your family all the best in the year ahead.
RDEK Board Chair Rob Gay – December 12, 2019