Channel dredging a work in progress

The 25-year-old puzzle of how get the Sicamous channel dredged is one the current district council hopes to solve.

The 25-year-old puzzle of how get the Sicamous channel dredged is one the current district council hopes to solve.

Resident Terry Martin dredged up the dredging dilemma during question at a recent regular council meeting, by asking what the town has invested to date. Mayor Terry Rysz, chief financial officer Kelly Bennett and town manager Evan Parliament each took turns explaining that $100,000 has been set aside in reserve for future works related to dredging, such as consulting services that would help move the district closer to the physical job of dredging the channel.

“So if we had to access that $100,000, we wouldn’t be taxing the residents in 2016 to pay for that because it’s already been set aside,” said Parliament. “But in terms of the big picture, we know what the obstacles are in dredging. It’s a big project, there’s huge environmental questions and concerns. All we’re saying is, we’ve got $100,000 set aside…”

The district dredging issue is Coun. Jeff Mallmes’ bailiwick. He noted the issue has  been the subject of ongoing discussion in the community for about 25 years, and that he is trying to get some answers relating to feasibility and cost.

“We’re still turning over the stones to find out what way to do it…, how it can be done and if it can be done,” said Mallmes.

In the past, Mallmes explained, the district’s approach has involved trying to get the approval of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to have the channel dredged. Despite the existence of two studies supportive of dredging the channel, the federal ministry has refused to get onboard.

Mallmes suggested a different approach could be tried, such as the construction of a seawall/walkway along the channel that would require dredging, so as to protect private property. He also suggested acquiring the support of local First Nations.

Regarding funding, Mallmes suggested grant funding could be sought, pointing to the federal Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program as a possible source.

“There’s components of that that are eligible for it because it’s considered beautification, something they can hang their name on for Canada’s 150th birthday,” said Mallmes. “So we’re looking to put in, for example, the sea wall for flood mitigation… so there’s a number of ways to do this without the taxpayer paying for it.

“Also, with a sea wall, the dredging of the channel will benefit the community. So you can’t exclude us from contributing to it.”

Rysz said the district is going to continue working on the issue, relying on the studies and progress of past councils, but noted there’s still much to be done.

Martin encouraged the mayor to better communicate what progress is being made now.