SLIPP could be disappearing beneath the waves of controversy.
The three-year Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process pilot project will end on March 31, 2014.
The majority of the members of the SLIPP steering committee agreed to move ahead with water-quality monitoring and a lake safety program for the entire Shuswap Watershed.
But Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area F North Shuswap director Larry Morgan is vehement in his opposition – as is the president of the North Shuswap Chamber of Commerce Dave Cunliffe.
It is this opposition that frustrates Mike Simpson, senior regional manager for the Fraser Basin Council Thompson Region and SLIPP program manager, who says there is general consensus for a watershed-based program with a more limited focus.
Mirroring the opinions of the North Shuswap Chamber, Morgan, in a telephone conversation Friday, accused the steering committee of ignoring opposition.
“This is being rammed down our throats. We have had numerous steering committee and board meetings where the opposition has been raised,” Morgan said. “It’s like nothing has been listened to and the agenda just keeps getting pushed forward.”
Morgan is also incensed with how SLIPP proponents wish to proceed and maintains water-quality monitoring should be a regional district responsibility.
“They want to spend $290,00 of gas tax money in 2014 from April 1 to Dec. 31 – $75,000 of it on water quality testing and the rest for meetings, public education and so forth, leading to a decision for a five-year program,” he says. “Included in that is water quality remediation measures, talking about assuming control for water drainage issues along highway rights-of-way, which is the responsibility of MOTI (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure). That’s just an example of the agenda creep that’s in their document for the plans for 2015 on.”
Morgan stepped down as steering committee chair in May because he didn’t want “to continue to be drawn into an increasingly divisive debate over the direction of SLIPP.”
At that time, he agreed he was prepared to work with the steering committee but wanted the terms of reference to be more narrow and more affordable.
Simpson, meanwhile, says there has been, and continues to be, a lot of misinformation about SLIPP and plans for the future.
This is something SLIPP proponents have tried to address with news releases and directing people to the SLIPP website in order to provide “a more accurate reflection” of what SLIPP is doing and its mandate.
“We like to give people the benefit of the doubt and hopefully they look at multiple sources…”
Simpson says the steering committee is getting an assessment of what worked well under SLIPP and what members didn’t like in order to create a new water-quality program.
“The committee is working in good faith to come to agreement on something they can support going forward… this doesn’t help having it out on the public when we haven’t even agreed on a document.”
The steering committee is comprised of 14 people: local government – CSRD Area C South Shuswap, Area D Falkland/Silver Creek, Area E Rural Sicamous, two each from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, and Regional District of the North Okanagan, a public advisory committee rep, two representatives from the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, a technical person from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper and Sicamous Mayor Darrell Trouton.
Area C director and steering committee chair Paul Demenok, says in June, committee members gave unanimous support for a new program with a primary focus on water quality and support education around water-based activities as a secondary objective.
Terms of reference for the new program, tentatively named the Shuswap Watershed Water Quality Program, were considered in September and October meetings.
Demenok points out that, for the first time, there will be a water quality remediation program, something he calls “a natural transition from water-quality monitoring.”
“Why would you do that (monitoring) if you weren’t planning to do something with the results?” he asks. “We envision 2014 as a developmental planning year where we continue the monitoring, evaluate remediation programs and obtain expert advice on that.”
Area E director Rhona Martin, supports the new program and says she believes others around the table are also supportive.
“How can you not support water-quality monitoring and any type of safety and education awareness?” she asks, noting the valuable data that many volunteers have collected. “We need good science and that’s what this is giving us.”
Martin says that science will prove or disprove some of the finger-pointing that has taken place over the years about what has impacted the health of the lake.