RDOS conservation fund hanging in the balance

Formation of a sub-regional conservation fund is hanging in the balance as Penticton and Osoyoos directors were asked to reconsider

The formation of a sub-regional conservation fund is hanging in the balance as Penticton and Osoyoos directors were asked to reconsider the matter with their respective councils.

If passed, the fund would cost the average homeowner $10 annually, raising about $450,000 each year for a variety of projects to be completed throughout the South Okanagan.

The idea to start a regional fund for conservation projects throughout the South Okanagan surfaced at the end of April when a motion to establish the fund was passed at the planning and development committee of the RDOS.

At the April 28 meeting directors from Penticton, Summerland, Oliver, Osoyoos and areas A, C, D, E, and F voted in support of establishing the fund.

The communities in the Similkameen (Princeton, Keremeos, Area H, B, and G) are not part of this phase of the fund but might be included at a later date.

At the RDOS meeting last week as more details emerged of how the fund would work, Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said his council voted against joining the fund in a 4 to 3 vote, instead deciding to create their own.

Osoyoos Mayor Suzan McKortoff said her council decided they would not join until they had held formal consultation with their community to decide if they wanted to join, go it alone or both.

“We would prefer to have public consultation,” she said adding she didn’t think that could happen until September at the earliest. “Our name is off at this time,” she said.

With the loss of Penticton which represents about 42 per cent of the funding, other director’s decided to defer the vote on the creation of the fund until Penticton directors’ could consult with their council again, hoping there might be a change of mind.

Andre Martin, Penticton councillor, who voted against the sub-regional fund said he wasn’t against a conservation fund but that he wanted to see the entire region join.

He specifically noted the absence of the Similkameen communities in the fund.

“The issue is none of the Similkameen directors are in this,” he said. “At the end of the day, if we all had our own conservation funds, I don’t think that’s a bad thing for the environment.”

Michael Brydon, Area F director, who proposed the conservation fund said the Similkameen wasn’t considered for this phase of the fund as it is in a different water basin, but ideally it will be part of the long-term vision.

Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman said his council voted unanimously in favour of the fund and he hoped the other directors would come on board.

If created, the fund would be managed by the South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program and has the potential to raise about $2.2 million in its initial five years. The money raised could be leveraged to obtain a total of $4.5 million including funding from private donors or senior levels of government.

Directors will vote again on the issue of creating a sub-regional conservation fund at the July 7 meeting.