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Consult and study before you build, RDCK tells Glade Ferry project

The existing Glade ferry, one of four ships being built piece-by-piece in Nakusp to modernize the inland transportation system. — Submitted photo

The new Glade ferry has hit some stormy waters even before it’s put together.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay’s board of directors says it will allow the new ferry to be assembled in a park in the tiny Kootenay River community —  after certain conditions are met.

But meeting those conditions may mean months of delay in the ferry’s final construction.

The ferry, one of four ships being built piece-by-piece in Nakusp to modernize the inland transportation system, is ready for final assembly in Glade.

The builder wants to start at the end of August, and turn part of the local regional park in Glade into a construction site for four months. 

Trouble is, no one told the people of Glade about that.

“No one ever contacted us about using the park as an assembly site, until the beginning of July,” says Heather McIntyre. “And then there was a community meeting, then we found out it was a possibility.”

McIntyre and her husband James Derksen live just across the street from the proposed temporary construction site.  She says many people in their community are angry at the lack of consultation about the project, and its possible impact on the environment and local recreation.

The Columbia Power Corporation is making the application to use its land for the ferry’s construction, and has promised to return the park to its former state — or even improve it. But residents rejected the Corporation’s plan, voting 21-27 at the July meeting to have construction moved to a site further down the river, away from houses.

 “We thought our wishes would be followed through,” says McIntyre. “I felt like the community had spoken.”

But on Thursday’s monthly board meeting, RDCK’s board of directors found themselves with a request from the Columbia Power Corporation to allow changes to its temporary industrial use licence to let it use the regional park.

The request has angered the area’s director, who said the people of Glade should have been consulted months ago.

“How would you like it, [Nelson] Mayor Kozak,” Andy Davidoff asked rhetorically, “if the Ministry of Transport came to you and said they were turning part of Waterfront Park into an industrial zone in two weeks?”

“Where did this thing go south?”

Davidoff asked the board to consider approving the venue only if certain conditions were met. Among those conditions are a demand for a written remediation plan, fire suppression plan, hours of operation limits, soil reclamation plan, and a post-construction legacy project for the park.

“I have asked a lot of questions and I am really concerned with ensuring RDCK regulations and rules are followed, and that the community is respected through a comprehensive consultation process,” said  Davidoff.

Some councillors worried imposing conditions might mean months of delays in getting the new ferry built, or could even derail the whole project. Others pointed out a large minority of the community supported the current plan, and just wanted to get the new ferry built and operating.

“I’ve received several emails saying the RDCK’s dragging its heels,” Davidoff says.

After a lengthy debate, a split board agreed to send a letter of consent to Columbia Power Corporation supporting an amendment to the existing temporary industrial use license. However, the approval is subject to the Power Corporation meeting the conditions outlined by Davidoff.

It’s not clear when work will now begin on the project. But McIntyre said she didn’t mind waiting a few extra months, if it meant things were done properly.

“We have a functioning ferry and even if it took four to six months for permitting, that’s what the community wanted,” she says.

The existing Glade ferry is a model that’s been used in BC since the 1940s. Waterbridge Steel, the project contractor, was awarded $27.9-million in 2016 to build four new cable ferries.