Looking back over 2016, Karla Kozakevich said a decision near the end of the year was one of the biggest accomplishments for the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen.
Kozakevich, board member for Area E (Naramata) said a major accomplishment for the RDOS Board was the creation of a regional conservation fund in December. This fund will allow for the preservation of land and species at risk through opportunities of land purchases and/or environmental conservation projects through joint partnerships.
Looking ahead to 2017, she said is a challenge to not always be parochial thinking and decision-making on the board.
“We are elected to represent an area of the RDOS, but at the board table we are to work in the best interests of the region as a whole. The new conservation fund is an excellent start to more regional projects in 2017,” she said.
The danger of invasive mussels spreading into the Okanagan has been one of the top concerns in the valley through 2016. Kozakevich said the RDOS has worked with the Okanagan Basin Water Board and the Southern Interior Local Government Association to lobby the province to provide more funding, but more could be done.
Read more: Invasive mussels pushing their way to B.C.
“There has been an increase in boat inspections at our borders, but it is not enough. The human eye cannot spot mussel larvae,” said Kozakevich. “In Alberta, they have utilized trained dogs for mussel detection. Mussel sniffing dogs would provide much-needed assistance in BC’s fight against invasive mussels.”
Another challenge is increasing public awareness of the services provided by the RDOS.
“Whenever possible, holding community town hall meetings throughout the region has proven effective,” said Kozakevich. “Bringing the management team to our communities allows not only for the public to learn what we do but also for management to learn what is of greatest concern and interest to the public.”
Lobbying the province on issues including rural school/library funding or hydro rate increases is another function of the RDOS board.
“We have met previously with ministers at UBCM regarding these issues and will continue to bring forward our concerns,” said Kozakevich. “The more a community becomes involved in utilizing a school facility for activities outside of school hours, such as adult and youth recreation and arts programs, the better we are able to request the province keep these community hubs open for the students and all citizens.