Whatshan water extraction proposal moves one step ahead

·2 min read

A plan by the Doukhobor Heritage Retreat Society to sell water from its Whatshan Lake property to finance its public programs has been able to move forward a notch. But proponents still need to do important consultation before the plan becomes a reality.

The society wants to sell about 106 cubic metres of water every day from the aquifer on its resort property, just north of Edgewood. That’s the amount they are allowed to draw from the aquifer now, but they rarely do. Selling the water is a new twist to the licence, and needs special approvals. It’s taken several years from the proposal first being made to get to this point.

One of the approvals is an RDCK zoning bylaw amendment to allow bulk extraction and wholesale sales of water while maintaining the resort and agricultural land uses at the property.

At this month’s RDCK Rural Affairs Committee, directors heard the proponents have just had preliminary discussions with Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) to discuss the plan and the First Nation’s concerns. To avoid letting the application lapse again, however, the committee was asked to give the bylaw amendment first and second reading and be sent to public hearing.

“At this point in time… in the interest of not allowing the file to lapse a second time, staff recommend that the RDCK continue to consider the application,” said a report to directors.

Officials wanted to make it clear that moving the project forward was not endorsing the project.

“I think what’s important at this point is that we just make it very clear that we won’t proceed with a public hearing until the ONA has had the opportunity to speak to the applicant and better understand the proposal, then we can move forward with the public meeting,” said Planner Eileen Senyk.

Though the bylaw did receive two readings, the Doukhobor Heritage Retreat Society will have to get that approval from the ONA and other interested parties before the bylaw would be finally adopted.

“Conditions for final adoption could be used to ensure that Interior Health Authority, Okanagan Nation Alliance and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure concerns are met,” say staff. Those conditions include information on the effect of the water trucks on local roads and traffic, impacts of wildlife, and confirmation the Alliance has been contacted and their concerns addressed.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice