Revelstoke council: Hydro should re-convene committee on Columbia Flats issues

Recreational vehicle use in the sensitive environmental Columbia Flats area is frustrating a local environment group. They want more enforcement in the area but the city council is limited in what it can do as it is outside city limits.

File photo: Motorized vehicles are allowed on Columbia River flats roadways like the one pictured here. Mud bogging on the grassland or the marshy areas like the ones pictured has led to complaints and calls for an oversight committee to be re-established. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

Revelstoke City Council is asking that BC Hydro get a disbanded committee back together to help deal with ongoing issue on the Columbia River flats.

The Upper Arrow Drawdown Zone, more commonly known as the Columbia River Flats, is a popular recreational area with locals for camping and fishing, and it’s not unusual to see the odd quad bike or mud bogging truck getting amongst it.

Except, under the draft Upper Arrow Reservoir Drawdown Zone Management Plan (DDZMP), which identifies the area as environmentally sensitive, these type of motorized vehicles are not allowed off the well-worn roadways, while the area south of 12 mile and Drimmie Creek is closed to all motorized and non-motorized use.

In 2005, BC Hydro established the Drawdown Zone Advisory Committee, a group of stakeholders that were charged with maintaining the area, but Revelstoke city staff note that they have not met in several years.

The North Columbia Environmental Society (NCES) is concerned and have written a number of letters to local authorities, including one recently to city council, imploring assistance.

In their April 24 letter, they listed a two-day effort to pull a mud bogging truck out of mud, which needed three tow trucks, an excavator and a backhoe. They also identified recent violations including destruction of fish and stream habitat, displacement of waterfowl and pollution from oil spills.

At the June 23 meeting, city councillors agreed to send a letter to BC Hydro requesting they call on the advisory committee to help deal with the issues in the drawdown zone.

They decided against an earlier agenda item to send a letter to BC Hydro requesting funding for law enforcement and council’s director of community economic development Alan Mason explained the situation to councillors.

“[Funding would supply] additional RCMP enforcement services, additional conservation officer services,” he said. “At the moment neither agency has the capacity or the resources to enforce infractions at the moment. This has been a long-standing issue.

“I know the stakeholders over the years have complained to [BC] Hydro and got very frustrated that nothing has happened, which is why I think they’re approaching local government.”

Mason also mentioned that the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) recently received a response from BC Hydro to their letter requesting funding, which BC Hydro rejected, and encouraged the move to support the original committee taking charge.

“…because we’re asking [BC] Hydro to reconvene the committee which I think is an actual commitment from [BC] Hydro and really that committee is the body that should be trying to resolve the issues,” he said.

Most of the drawdone zone lies outside of municipal boundaries so the City of Revelstoke has no jurisdiction to impact this issue otherwise.

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