Eagle River is a protected area under the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation. (Black Press file photo)

‘Timelines brutal’: Sicamous council to urge ministry to speed up riparian area development process

Assessments have to go to ministry and back before approval, council says delays hurt economy

Sicamous council wants to be able to move forward with waterfront development plans faster and is sending a letter to the Southern Interior Local Government Association to make that happen.

The letter outlines the issues the District of Sicamous has had when trying to develop within an area that is regulated by the Riparian Areas Protection Regulation (RAPR). RAPR was enacted in 2004 and requires local governments to protect the areas between a body of water and land, where many aquatic and land ecosystems interact and depend on each other.

Local governments cannot approve a development application until an assessment report from a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) has been done, submitted to and approved by the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship. The letter from the district states the ministry’s response time to file and approve the reports has been getting longer, and the delay affects local government’s ability to make development decisions and negatively impacts local economies.

Council discussed the reality that the process depends upon local government compliance and questioned if the ministry is asking for an appropriate level of service.

“We’ve gotten to the point where the timelines are so brutal, people will try and look for ways around the rules,” said Coun. Ian Baillie.

He also mentioned the letter should ask for a definitive timeline to be introduced, suggesting a six to eight week standard. He acknowledged some projects are more complicated and will take longer, but the majority of proposals that go through are straightforward.

Coun. Gord Bushell mentioned the cost for even monitoring riparian areas and said the financial commitment should be referenced in the letter as well.

Council discussed the ministry having trusted QEP employees who can complete the reports, then ideally approve projects themselves, cutting out the need for the assessment to go back through the ministry.

“It’s unbelievable, the legislation around working on the water,” said Bushell.

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