Nelson, British Columbia, August 31, 2017 – The Kootenay Lake Partnership recently hosted a series of public open houses in Boswell, Rural Nelson, and Kaslo. Close to 200 people attended to learn about the recently completed Kootenay Lake Shoreline Guidance Document; which is the result of a comprehensive Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping Project that involved an inventory and assessment of ecological, archaeological and Ktunaxa cultural values along the shoreline of Kootenay Lake.
The project was initiated in 2012 by the Kootenay Lake Partnership, a government-to-government partnership brought together to support collaborative approaches to shoreline management in recognition of the respective agencies’ jurisdictional responsibilities.
“The Shoreline Guidance Document guides foreshore development activities such as docks, retaining walls, vegetation removal, dredging activities and others, in an effort to protect high value habitats, archaeological and Ktunaxa cultural value sites along Kootenay Lake”, said Curt Nixon, Lands Officer with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. “It helps residents and developers navigate the existing complexity of local, provincial and federal regulations”, he added.
The intent of the Shoreline Guidance Document is to allow common, low-risk shoreline activities to proceed with minimal application requirements but where risks are higher, it guides proponents to seek professional oversight. The goal is to protect and restore important fish and wildlife habitats, and to ensure archaeological values and Ktunaxa cultural values are considered during the planning and permit application process. The document consolidates existing regulations in an effort to streamline the regulatory process, and provides a level of certainty for shoreline property owners and developers on what will be required during the application process.
Heather Leschied, Chair of the Kootenay Lake Partnership shared statistics from the field work that was completed, noting that while a significant number of structures, including groynes docks and retaining walls were documented, 63% of the shoreline remains in a natural condition. She commented, “During the public open houses we heard from many attendees that they were supportive of the efforts of the Partnership to clarify the complexities of existing regulation on the lake, and in identifying sensitivities along the shoreline for protection from development pressures.”
Meeri Durand, Planning Manager with the Regional District of Central Kootenay said, “Many residents asked about development permits, floodplain setbacks, riparian rights and accretions.” She added, “These are complex regulations without a one-size fits all answer.”
The open houses were very positive, and provided an opportunity to discuss shoreline issues with residents who may feel the most impacted by foreshore development.
“The Shoreline Guidance Document for Kootenay Lake is precedent setting across the province, if not the country,” Leschied said. “Similar projects have been completed for 12 other lakes in the Columbia Basin, in Alberta and Manitoba, but Kootenay Lake is the first time archaeological values and First Nation cultural values have been incorporated alongside ecological values, within the Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping protocol.”
Nicole Kapell, Stewardship Manager for the Ktunaxa Nation Council presented on the methodology and results of the archaeology and Ktunaxa Nation cultural values surveys. “Archaeological evidence dates back 10,000 to 12,000 years in the Kootenay Lake region. These records show how the Ktunaxa and other First Nations people in the area used the lake and shoreline for hunting, transportation, and ceremonial purposes.” Kapell added, “While archaeology is protected under the Heritage Conservation Act, the duty to consult with First Nations lies with the Crown, and this Document provides transparency for shoreline property owners with respect to the application review process.”
The next steps of the Partnership are to refine the Document based on feedback from the open houses, and work with partners to implement and incorporate the document into local planning initiatives. Ms. Durand added, “The RDCK will engage with residents when updating Official Community Plans in the area and the Shoreline Guidance Document will inform local government planning”.
The Shoreline Guidance Document is intended to help assist in the recovery of fish habitat values lost to past development impacts, and provide on-going protection of archaeologically and culturally significant areas. The Kootenay Lake Partnership believes that is it possible to manage development in our watersheds in a sustainable manner and that sustainable management is the shared responsibility of all stakeholders; including local residents, developers, professionals, all levels of government, upland property owners and community members.
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